In progress: Softrock Lite II, 40m

I’m kind of at a position where I don’t know what to do, and I’m having a feeling that I shouldn’t be working on machinery today (the temporary knack muse has left me). I got the power supply and local oscillator installed, but I’m now at an block: when I powered up my Softrock with a current limiting resistor in place, I see a current of about 3.5ma, which seems within reason. I then power it up without, and see a current of 22ma, which is not so good (it should be less than 4ma) and no hint that it is oscillating when I tune in my FT-817 anywhere near the 28.224 Mhz that the oscillator should be running at. I measure the following voltages:

  • R11 hairpin: 4.92 volts, nominal, indicates that the voltage regulator is working.
  • R15 hairpin: 3.94 volts, nominal value should be < R11, mine is significantly lower than the supply voltage, might indicate a problem.
  • R12 hairpin: 2.37 volts, should < 2.5, seems nominal.
  • R17 hairpin: 4.7 volts, should be > 2.5, mine seems high perhaps.

I’m going to ponder it, and read through the softrock40 Yahoo! group for help.

Here are some pictures in the meantime.

Addendum: It oscillates! I found that I had a solder bridge across the leads of C12. Now, I can hear it LOUDLY in my FT-817, although the oscillator doesn’t sound all that smooth. Still, all it has to do is drive those flip flops, so I doubt it matters. Current draw is 13.6ma, which seems a bit high, at least if you take the builder’s guide as true, but it has a fairly obvious mistake, so I am not sure that I should trust his 1.8ma as true either. Still, I’ll go back and remeasure the voltages going forward, and take a bit of a break before I go onto the next round of adding SMT caps and ICs.

Addendum2: Coil, coil, toil and trouble. Man, making 38T through one of these coils is tough, even with #30 wire. Photographing it with a digital camera does make it easier to double check your work.

img_0487

Softrock Lite II arrive!

On Saturday, I sent a check off to Tony Parks, KB9YUG on Saturday along with my order for two Softrock Lite II receiver kits: one for 40m, and the other for 30m. I hope eventually to liberate my FT-817 from its current beacon duties on my grabber site and replace it with this simple little $12 receiver. Not sure I’ll get to it this weekend, I’m a little out of practice for my surface mount soldering technique, but I’m hoping to get to it soon.

In the mean time, here’s a link to WB5RVZ’s awesome builder’s website to show you what it all entails.

Softrock Softrock Lite II Builders’ Notes

Pat on the back, from Pixar Animation Studios

anniversary

I work for a great company that genuinely tries to do well by its employees. Tomorrow, they are giving some of us old timers (I’ve been here for eighteen years) a pat on the back, which is a darned nice gesture. Working for a company this long is practically unheard of in this age, and I just thought I’d make a brief public statement that their appreciation is, well, appreciated.

Your Daily QRSS report

Well, overnight, I didn’t get a whole lots of activity. I saw a single brief opening arout 2:15AM local time (10:00 UTC) where I got some very marginal reception from VK2ZAY and VK6DI but that lasted only for about 8 or 10 minutes, then both faded into the background. It’s now around 15:30, and I’m getting pretty good signals from W8LIW and W1BW, with maybe a hint of VK6DI just below the flying W.

capturecgi

Overnight WSPR spots were really terrible, with very few spots, and no real dx until just a few minutes ago. At 15:28, I got another spot from WA2YUN on Wake Island.

Addendum: Hmmph. I’ve uncovered a problem with wordpress. The thumbnail image above doesn’t match what you get when you click on it. Apparently WordPress isn’t smart enough to notice that two images have the same name, and their thumbnail filenames can collide if they occur within the same month. Lame. Strange! It seems to have resolved itself. Perhaps a caching issue?

Visible this morning on W8LIW (dimly)

This morning, I saw this on the W8LIW grabber…

w8liw

You can see the usual suspects toward the bottom: the flying W of W1BW, the FSK CW of WA5DJJ, and at the bottom, Vern’s (VE1)VDM. Above and to the right you can see my dim DFCW signal, and higher above the matching WSPR. W8LIW isn’t reporting any WSPR decodes, so apparently my signal levels are still quite weak.

