OneDrive and ADSL

We had a few broadband issues here over a couple of days with download speeds dropping to a few k at times. Given the recent issues caused by the phone line this one was odd because the modem was holding up nicely at 16Mb / 1.2Mb. So, peering at the switch and unplugging anything that might be connecting to the outside world (really must get my own router so I can monitor the traffic!) it came down to one of the Windows PCs. Unplug that and the broadband quickly returned to normal.

Virus? Malware? (always the first thoughts when Windows is involved!) No, OneDrive. It turned out that the issue were caused by uploading a load of files to OneDrive for safe keeping given said PC has gone a bit daft recently. 5Gb of them! OneDrive was maxing out the upload bandwidth and the issues there in relation to ADSL and TCP/IP are well known.

So I paused it – at least OneDrive is well thought out and you can pause it for a set period. I’d expected the PC to finish up overnight but it shut itself down and still had 3.5Gb to go this morning. Turning OneDrive back on of course zapped the ADSL again.

Nice having 4G on the phone and unlimited data (though not unlimited for tethering or I could have used it to sort OneDrive out here). DuckDuckGo to the ready, it turns out that OneDrive is actually very well thought out and you can limit the upload and download bandwidth. Limiting upload to 50kB (big B) has sorted things here, OneDrive can still get on with things without trashing our broadband. I’m guessing it was seen as an issue and someone actually thought it through at Microsoft.

Pluto Ethernet problems

So, I’ve been running the Pluto over Ethernet to SDR Console on an old but still capable laptop just to see how it performs end to end. It clearly has issues! The first test was just pinging the Pluto from my Linux box with no SDR activity. This ran for almost 7 hours and dropped out in the early hours.

Then I tested it with SDR Console running to see if it would last as long. 10 minutes! Another similar test lasted about 1h45. I added ferrites to all the power leads and this time it lasted about 3h30. Nothing at all scientific in these tests and I had already read up on Ethernet issues and the need to strap ground connections together internally but wanted to just see if the ferrites made any difference.

Back to the workshop and I strapped the earth end of R58 to the earth end of D3 following the instructions found in this YouTube video at 7m36. The video describes that as the ‘simplified version’ – I’ve seen another more comprehensive one but this one is straightforward. There is a detailed investigation of the issue here and here. The Pluto held up running SDR Console looking at the lower beacon for 30 hours and is still running as I type this. I’ve not gone mad like running an electric drill next to the Pluto but so far, so good.

Edit: SRD Console has been running for 47 hours now with no issues. I only stopped it because I need to sort out the PSUs and coax entry for the QO100 transceiver box in the garage.

More QO100 progress…

After ages I finally made a rain cover for the POTY and led cables into the garage. Big delay there because the garage was a tip. It still is a tip, but the mess has been rearranged so I have access to the air brick where the cables come in!

It’s nice that when they built the house in the 1930’s they put an air brick right there knowing it would be needed for a satellite dish…

The rain cover is made from a sheet of plastic that came out of a smashed LCD monitor. I bent it round a bit of 110mm drain pipe using a hot air gun. it didn’t quite come out as intended but it’s near enough. The front is from the same piece of plastic and is epoxy glued on – yes there is a gap where the glue was less gluey, I’ll fix that later. Nylon threaded bar and nuts hold it in place. And it rained an hour after I made it so it does actually work.

After all the messing about everything still works. There is a nice box on order to take the gubbins – ok, the Pluto, bias tee, Leo Bodnar GPSDO, power supplies, oh yes and the pre-amp and amp I have yet to build. I’ve got Ethernet into the garage and I have tested SDR Console over Ethernet to the Pluto and all seems to work ok.

The trouble with web searches

These days finding information on the web is tedious at best. You almost need to go in knowing the answers in order to judge whether the information revealed by your search is even close to the mark.

For example, searching for “west yorkshire lockdown” on Duckduckgo finds a piece from the Yorkshire Post which immediately throws up a cookie screen and is, of course laden with adverts. I have no issue with a newspaper site having adverts, my issue is why isn’t there de facto information available via the government and if it is, why isn’t that ranked higher up? Search engines throw you to the wolves aka the advertising media for any information on just about any subject, certainly anything general in nature.

