Tuesday, March 31, 2009
I like the live.365 system for the audio -- you can listen to it in streaming mode, without waiting for a long download.
Here is the site:
Thanks Akshay! Thanks NASA!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
1 April 2009
Billy climbs Vesuvius!
Fixin' up old Toshiba laptop
Solar Power from Donuts and Tea!
Eldon's MEPT ET Phone home machine
More Catalan minimalism: The MOSquito
Book: Thunderstruck! Marconi history
SPECIAL ECHOLINK QSO WITH NIGEL, M0NDE
Paul M0XPD new homebrewer, Funster 40, Paraset, and SDR
Preston WJ2V on REAL solder vacuum pumps
Ted AA5CK keys MEPT with iduino
Ken KG6PO on obit of TV pioneer Thomas T. Goldsmith
Art W2HQQ: "Man of High Fidelity" lacks knack
Scott KD5NJR on Sputnik 4, NASA comms
Alan W2AEW Don't smother MEPT oscillators! Books
Steve GOFUW Old Book recommendation. Building WARC rig
Jacki (XYL of KL7R) says hello from volcanic Alaska
Jeff KO7M Why FSK on QRSS?
Jim AL7RV Sends WSPR care package. (Thanks!)
Saturday, March 28, 2009
An excerpt from Alan's e-mail:
Funny you mentioned about LTSpice, and wanting to have that puff of soldersmoke whenever you place a component. It reminds me of something that I'd often tell new-hire engineers. Many times, engineers fresh out of school have never touched a resistor - they've often spent their entire education doing bookwork and simulations. I would always caution engineers about this, and try to illustrate that the simulation is only as good as the model you give it. If you ask the simulator to exercise the model in a way it wasn't designed for, it won't tell you that, it will just lie to you. YOU have to be smart enough to recognize the lie. For example, the simulator has no problem putting 10,000 amps through a 1N914A diode - it doesn't know that you'll let the smoke out of it! The simulator must be considered a tool, just as you VOM, scope, counter, finger, nose, etc. are all tools. Each can give you valuable information (and can lie to you). You have to learn to know what you can believe, and what you have to question - and you need to develop ways to look at strange behavior in a number of ways to figure out what is happening.
Alan has a lot of great stuff on his web site. Check it out:
Friday, March 27, 2009
When Marconi was born on April 25 1874, an elderly gardener saw the new baby and exclaimed, "Che orecchi grandi ha!" ("What big ears he has!") Marconi's ever protective Irish Mom, Annie, took offense and replied:
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Chris Trask, N7ZWY, recommended this book. I'm really enjoying it. Maybe too much: I was reading it on a crowded Rome bus this week, and was so absorbed by the chapter on Marconi's first efforts to transmit beyond line-of-sight that I didn't notice the pickpocket. He got my little radio receiver/MP3 player. The radio gods let me down that morning!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
With long-distance help from Kevin I
1) Got a boot-able DOS disc, which got me to an A:
2) Partitioned and formatted my HD which got me a C:
3) Loaded DOS drivers for my CD ROM drive which got me a D:
4) Used the CD-ROM drive to load Windows 3.1 which really brought this thing back to life.
I usually dislike working on computers, but with Kevin's help and encouragement, this project was fun. And I can now use some old programs that I haven't been able to use since the advent of Windows 95, like my favorite astronomy program "Distant Suns." I'm also running ON7YD's excellent QRSS transmit program.
I always liked the audio features of this computer. With a bit of driver downloading, I now have sound. There are some nice audio clip files in this (birds chirping, machine guns, another gong!)
that may find their way into the podcast.
Any thoughts on what else I can do with this machine? Any other Windows 3.1 applications?
Here's the message from Kevin that re-started all this:
I was amused to hear your comments about QRSS and the ever-so-slight
discrepancy between the number of transistors needed for Rx and Tx...
Maybe it's time to introduce the concept of the "QRP Computer" - using
older/slower hardware generally regarded as obsolete, but otherwise
perfectly serviceable and having a much smaller carbon footprint than the
latest 2.5GHz+ machines! This is something which I've been working towards
for some time.