Addendum: David, WA5DJJ had me probably about the clearest to date. He sent me this screendump.

wa5djj1

New mode received by AA5CK

I had been experimenting with using S/MT Hellschreiber as a beacon format. It worked, and I got a few reception reports, but it’s copyability seemed pretty weak. I saw glimpses of it occasionally in the W8LIW and even VK6DI grabber, but it really wasn’t strong enough to call it decodeable. So last night, spurred on by a test that AA5CK had done, I decided to shift to DFCW.

DFCW is like FSK CW in that we send slightly different frequencies for dot and dash elements, but unlike FSK CW, DFCW uses the same timing for both dots and dashes. A small gap is inserted between elements (I used 1/3 of the dot time). Characters are separated by 1 dit time.

Because I simultaneously send a WSPR identifier, I wanted something that would fit in the 162 bit times that are specified by WSPR. If you write out K6HX and do some math, you will find out that you can use 8 WSPR bits per dit, and this comes out to dot timing of about 5.5 seconds, about 4.0 seconds of which are voiced.

Anyway, it turns out that if I just changed my S/MT table to a new table, I could do DFCW without change. This morning AA5CK sent me the following reception report from Oklahoma:

dfcw

There I am, right above Larry’s Snake. The higher frequency should be read as dash; the lower, dots. Hence, you can read of “K6HX”. This should be much more copyable, and yet still fits in my 110 second WSPR message. I’ll leave this up for a few days, and we’ll see how it goes.

Addendum: I haven’t seen my signal on any other grabbers, but I think I am going to double the frequency offset. I think you should be able to see it clearly in most cases, but as I have seen with my most dx contacts, you can get a little bit of frequency instability that might make it more difficult to read.

Addendum: Chris sent me this screenshot:

1014000000

Addendum2: Alan, VA3STL sent this screenshot of my beacon from his QTH near Ottawa:

va3stl1

Grabber update…

Earlier, I noted that W8LIW was getting signals simultaneously from both Europe and Australia, so I was hoping that as the earth spun around, I might get some good DX signals. Thusfar, the only one I’m getting is Vern’s Big Ears beacon from Nova Scotia, right down along the bottom (repeating VDM).

Oh, and I’ve got my grabber pretty much running well at http://qrss.info. I just added the frequency legend on the right. It should go pretty well for the next couple of hours, then falls off during the night, until about midnight when Australia and Japan usually begin to wake up.

capturecgi

Earlier, I blogged about the collision between Iridium 33 and the defunct COSMOS 2251 satellite. Today, I noticed that Celestrak had orbital elements for 134 fragments resulting from the collision. I was curious what the resulting pattern would look like, so I wrote a bit of code to suck them all in and plot them on a map. Here’s what I got for a particular moment around noon local time.

debris

The labeled points are the tracked location of the main body of the satellite. There are orbital elements for 48 additional fragments of Iridium, and 84 additional fragments of COSMOS. The main body of Iridium 33 was at 785km altitude, while Cosmos is down around 771km. Debris is scattered over quite a wide variety of altitudes, from a low of 284km to a high of 1158km.

Unusual WSPR spot

This morning I was surprised by two WSPR spots from a callsign reported as BY3AKL1X, located in grid OM89ua. If you look it up on the map, you’ll find it’s Tanggu Park, near Tianjin China. I was confused, but then realized that this was the call of KL1X, who (as pointed out to me by KC0KNM) lists that he is operating receive only from Tanggu Park since the beginning of this year (as listed on his QRZ page). Neat!

Some overnight spots…

Okay, this is getting kind of repetitive, so I’ll try to reduce this to its bare minimum. Got quie a few WSPR spots from VK6DI overnight.

