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Saturday, 7 December 2019

More ADF4351 - really?


You may recal my dissapointment back here with the Practical Electronics GPS-synced Frequency Reference.

It turned out to be a load of Dingo's Kidneys.

You may also recal the most excellent work of Brian, GM8BJF back here using the ADF4351.

Well, I have been playing with the Micromite that was used in the Practical Electronics project, and have created a touch screen signal generator using the ADF4351.

The ADF4351 modules I have are here and this one by SV1AFN.

It's very much stolen from a project here.

I've modified the code a bit to have an additional digital output to show the PLL locked state, and also changed the code to use a 10MHz clock rather than the default 25MHz clock.

It's quite neat!

Albeit upside down:

I'm 3D printing a case for the front, then we can decide what to do with it:

The output is as I expected:

I've uploaded my bodged version of the code here.

After I finished the software mods and fiddled some more, I stuck this all in a box:

You use the touch screen to set the frequency:

and there's an LED for power and another to show the PLL is locked.

I've learnt loads building this and I'm rather pleased with it!

I've done a video on the detail here:

Here is our very beautiful and rather special Miss Florrie Cat:

Monday, 2 December 2019

Practical Electronics - Really?


I recently built myself a project that had featured in the Oct/Nov 2019 issues of Practical Electronics (previously Everyday Practical Electronics). It is a new fangeld GPS-synced Frequency Reference.

It uses a CDCE906PWG4 from Texas Instruments as its core component which allows three independent outputs to be set over a wide frequency range.

It also uses a thingamabob called the Micromite Backpack - which is basically a microprocessor with a nice colour touch screen integrated that is designed to use MMBasic as its programming language.

The theory of operation is very simple, there is a 40MHz ovened variable oscillator and also an external GPS 1pps signal. The microprocessor counts the 40MHz signal between 1 second pulses from the GPS and adjusts the voltage control on the oscillator appropriately. Once we have an accurate 40MHz signal, this is then used by the PLL to create the reference outputs at the user selected frequency.

Unfortunately I can't get this thing to work (properly) and I **think** my fundamental problem is one of power filtering/decoupling.

Here are the basic components, the green board is the frequency reference and the red one the Micromite.

The white wires on the board you can see are a suggestion from the author "the stability of the reference may be improved by reducing the impedance of ground tracks on the PCB" which smells rather fishy to me.

Anyhow, the output of the oscillator from the PLL looks like this:

and the output, when set to 10MHz looks like this:

All looking rather nasty - wouldn't you agree? The bursts of apparent crap on the signal are when the GPS is sending data to the processor.

I've tried to get some support for this project; but failed rather dismally. There used to be a chat room for EPE projects, but that has been closed. There is a dedicated forum now, here:

but I posted there over a week ago, was notified that my post is subject to moderation, but it still hasn't appeared. I also note the last post there is over a month ago.

All of the self tests in the software appear to pass; that suggests all is well, but I can assure you that all is not well at all! The output frequency is a mile from being accurate, the "approx freq" in the screen above swings wildly around the 40MHz target suggesting the processor is having issues counting the clock, and generally it's all a bit pants.

Not sure what to try next.

This makes me sad.

I even ended up digging out a CD4046 to remind myself how PLLs work,

In the image above, we have the source oscillator from my desk function generator in yellow, the light blue is the output from the on-chip VCO, the purple is the basic comparator (type 1) output and the darker blue the type 2 comparator output. When I change the frequency of the bench generator the on-chip VCO follows in frequency and locks - just as it should - I remember now!

Alan Wolke, W2AEW, has a superb video explaining this stuff on YouTube here.

This, however, makes me very happy as it is our very beautiful Pepper Cat enjoying a bit of late winter sun:

Local conditions.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

JARTS - doesn't time fly


It's the JARTS RTTY test once again and the bands are full of RTTY signals.

Propagation contitions are very poor, but there are plenty of signals about.

I've been using the IC-7610 today and it's a superb RTTY radio:

The internal decoding capability is also excellent:

Here is the 40M band early on the Saturday evening - CW and RTTY everywhere!

Here's a map of my log:

Local conditions.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

DVB-S2 - really?

A very quick special message broadcast on the QO-100 Digital Amateur Television:

Local conditions.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Radio Analog PTRX-7300 - Really?