I'm typing this on an old 233MHz Pentium laptop (Toshiba Satellite Pro
480CDT), with 64MB of RAM, a 3.8GB hard disk and an 800x600 screen,
running a cut-down version of Win98SE with all web integration (IE etc.)
stripped out. This will happily run pretty much all the radio software I
need without complaint (such as MMTTY for RTTY, MMSSTV for SSTV, Digipan
for PSK31, Argo, Spectran, IZ8BLY , WSJT v4, etc).
Just about the only thing lacking is WSPR, which I would very much like to
run but I think it probably needs more resources than this machine has
(Joe Taylor, are you listening? ;-).
The rationale was/is to find the simplest, smallest, most bloat-free
programs to accomplish what is needed (minimalist computing, in other
words) - and it must all be freeware or similar - bells & whistles are
frowned upon, and definitely no commercial stuff allowed! I wouldn't say
I'm 100% there yet, but the journey so far has been interesting and
Although this was originally intended to be a dedicated machine for radio,
I now find myself increasingly using it for things like web-browsing and
email as I find the whole "no bells & whistles" experience quite
called "OffByOne" - my browsing needs tend to be fairly basic and I tend
to regard any website which uses Java/Flash etc. as not worth the effort).
I think Mike AA1TJ's quote on his "Reggie" page is quite apt here: "In
anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no
longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Joan and Eduardo -- the guys who brought us the Flea -- have come up with another very interesting insect: The MOSquito. A single IRF510 does all the RF work. There is a computer involved, but it looks to me like it just does some audio DSP. The video is in Spanish, but all true Knack victims will be able to follow it. More info their web site:
Enhorabuena Joan y Eduardo!
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Here is the e-mail from Eldon describing his creation. Using the saw blade was a nice touch!
Bill, In keeping with the spirit of QRP, QRSS and the minimalist HB challenge of ET-Phone-Home I have enlisted one of my single-transistor-nine-volt (2N3904) QRP rigs. With the best that I can measure, this system has a DC "input power" of 6.84mw into a 16 inch loop antenna of 30 AWG copper coated-steel MIG welding wire. On previous experiments, the Tx was easily detected from 1500 feet away from on my grabber. Longer DX experiments have not yet been conducted. Note as per the photos, I have cheated a little, the Tx rig that I selected to used, was from a previous project, and has an additional active element, a five volt regulator (LM7805) for oscillator stability and battery longevity (i.e the 9 volt battery voltage can decrease down to 7 volts and oscillator requires only 1.8ma before the Tx frequency goes unstable). Bill, The QRSS that I used is the same that I suggested for you to invert your FSK MEPT transmitter signal - for up - increase the "capacitance to ground at the collector" of the oscillator ( which I think cancels some of the normal colpitts capacitance - and therefore the frequency goes up with increased capacitance ). My modulation requirement does not need a "gimmick" as you have used, because of my use of direct mechanical capacitance coupling (as described below). For modulation my system uses about 8 gallons of water in a 6 inch reservoir with trickle flow bypass regulation around a weighted falling piston, which pulls on a string, which turns the encoder. The piston is large "Whole Fancy Indian - Cashew - Premium Quality, All Natural" nut container ( obtainable from the actual Kirkland Costco store ) with Velcro (loops) Sticky tape wrapped around the top and bottom bulges providing the snug fit and trickle flow metering in the water column. About 8 lbs of weight was added to the nut container to provide the necessary potential-energy storage. This system of metering and energy storage provides for a run-time of about 10 minutes, before a mechanical reset is necessary ( note to potential builders, performance and timing formulas are not included within this document ). Following ET's example, the encoder is a 10 inch multi-cut rotating disk encoder - model number 9-32636 (only obtainable from Sears) augmented with "replaceable-movable-removable" coding elements attached with tape. Before the coding elements were installed on the modulation encoder, the system produce a QRSS "Saw Tooth" waveform (what else would you have expected?), which was initially used just for testing (see: the additional oscillator mounting hole on the substrate, closer to the pivot point ). Note, this encoder technique