Thursday, April 15, 2021

Monitor multiple digital modes simultaneously with Hermes-Lite and SparkSDR

The Hermes-Lite 2 continues to impress. I've now been turned on to the wonders of the cross platform SparkSDR software which open up multiple receivers, running different modes, and (if you have WSJT-X installed in the normal place), it decodes. Here is my setup under Ubuntu with receivers for WSPR, FT8 and JT9.

My thanks to Robin, G7VKQ, for bringing this to my attention! 

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Farewell to the van

The van has been an entertaining project over the last few years. A 2000 Toyota Hiace with 411,000km on the clock.

We have travelled up and down NSW many times and made the big trip across Australia to Perth.

Despite a few mechanical problems it has never let me down. 

Now though, each time I register it expensive repairs are needed. The time has come.

Highlights for me have been listening to ham radio in remote, and quiet, locations and just sleeping in the van - particularly when it's raining.

Farewell Morrison.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

RAAF 100 year flypast in Canberra

I'm not a plane geek but Kevin, VK2KB, talked me in to a trip to Canberra to watch a spectacular flypast by the RAAF to celebrate 100 years. Here's what I saw:

Apologies for some wobbly framing. I think I got better as it went along.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Officially an "old timer"

Old friend Nigel, VK3DZ, kindly invited me along to a meeting of the Radio Amateurs Old Timers Club. To be eligible for membership one must have held a license for 25 years. As I got my license in 1978 I'm well within the range so I applied to join and, after careful reference checks, was accepted.

Bill Roper, VK3BR, efficiently processed my membership and sent a nice welcome letter, an impressive certificate and a recent copy of "Old Timers' News" which is a very professionally produced magazine.

Today's meeting was a catered lunch at the Bentleigh Club followed by an excellent talk about Summits on the Air (SOTA) presented by Peter, VK3PF. 

I was surprised by the number of attendees that I already knew from the past and we had a wonderful chat over a hearty lunch. Chatting with Dave, VK3ASE, about being "old timers" he commented that inside he feels about 17 years old.

Also in attendance was prolific home brew author Drew, VK3XU, who I had the pleasure of visiting recently. He called me out on the picture of his home repaired glasses - I explained that it's one of my favourite photos from that day.

Great to catch up with Peter, VK3YPG and John, VK3EGG. Thanks to the organisers and all involved.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Hermes Lite 2 direct connect to macOS

A Hermes-Lite 2 SDR transceiver arrived a few days ago. For about $300 it's an amazing piece of equipment. A 0-38MHz direct sampling SDR that can transmit up to 5W.

Sliding the boards in to the box is quite simple except that I ran in to trouble fitting the supplied heatsink below the output transistors on the board. It took a bit of filing and grinding to get it to fit in the space below the board.

The radio connects via ethernet and that's how I initially used it with Windows. The SDR software I like the best is SDR Console. By magic it finds the radio on the network - very clever and handy if you need to operate with the radio somewhere else in the house. Direct connection ethernet to ethernet also works with SDR Console under Windows too.

My main computer is a Mac and I don't have ethernet to my office so I was pleased to find that if I simply plugged an ethernet cable from the radio to the Mac it was given an IP address of There's not much decent SDR software for macOS but I found that SparkSDR worked quite well and found the radio without any configuration.

I should add that this is running just fine under Intel emulation on an M1 processor.

Hermes-Lite looks good so far and I'm happy that it was easy to get going on Windows, Linux and even macOS.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Arduino pro micro password typer dongle

This has to be the simplest Arduino project. I have been improving my password security by letting some software choose random strings that meet the criteria. The problem is that I can't remember them and often they are even hard to type accurately with the text in front of me.

The project is a little USB device that you plug in and on boot it types the password. I ordered an Arduino Pro Micro.

This device, like the Leonardo, can emulate a USB HID device, including a keyboard. My program is extremely simple:

When you need the password, just plug it in. This works smoothly on Linux and Chromebooks, macOS tried to identify the keyboard type the first few times and Windows worked but carried on about setting up the device for a while.

Ideally, this board would be mounted in a USB key drive case.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Comparing noise level with WSPR

The noise floor at home is S9. Happily it's a broadband noise rather than the terrible switch mode power supply hash I had at one point. Inspired by Dallas, VK3EB, today I headed for the local park and threw a wire into one of the three largest trees there.

Like Dallas, I used a hand caster for the roll of wire and added a few sinkers to the end.

It was quite windy and after a few attempts I got the wire about 3m up into the tree - not great, but a start. Here's the portable setup:

The laptop is running Linux and is tethered to my phone for time synchronisation and spot upload. I have WSJT-X running at home and also ran in the park as VK3TPM/1 so I could compare Signal to Noise ratio. Here's home:

Here's the same period received at the park.

SNR is between 4dB and 11dB better in the park compared to home. Also one station, VK1DPB, was received at the park at -23 and not heard at home.

This is an encouraging start and I'm sure reception can be further improved in the park.