You may well have seen adverts for the PTRX-7300 from Radio Analog. This is some kind of new fangled adaptormabob for the Icom IC-7300 that gives you an RF output that you can hook up to an external SDR for a panadapter display.

Well, I ordered one.

Here are the bits that you get (but not the screwdriver):

You start by taking the radio top cover off:

Then we disconnect the cable that attaches to the rear external tuner connector and remove it:

Then the new gubbins clips into the space where the external tuner connector was:

Hook up the cable into the now vacated socket for the external tuner connector:

and then pull a plug out of the radio PCB and insert into the new gubbins:

Then we have a supplied cable from the new gubbins to the PCB socket we just disconnected:

And thats it! Now externally the tuner connector is re-connected and also a flying lead with an SMA connector to feed to the SDR. This is extremely neat!

So once we have all that done, I have set up SDR Console:

and it just works.


Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Up-converting - you what?


Further to the PA I made last time, today I have been finishing off the up-converter to accompany it.

The theory goes something like this:

  • The Portsdown will output DATV on 439 MHz through the transverter output
  • This will be sent down the garden in Ecoflex-15
  • The co-ax losses will be compensated for using the 70cm amp I made back here
  • This will feed the SG Labs transverter we played with back here
  • The output of the transverter is then boosted by the Wi-Fi amp from here 
  • Finally the output is fed to the PA
Here's the up-converter in its finished form, there's a simple sequencer in there to handle the PTT switching and send a PTT signal to the PA:

Tomorrow I hope to install this and the PA in the small shed I have near the dish - then for some on-air testing.

This is the output of the up-converter DVB-S, SR250, FEC 1/2 - received with an antenna across the bench:


I've not yet installed the equipment in the garden, so I have about 4-5dB minimum of cable loss between the PA and the dish feed. However, here's my first RX of my own TV signal through Es-Hail'2:

** UPDATE 2 **

I've moved the gubbins to the small shed near the dish:

And am now sending 439MHz (ish) down the garden from the Portsdown.

This is a 333KS transmission via QO-100, you can see my signal on the left of the Mini Tioune software at 10,497.750 MHz:

And here is a testcard:

Local conditions.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Even More Power!


I've been messing about and finishing off my 13cm linear. The idea is to make something that will work on the 2.3GHz amateur band frequencies as well as 2.4GHz for DATV on Es'hail-2.

This has been quite a challenge, but eventually we have something working ready for on air testing.

This is the final build, which even though I say so myself, is a masterpiece:

The PA module itself is something from my travels made by PowerWave:

There are five MOSFETS in total - each one is a SRF7068H5HS.

This is controlled by a W6PQL Amplifier Control Board which in turn uses an external FET switch to turn on and off the 12V bias lines to the PA, provide the sequencing necessary, generate an ALC voltage (just in case I need it later), generate an external PTT out for switching VLNAs or other external gubbins.

There's also a chassis mounted directional coupler (a NARDA model 31152) which provides a -30dB forward and reflected port output which is attenuated and rectified to produce a DC voltage. There's a forward voltage for a future power meter and also a reflected power voltage to activate a trip if the SWR should exceed 2:1.

I've even included a thermistor on the main heatsync and a trip in the amp control to switch on the fans or even shutdown the amp when over temperature.

I'm seeing about 26dB of gain from the amplifier and it will generate about 250W of CW on 2.407 GHz so should easily generate the 30-40W I might need for some DATV experiments.

Here is the unit under test, I'm using the Portsdown to generate a signal at 432.75 MHz, then using the mixer from the UK Microwave Group forum to mix in 1975 MHz to generate an output on 2004.75 MHz. This is then amplified up and fed to the linear. The forward port of the directional coupler (-30dB) is coupled via another 20dB attenuator to my XL Microwave meter. A short piece of coathanger shoved into the front of the Spectrum Analyser allows me to measure the harmonics and also look at the TX waveform.

A thing of beauty is a joy to behold! I'm delighted with this.

Friday, 28 June 2019

13GHz Sig Gen - you can't be serious?


You may recall back here when I became very inspired by a project by GM8BJF using some eBay sourced Chinese modules to create an ADF4351 based signal generator.

There's another variation on that theme that has been published in the May 2019 Scatterpoint. Scatterpoint is the journal of the UK Microwave group, membership is about 3 bob and a conker so you have no excuses for not joining.