requires no actual physical or switch contact with the Tx. Only a ground and collector capacitor plates were extended from the colpitts oscillator to form the modulation active elements. I originally was planning to encode my own call - "WA0UWH", but the encoder blade could not hold that much data. A blade upgrade is being considered (i.e., 12 inch). For now, I have chosen something shorter and simpler to encode (as ET would have suggested), I will use my QTH as the name of the nearest major landing-site in my area with high intensity approach lights - SEA (Seattle International Airport), besides it was much easier to cut from PC stock - 5 dots and a dash. Note: the selected message can be shortened by folding the unused elements onto the center of the modulation blade (Note to self - other messages could be encode using the same elements and a similar folding technique, that is "ET" could be encode from the "SEA" elements ). The resulting modulation is not as square as traditional QRSS3 digital driven keyers, but, . . . it is very distinctive. The FIRST major modification to this system was the addition of a rolling cart for transport, I had to move the reservoir to a stairs where I could get above it, to pull up and reset the modulator piston, which by the way requires about a 20 lb pull for about the same duration as the run time (about 10 minutes). The NEXT major modification WILL BE a maximum flow (3/4 inch) tickle flow "bypass" pipe via a control "valve" to aid in the reset process ( for the European critics, I do not think this should be mistaken nor counted as an active QRP element ). This will make the resetting process go much smother, quicker, and should require much less external "arm strong" input power (question: where does the input power go?? warming the water??). The MEPT QRSS operation is simple; Raise the piston (lock it in place), Wind up the draw string around the pulley, Install the encoder disk, Release the lock, and then Wait for the DX grabber reports? Note: a complete set of construction, operation photos and grabber images will be added to my Gallery when time permits: http://qrss.ebcon.com/WA0UWH/Photos/ NOTE: For others HB'ers interested in this project, Kits WILL NOT be made available. Bill, watch for my signal on the 30M grabbers - it should be very recognizable as my signal will have a bit of a "Saw Tooth", waveform component. More details may follow as the project progresses (to where, I am not sure, but I do know that this is enough of this!). Bill, It has been fun !! 73's - Eldon - WA0UWH - alias "SEA" Phone Home BTW: No actual grabbers were harmed while collecting data for this document, but a 30db attenuator was added to the antenna connection on my SA602 DC receiver for its near field overload input protection.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I got an intersting e-mail on this subject from Gene, K8EE:
Mechanical Memory Keyer
Just wanted to let you know that I built a mechanical memory keyer
back around 1960. It was very similar to the one you suggested in the
last "Solder Smoke." I built it for the radio club to use on Field Day. It
It used a phonograph motor to coupled to a mechanical . A circular piece of PC board was attached to the output of the
VS drive. Patterns were etched on the PC board for the CW
messages, one to call CQ, one for the contest exchange and one to say
"tnx QRZ ...."
Of course, the variable speed can be achieved with a D.C. motor instead of
the mechanical VS drive. Todays computer software can create much
better artwork to etch on the PC board.
Unfortunately, I threw the thing out in the trash a couple of months ago. I
wish I still had it so that I could send you a picture of it. Oh well. What's
done is done.
Tell the guys that it CAN be done and it HAS been done.
Gene Mayler - K8EE
Sunday, March 15, 2009
In the SolderSmoke 103 Podcast:
15 March 2009
Beware the Ides of March!
Ostia Beach and Ostia Antica
248 Knights of QRSS. And Wizards!
ET Phones Home (with QRSS?)
Possible new grabbers in VK6 and Dubai
REAL QRP QSOs on 80 and 40
Saving an old Toshiba Laptop
ECHO-QSO WITH JEFF, KO7M:
-- Piper Cubs and MFJ Cubs
-- Satellite QSOs
-- LT Spice and test gear
Gene W3PM listens from QE2, HB WSPR rig
Jim AL7V sending parts for my W3PM rig
Jim AB3CV's color burst Gnat
Jason NT7S on Tektronix guys and SolderSmoke
Kevin ZL3KE on old computers
Paul M1CNK's DDS 30-based QRSS beacon
Soeren OZ2DAK on exercise bikes to power beacons
Friday, March 13, 2009
Eddie has a lot of other tricks up his sleeve, including the use of a Voltage Controlled Variable Oscillator driven by a PIC chip for a very simple WSPR transmitter.