Another search, something I never expected to need to know, is to find out if one can drive through a locked down area where your start and end points are both outside said area. Again, lots of media sites, none of which come anywhere close to answering the question.

gov.uk does have information, but even here it’s not as clear as it might be. For example, I know there are current local lockdowns in effect including Bradford but gov.uk offers only “Find out what restrictions are in place if you live, work or travel in the north-west area and other affected areas.” I presume here that West Yorkshire is ‘other’ – why not spell it out to make it obvious? Are they charged per word like old telegrams were? The resultant page does list Bradford but does not mention Ilkley and yet I gathered from Facebook that it is included.  Back to Duckduckgo and a search for “ilkley lockdown” brings up a newspaper site which immediately throws up a cookie page with non-functional option links! Reloading that cured the issue and then deleting the 30 cookies it set even after I rejected them all gave some solace. Finally, that website tells me that anywhere that pays council tax to Bradford is included, specifically adding that Ilkley and Keighley are locked down. That nugget is missing from gov.uk. I did check Bradford council’s website but gave up when it shoved some survey popup at me.

Little wonder then that the masses only work on mis- or poor information from media websites whose sole aim is to push their version of reality and make money out of it. Perhaps they need to start writing this on the side of a big red bus rather than the lies of the past!

More QO100 work

I finally mounted the dish. It’s been cluttering up the workshop for months now. My original plan was to mount it on a pole by the workshop which would have needed a concrete base and regular trimming of the apple tree and hedge. So, it’s mounted on the garage wall with a TK bracket.

Aligning it wasn’t too bad except I managed first to find the Astra satellite at 19.2 degrees thinking it was the one at 28.2. After I found the second one it was not too difficult to find a satellite carrying Qatar TV using the GTMedia V8. With bolts tightened a bit and after rigging all the gubbins up I found the beacon via an SDRPlay SDR and SDRUno but the levels were well down. The Pluto and SDR Console did a far better job so there will be some setting I overlooked. I copied a couple of QSOs but working outside on a Sunday with the whole estate doing gardening made it rather hard, even with headphones! Anyway, the Pluto is the one that will be used so good to see the whole RX chain working. I have some decent WF100 cable for the LNB feed but will need to make something up for the GPSDO feed.

Next step is to mount the Pluto, bias tee and PSUs inside the garage and use Ethernet back to the shack. There is a convenient air brick next to the ironmongery.

The POTY is back inside for now and I’ll need to make a rain cover too, but it feels like progress finally.

Do website owners ever look for errors?

Many websites nowadays have grown into enormously complex beasts with multiple bits and quite often bits that do not work. Other websites now make the journey into the site so horrendous, what with cookie popups and the occasional ‘please turn off your ad blocker’ popups that one cannot get past. I come across these almost daily when performing seemingly routine tasks or looking for information.

Where there is an error but one still needs to interact to gain something, perhaps modification to a service or to purchase something, you are then left with a struggle to find out what to do next. In some cases it is simple, go elsewhere. But in others, say, your energy provider while you are still in contract, one must persevere.

As an example, one energy provider makes the point that, in order to cancel a particular part of the service you can phone or go online.  They explain that should you phone you will be waiting in a queue so why not do it online? Oh but if so, you need to cancel before the renewal date whereas if you phone you can cancel up to 14 days after renewal. Ok, but the relevant section of the website simply never works and gives an error page saying you need to phone. The online chat also has a queueing system of course so no help there.

So, do website owners or whoever does their marketing actually look at errors? There is an issue here if they rely on external analytics providers such as Google Analytics because the analytics cookie may not be set at the point of error and may only be set at the actual generic error page. That may give a trail where someone clicks on a link on the main website which then errors, but not so if one follows the published direct URL. The web server log itself would be saviour here but I suspect that marketers neither know about them nor have access anyway.

Errors aside, I also wonder how many look into their analytics to see the number of people that failed to get any further into the site than the home page. This may be people like me that, when faced with an armoury of popups simply go elsewhere after killing all the cookies the site has set, usually without consent. Or again, people like me that persevere and choose ‘deny all’ to the cookie popup only to be presented with a popup asking me to kill my ad blocker. Again, I click away as must others. You would think that such information would be useful in order to shape the future of their website and maybe do away with the privacy invasive bits so they do not need to gain consent anyway… but I suspect that such statistics are ignored, or not available anyway.

Meanwhile, this rant has left me still needing to cancel a part of my energy contract and deciding whether to phone or wait and try online tomorrow, or apply a sledgehammer solution and cancel the direct debit with the bank and let them sort it out!

