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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

DARK SIDE TO THE MAX: WA7HRG's Android Tablet SDR (with a question)

Jim's experience with the Android tablet SDR was very similar to mine.  But he used a "Ham It Up" up converter ahead of the RTL-SDR while I used an RTL-SDR modified for direct sampling of HF.  I built a pre-amp/pre-selector stage for mine.   On my Android Tablet (50 bucks via Amazon) I found the touch screen to be kind of clunky -- it was hard to get the receive passband lined up with the incoming signal. The touch screen was not nearly as smooth as the one on my IPhone.   A Bluetooth mouse solved that problem.  

Like Jim, I am using SDRtouch from the GooglePlay.  I'll have to follow his lead and try Droid RTTY and PSK.

My reaction to the completed project was also similar to Jim's: He writes that this is, "The first and last of my SDR adventures.  This is just not the same as scratch building!"  Indeed, it is not.  But still, for very little money you end up with a pretty impressive receive capability, and you get some valuable insight into an intriguing method of receiving radio signals.  And you don't have to mess with Linux!

I have a question for the SDR gurus:  With direct sampling, we are  just running an ADC at RF.  So we no longer need an I-Q front end to take care of the image problem we had when we were running soundcard-based SDRs, right?  But I sometimes I hear that even with direct sampling systems, there is a digital generation of I and Q signals.  Why would you need I and Q if you are just digitizing the incoming passband, multiplexing it,  and sending it to the software?

Hi Guys

OK, so I am a little (A LOT) behind you guys in my bench work.  Several unfinished projects are waiting in the wings.  But I thought I would also dabble in Software Defines Radios.  Thought I would go the Raspberry Pi route as Pete did.  Then I woke up and sided with Bill.  I don’t want to learn Linux!!

For about the same price as a Pi-3 and a 7” screen I bought one of Bills Android tablets and I found on eBay an estate sale that had a bag of NuElec parts.  The RTL dongle, a Ham it Up vs. 3, and several cables, all unused.   Last but not least I bought an Android ‘On the Go’ USB cable adapter.
I removed the LED and UV diode for the remote to drop the current some. Then tapped some power off the USB connector and ran it out to the Ham it Up.  A few holes and some double sided carpet tape and ‘Bobs Your Uncle”.   I added an enable switch to the up converter for the noise source but still waiting for the SMA connector to come in.  Then I’ll see what that can do as a poor man’s spectrum analyzer for filter design.


I found several interesting apps on GooglePlay.  Besides the SDRTouch program I downloaded Droid PSK and RTTY.  Also the RFCorb client that allows you to connect to hundreds of remote stations around the world.  That I may have to spend some time exploring but not really part of this build.
The Up Converter fired right up and after tuning around some I jumped to 14.070, the PSK hot spot. The tablet truly does multitask.  I left SDRTouch running and opened Droid PSK.  A waterfall full of signals jumped up and I was easily copying stations on the East coast and Canada.


All this running on the USB power from the tablet!  How cool is that.  After about 45 minutes or so the battery was about half.  The only problem that I may have to address is that the tablet and/or the Ham it Up gets pretty warm and my carpet tape lets go and things fall apart.  HA.  Haven’t ran it long enough yet to see what else the heat might effect.


So that was fun and I will be playing with it some more.  I have coffee on Mondays with some ham buddy’s.  When I showed them the PopCorn radio they jibbed about it not being battery powered. 


Well Monday is coming!!  HA

Jim WA7HRG

3 comments:

  1. *NOT an SDR guru.* I remember that the old phasing sets needed a 90 degree shift at both RF and audio. I think the SDRs depend on the hardware to do the RF shift whilst using software to do the audio shift. That's hard enough, as the shift must be the same from 300-3000 Hz.
    KM4SJN

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  3. The 90 deg shift allows analysis of the incoming RF, not just its presence/amplitude. This is what the software does, and not just for SSB. The FSK/PSK/RTTY signals are directly decoded _at RF_, not from an audio stream. This allows FM, (DA)TV etc, and other yet-to-be-invented/developed RF modulations to be easily detected, demodulated, decoded ... There's a whole 'nother' world out there 'in the ether'.

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