These and other inventions can be seen on Eddie's YouTube page:
http://www.youtube.com/user/g3zjo (most seem to be done without audio).
Also check out his QRSS Beacon web page:
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
On Monday, I'd noticed (via Blackberry) that my signal had disappeared from ON5EX's grabber. I could see a signal close to where I usually am, but it looked a bit different. On closer inspection I saw that EA6FNF had fired up a very nice 50 mw DFCW beacon on around 10140060 Hz. My signal was gone. When I got home I discovered a broken antenna wire. Once again, ON5EX and the internet had, in effect, relayed telemetry about the status of my QRSS system.
Fortunately I could fix this from the window -- no roof work was required. Skies were fairly clear on Wednesday morning, and as I looked up across the Janiculum Hill at Rome's pre-dawn sky, I saw a satellite going over from North to South. Of course, I wanted to know what I was looking at, so I turned to Chris Peat's very useful web site, Heavens Above. Very quickly, I was able to find out that it was either the Russian Okean O Rocket, or something called RADCAT.
Check out Heavens Above. Lots of great info on astronomy, satellites, and ham radio spacecraft:
The antenna was quickly fixed. I should be back on the Belgian grabber now. It was a good ham radio morning in Rome. Thanks Jerry. Thanks Chris Peat.
Monday, March 9, 2009
KO7M has built his first QRP rig!
Well... I have been systematically listening to every soldersmoke episode from the beginning... Not a small task... :) I am currently up to episode 80, so I am closing in on the prize of being current.
BUT!! You have completely afflicted me with the need to build something... Most of my ham life however I have been mostly an appliance operator it seems though I built a lot of tube equipment in my younger years, burned a lot of fingers and once launched myself across the shack when I took hold of a 750 volt plate circuit.
Therefore, I am not up to the task of designing something from scratch, but ya know... I just HAD to build something and NOW, so I went with a kit. So, not exactly knack-ish but ya gotta start somewhere, eh?
I went with the little from MFJ called the "MFJ Cub". I picked up a 40 metre version of this little gem, plugged in my MP3 player with my current episode of soldersmoke and started GENERATING solder smoke! This little kit went together very easily during moments when I had a few minutes to work on it.
Well, this evening (it is now 01:00 PST) I finished up with my last little bit of solder smoke generation and the little rig is done. Now for the REAL smoke test...
Since I don't have a current limiting power supply, I went with a little nine-volt battery for the smoke test. The little power LED lit up and I heard a pop in the headset, nothing was getting warm, so things looked good. We went to the full 12 volt supply and I went through the alignment process by first setting the product detector's operating frequency to fall within the CW filter passband. I then used my Icom receiver to set the VFO operating range since I don't have a frequency counter. I then peaked the receiver bandpass filter for best sensitivity and lastly set the BFO to the correct sideband.
For the transmitter, I first set the carrier offset to about 600 hz from the received signal and peaked the transmitter bandpass filter for maximum RF output. I only have a simple SWR bridge for indicating a relative output level forward and reverse. Lastly, I set the power output level to about what I estimate should be about one watt.
Whoo hoo! Pulled off the dummy load and plugged in the G5RV and antenna tuner and started tuning around the low end of 40 metres and there were signals everywhere. Nice receiver in this rig. The tuning is a little fast, but managable. Seems to be very sensitive. I happened to catch the end of a CQ call as I was scanning around the band and when he signed I gave him a call.
To my complete surprise, he came back to me and gave me a 459 report... From Japan! I bagged a JA1 on my first QSO on a rig I built myself (or at least assembled). There is nothing better, I tell ya! I attached a screen shot of the Solar Flux level for my first QSO.
So... I am afraid to say you have reinstilled the need to melt solder in me after an absence of over 30 years. It is a disease I tell ya! I have located copies of both Solid State Design and Experimental Methods, which are both on the way and I am eagerly looking forward to figuring out what the next project will be.
The knack is returning...