Timestamp Call MHz SNR Drift Grid Pwr Reporter RGrid km az
 2009-02-22 11:16   K6HX   10.140133   -26   0   CM87ux   2   VK6DI   OF88cd   14725   259 
 2009-02-22 11:04   K6HX   10.140133   -26   0   CM87ux   2   VK6DI   OF88cd   14725   259 
 2009-02-22 10:52   K6HX   10.140133   -26   0   CM87ux   2   VK6DI   OF88cd   14725   259 
 2009-02-22 10:40   K6HX   10.140133   -28   0   CM87ux   2   VK6DI   OF88cd   14725   259 
 2009-02-22 10:28   K6HX   10.140133   -26   0   CM87ux   2   VK6DI   OF88cd   14725   259 
 2009-02-22 10:16   K6HX   10.140133   -28   0   CM87ux   2   VK6DI   OF88cd   14725   259 
 2009-02-22 09:40   K6HX   10.140133   -24   0   CM87ux   2   VK6DI   OF88cd   14725   259 
 2009-02-22 09:28   K6HX   10.140133   -24   0   CM87ux   2   VK6DI   OF88cd   14725   259 
 2009-02-22 01:04   K6HX   10.140133   -25   0   CM87ux   2   VK6DI   OF88cd   14725   259 
 2009-02-22 00:52   K6HX   10.140133   -23   0   CM87ux   2   VK6DI   OF88cd   14725   259 
 2009-02-22 00:40   K6HX   10.140133   -23   0   CM87ux   2   VK6DI   OF88cd   14725   259 

Fairly weak, my 2w was barely getting in. Oddly, I saw no trace of VK6DI until 12:55 or so UTC, where he came in pretty nicely.

vk6di1

I also had VK2ZAY in there a bit (he seems a bit easier to get than VK6DI). I’m wondering if simultaneous reception of both of these VK hams is more rare than you would think: I’ve only seen it once. Last night, VK2ZAY was fading as VK6DI began to climb up. Of the two VK2ZAY appears easier, indeed, Alan, VA3STL, reported that he had seen VK2ZAY overnight. I also had an interesting spot of W1BW’s flying W beacon in some early morning propagation. As WADJJ and WA0UWH are coming in this morning, I got this screen grab right around 14:55 UTC:

scr00245

Addendum:: Chris, WB5FKC captured this screen which he sent me. It shows my Hellschreiber beacon, W1BW’s flying W, and I think Vern, VE1VDM’s beacon at the bottom.

wb5fkc

WSPR update…

I hadn’t checked the totals in a while, so I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve now had WSPR spots from 37 out of the 50 states, and such far away locations as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, a single spot from Belgium, several from Italy, and yes, Wake Island! VK6DI is the most distant listener thusfar.

AK KL7OA
AL KU4PY, N4AU, W3PM, WA4KBD
AR
AZ W0OGH
CA K1CT, K6JEY, K6LRG, KC6STJ, KF6I, KX6E, N6HA, N6SPP, N6TTO, N7HD, NN6RF, W6SZ, WA6MTZ, WA6PZB, WB9GHD
CO KD0BIK,
KE0N, N0LYI, N3DAK, W0AIR
CT
DE
FL AB7JK,
AF4IF, W3HH, W5NYC
GA K4DD, K4MOG
HI KH7HJ, WA2YUN
IA K0VM
ID
IL K3SIW, K9JKM, KA9LRZ, N9BPE, N9DSJ, N9GUE, WU9Q
IN NJ0U, W9HLY
KS K0FT
KY
LA K5CZD
MA AA1A, KA1MDA, W1BW, W1XP
MD K1BZ, KD4IZ, N1SZ, W3CSW, WB3ANQ
ME N1SDH
MI K8CT, K8CYV,
K8NYY
MN AA0DX, KE0N, N0AR, W0OHU
MO KC0TKS, KX6E, N0JUH, WB0WQS
MS KE5PRL
MT
NC WD4KPD
ND
NE
NH NS1E
NJ K1JT, NU3E
NM K5XL, KD5OGZ, N5JDT, N5RKD
NV AC7SM
NY K2LGJ, K2NV, W2KI
OH AJ8P, W7PP, W8LIW, WD8INF
OK
OR N7HD
PA WB3EGK
RI W5ESW
SC
SD K7RE
TN
TX AA5AM, K5XL, KA5ULE, KE5FWK, N5VP, WT5N
UT AD7HK
VA K4THE, N2JR, WA4MAE
VT
WA K7RE, W1CDO, W7NBH, W7PP, W7RDP, WR5J
WI W9WLX, W9ZBD
WV
WY WY7USA