Broadband blues…

(updated) We had a problem with the broadband. I know exactly when because when the storms of 26th June hit the broadband went down and came back at a very slow rate. It went from 15Mb connected (12Mb or so usable) to just 700k, then bounced about and eventually settled at around 2Mb. A line test via the NowTV website told us what we knew – the broadband was slow. Too late by then for their customer services I rang the next day which was a Saturday. They ran a test which actually got us back to 8Mb or so but that didn’t last. Anyway, they arranged for OpenReach to come and check the line. Clearly storm related I had wondered if water had got at the terminals on the pole outside or a duct had flooded somewhere and water had got into the cable, but if the latter you’d expect many customers to be affected.

OpenReach came two days later and discovered that our wire pair had been trapped by the junction box lid. That was fixed and we then got a 16Mb connection, the best it had ever been. That lasted a couple of days.

Then, oddly at around 2.45 each morning the router would reset and the line would come back 2Mb slower. It went from 16Mb to 14, 10, 12 and now 8Mb. Rebooting the router had no effect. And now the line test via NowTV’s website does not even work. After saving the router settings to file I did a full router reboot in case something had gone funny. Bad move! First, I forgot that the router comes back as 192.168.0.0 and our LAN is not 0. When I figured that out I tried to access via the Mac and wifi but the server would not stop sending the wrong IP address (or, rather the correct one which now had no chance of working). Of course I have another wifi hub and it was getting the IP that way. Shutting that down and toggling wifi got me back in so I could change the subnet address and get back in via the wired PC that had the saved router settings file. Ok… so simple, right? Reload the settings and all will be well. No. The router will NOT reload the file! Fortunately there are not many settings so I put those back in by hand. 

NowTV customer service are good at arranging things. They organised Openreach to re-visit. The speed had dropped to 4Mb when they arrived. After a lot of testing they found that the wires were ok and to giving errors and a new router was sent by NowTV. They said that if there are errors the exchange equipment falls back progressively to compensate and it was our router at the source of the issue, well that and the original line fault. So far, so good, and we’re back to a 15Mb connection which gives 12Mb+ usable bandwidth.

Minitioune progress

Well I finally got some WF100 cable (CT100 replacement) to get a feed from the now unused Astra dish to the shack. My remaining CT125 is about 10 feet long and would get me nowhere. So I can finally test the Minitiouner on air and it works. No luck with trying to receive GB3YT though, it should be close enough and I have a small 23cm Yagi but our neighbours house is in the way. I will have to go mobile one day and see if it works, which is going to be hard given the rather old Windows laptop has a battery that lasts about 5 minutes and the XYLs laptop is locked down to a work image so no installing Minitioune. Anyway, for now at least it all works. It could us a switch maybe to switch the 12V feed to the antenna socket on and off.

Yes it is indeed in a box. This must be the second project I ever built that ended up in an actual decent box looking finished.

Another new toy

Not the most startling of new toys but I’ve never had a PCB holder. All my construction until recently has been on Veroboard or just lash-ups of wires, until the QRP Labs board. That made me realise there was a gap on the bench.

So, this has joined my armoury. The board is a random “let’s fiddle with SMD” kit that comes with numerous bits and bobs. I’ve never had a go at SMD and yet I have two projects waiting to be built which are just that, so this board will hopefully get me up to speed. I figured it best to practice on something that doesn’t matter first. I have a headband magnifier, various fine tweezers and tiny soldering iron bits, so should be good to go. Let’s see how much of a mess I can make.

QRP Labs CW transceiver

I finally got round to starting to build the QRP Labs CW txvr kit which I’ve had since the 2018 Hamfest. Well, no sense in rushing things. I mentioned before the quality of the kit and the really excellent documentation PDF. I think I’m up to page 25. The documentation is all step by step and easy to follow, with a drawing on each step showing what goes where.

The one I got is for 40m – the kit comes with a low pass filter and components specific to the band you request. Of course I do still need to learn Morse! That’s still on my list of things to do which includes finish the QO100 project which now has two more kits of parts to build, and read up on the full licence for when, hopefully they release the online exam.

Here is a shot of the wound components which, although time consuming was actually quite fun.

And finally the completed board with the LCD in place. I went through the alignment process which all went according to plan using the built-in menus. The first pic is of the board powered and aligned and the second a bit of CW decode but this is on an 11m wire dipole with no ATU.

It is possible to mount this in a case and there is a wiring diagram included showing what goes where etc. once the various components are taken off the board – or, rather, not put on the board in the first place. But I will keep mine skeletal, at least for now.