Jeff Whitlatch - ko7m
More info here: http://www.svengrahn.pp.se/trackind/trackin1.htm#KEttrack
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Well, maybe not using that one. But something like it. The idea -- mentioned recently on the podcast -- is to use a mechanical clock mechanism to generate the CW for a QRSS beacon. This would allow us to get the transistor count for our beacon down to one. For some odd reason, some of us find this appealing, especially when you consider that the transistor count on the receive side is in the tens or hundreds of millions. One is the magic number. You can see how this project brings together two of the biggest littlest recent trends in the QRP radio: QRSS and minimalist radio.
It's kind of scary when you Google something and are referred back to your own blog. That's what happened to me on this subject. Back on May 28, 2008, this was posted (by me!) as a comment to one of the beacon-related posts:
Hello Bill and Others:
A few years ago, a buddy had made a neat keying operation made by taking a
one RPM clock motor and had it rotate a printed circuit board disk that had
the callsign etched on it several times sequentially. Clock motors are
made to run continuously for years, and it stood up with just an
occaisional cleaning of the wiper arm with spray cleaner.
All the best to all!
73 de Lee Smith VE4ANC
This message from Lee was a response to a January 1999 question from me. So we are sort of re-inventing the wheel here.
Of course, there are some QRSS beacon circuits out there with VERY low transistor counts. Hans Summers has one on his site that used a bi-stable multivibrator to generate a pattern for QRSS. That would yield a total transistor count of 2 or 3. But we are going for one single transistor. And I kind think we should look for something that will allow for the transmission of callsigns.
Here's an e-mail exchange from the Knights of QRSS mailing list that may generate some ideas:
Re: [Knightsqrss] Junkbox + soldersmoke = pattern generator
Very nice idea Bill. After tiny solar mepts this could been our next QRPP/ET challenge .
73 de Paolo IZ1KXQ
--------- Initial Header -----------
From : firstname.lastname@example.org
To : email@example.com,"Soeren Straarup" firstname.lastname@example.org
Date : Fri, 6 Mar 2009 21:48:55 -0800 (PST)
Subject : Re: [Knightsqrss] Junkbox + soldersmoke = pattern generator
It would be fun if the clock were a "wind up" type. And for extra credit: Power the transmitter with the energy from the same spring mechanism (or other wind-up device) that powers the clock!
ET PHONE HOME!
--- On Fri, 3/6/09, Soeren Straarup <email@example.com> wrote:
From: Soeren Straarup <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [Knightsqrss] Junkbox + soldersmoke = pattern generator
Date: Friday, March 6, 2009, 3:30 PM
Hans Summers has made an astable multivibrator as pattern
Bill Meara has thought about making a analog clock.
Alan Yates loves my idea of an exercise bike pattern
Though i'm open for suggestions. No pics, pc or
any other programmable
Rules of design:
2) Should be in most junk boxes
3) Pattern should be easily changed (diversity, more
This is for a simple Pixie2 TX modified to be a QRSs TX.
Vy 73 de OZ2DAK
Soeren Straarup | aka OZ2DAK aka Xride
Friday, March 6, 2009
That link led me to Project Gutenberg where I plugged in the word "radio" and was instantly given a list of really nice old books, including the Radio Amateur's Handbook by A. Frederick Collins of Congers N.Y. (my home town). Here it is:
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Born in 1944, in Lucca, Tuscany, Italy. Got a Doctorate Degree in Physics at the University of Pisa. Since then worked for IBM, with various responsibilities. Radioamateur since 1966, active on most bands, from 160m to 23cm. Lately experimenting with 137 kHz, recently allowed in Italy with 1W ERP.
Studying and applying DSP and digital techniques in general. Author of Winrad, SDRadio, Spectran, Jason, Argo and Hamview, widely diffused programs for SDR (Software Defined Radio), spectral analysis and real time filtering of audio signals, received with a radio and routed to a PC equipped with a soundcard.
Despite the age, open to learn new techniques and theories. *Not* a tube (or valve, depending on the side of pond you are reading this) nostalgic.
73 Alberto, I2PHD
Home page http://www.weaksignals.com
Thanks again for noticing my QRSS signal making it through to Europe.
Your talk about mechanical solutions for QRSS modulators immediately
made me recall "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial". The "Phone Home" device he
built had a modulator based on a sawblade IIRC - its been years since I
watched that 1982 classic.
One easy hack might be to use an AC synchronous motor out of a gobo
rotator (for example, I got one out of a fibre optic christmas tree that
expired from overheating). Its reduction drive results in a fairly slow
rotation which might drive a modulator plate. You could do the pickup
optically using a LED/photodiode (or transistor, or even an LDR I guess)
transmission pair. Electrical contacts would work too, but doing it
optically probably means it would have a longer life.
A tape loop system might also be practical and would allow long
modulations to be encoded at reasonable tape rates. A syncro-drive gobo
has to be turned fairly slowly and pushes the "density" of the data
fairly high so the mechanical or optical sensor gets harder to just
throw together. I am sure a clockwork driven disk could be made to
work, it just might have to be fairly large.
Mechanical readout might be a microswitch and holes in the plate, or
even using PCB material with the pattern on it (etched or masked), and a
brush contact. To minimise wear a brass small roller held against disk
with spring tension would work. Oxidation on aging might become a
problem - yeah the more I think about it I am liking optical better.
You can also do it electrically using a diode matrix which can be read
out with some counters. Of course that defeats the original purpose
which was to make a single transistor QRSS beacon with a mechanical
One completely insane idea that just occurred to me is to build a slow
mechanical oscillator (say driven by a Stirling Engine or a Curie Point
Pendulum heated by a small candle) and modulate the RF oscillator with
that. The mechanics or thermal system might directly effect the RF
oscillator frequency. Who will make the first candle-powered QRSS
beacon with thermopile PSU? :-)
Monday, March 2, 2009
I had mentioned all this on SolderSmoke, and this morning Gene, W3PM, came to the rescue. He sent info on a really interesting and very simple SSB transceiver. Take a look at the block diagram. On transmit it is essentially a DSB rig with a filter at the operating frequency to knock down the unwanted sideband. On receive it is a Direct Conversion receiver preceded by a narrow filter that allows the WSPR frequencies through. It uses the familiar SBL-1 mixer. The filter has only one crystal. And --icing on the cake -- Gene built his version in modular form, with each module in an Altoids tin. Clearly, this is the WSPR rig for us!
Gene provides a very nice write up on his project here:
Sunday, March 1, 2009
I thought that Steve, N0TU (now WG0AT !), would find this especially interesting.
For the new SolderSmoke Store:
In SolderSmoke 102:
In the shadow of Vesuvius...
...then back to the "laboratorio."
1 transistor for transmit, 100 million for receive.
We need a low tech beacon generator -- maybe mechanical clock driven?
QRSS on "Hack-A-Day."
VK2ZAY QRSS booms into Europe.
Soul in the New Machine: Billy's oscillator.
ON5EX's grabber on SolderSmoke blog.
Italians at the forefront of QRSS.
T-shirt news: "Menus are for restaurants!"
"QRSS Ops Do it Very Slowly"
Using iGoogle for ham radio.
USENET is going strong!
Back on Echolink.
The Gnat! The NS-40!
I add a second transistor to my ET-1 (and hang my head in shame).
Jim, AL7RV, developing smoke generator for LTSpice.
Randy, K7AGE, sent Empire of the Air video -- Thanks!
Jim, K9JM, prescribes higher Q for regen rx. "Never will be a 2B!"
Rye, K9LCJ, "Low Space Means Fine Teletype."
Alan, W2AEW, Listens to SS while on the road with Tektronix.
Dave, W8NF, "Armstrong, A Man of High Fidelity." Indeed.
Mark reports W7ZOI releases new EMRFD software.
Jonathan, KB1KIX, Shep fan, has good Smith Chart stuff on his blog.
Jerry, NR5A, building a QRSS beacon.
George, K8VU, Dilbert has "utter social ineptitude."
David, VK6DI, moving East.
Paul, K3PG, took Willamette project on ski trip.
Steve, WA0PWK, Gil cartoon about Wes.