This time it uses an ADF5355 to generate signals from 52MHz all the way up to 13.6GHz.

The 4.4GHz generator has proved extremely useful, this one is a must.

I've modified the design and the software a little so that the 100MHz clock is generated by am ADF4351, rather than an OCXO as per Brian's design.

Brian has made the software available here, and my modified version is here. The AD4351 is a version of the evaluation board from SV1AFN - and it gets its reference from my 10MHz shack frequency reference.

The software runs on a SAMD21 ARM Cortex M0 which runs at a 48 MHz clock rate. This is supported by the Arduino IDE but is not something I had used before.

Its still WIP, but the project is up and running OK.

How cool is this?

Here's Miss Maggie Cat and Miss Pepper Cat doing what they do best:

Saturday, 8 June 2019

More Sequencing Secrets


I've been making another sequencer with a bias-t included; it builds on the stuff I did back here. This time I ordered some kits from the very excellent W6PQL.

The basic schematic for the sequencer is this:

Here's the build:

You can see the sequencer, a FET switch (which is used to turn off the power to the Bias-T during TX) plus the bias-T itself.

The bias-T is the sequencer event 1, events 2, 3 and 4 are ground on TX and available on the back panel as RCA sockets.

I've added some LEDs to the front panel to show the events switching and also a control to adjust the delay timing of the sequencing. The case is recycled from an old project:

I plan to use this to control the Transverter(s) and other gubbins I mentioned related to EME last time at the bottom of the post.

Local conditions.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

IC-9100 or the new fangled IC-9700?


I've been using a Icom IC-9100 as by base station 2M/70cm and 23cm rig for a number of years. The radio cost a small fortune but now, due to the release of the IC-9700, is worth about 3 bob and a conker.

My friend at LAMCO has lent me a IC-9700 (their shop demo model) to play with so I thought I would document my findings.

The IC-9700 is a modern rig, a "twin" if you like to the IC-7300 - the later has proved an extremely low cost SDR radio which has sold extremely well.

So here are the things I see as an advantage over the IC-9100:
  • Modern SDR architecture on 2M and 70cm
  • Accurate power out setting (on the IC-9100 you turn the knob and put it about where you want it - the IC-9700 has a %age power setting display)
  • Accurate CW pitch setting - as with the power out on the IC-9100 you have to turn the knob until it sounds about right. or alternatively you can use a CAT command but that's a bit bonkers too.
  • lower noise floor on 23cm - listening to the Martelsham beacon on 23cm I am sure the noise floor is lower on the 9700 than the 9100 - I may have just made that up though as I cant have them both running at the same time.
  • The SWR meter on the 9100 is a load of Dingo's Kidneys on the VHF/UHF/SHF bands, it seems to work on the 9700.
  • Accurate ALC - the AC meter on the 9100 on 23cm is inaccurate but the 9700 seems to work OK.
  • Bandscope/Waterfall - hadn't been invented when the 9100 was made.
And here are the things I already dislike:
  • It drifts! When you TX and the PA fan kicks in the TCXO clearly drifts - that's bad, and I mean that's really bad. I have measured 5-6Hz drift on 23cm.
  • There is no RCA PTT or ALC jacks on the back for linear amplifier interfacing - you have to use the 8 pin din ACC socket - which in itself is OK but I want to connect my MicroKeyer to that socket so I can have multiple CAT ports and other gubbins. Seems quite an oversight.

So, in conclusion the lack of RCA jacks is annoying; but the drift is unforgivable. I will need to make an adapter so I can connect both the MicroKeyer and the linear to the same socket at the same time - some diodes might be needed as the MicroKeyer will use the PTT (ACC pin 3) as an INPUT to the rig and my amplifier wants to use it as an OUTPUT from the rig. According to the manual it's both.

Just for the record, I'm planning to have a bonkers bash at EME on 23cm; I will be using the transverter from here to go from 28MHz IF to 144MHz, then have a remote 23cm transverter.

The TS-890 can do this:

and I've even installed a garden based enclosure thingy to house the 23cm transverter and VLNA remotely:

As ever, I don't really know what I am doing so we will see.

Been a bit of tropo on 2M today:

Local conditions.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Es on 4 - really?


I've always found the 4M band quite a challenge, but also very interesting. I don't really know how well the 'parasitically' fed antenna works I built here, but I certainly put out some RF.

The linear works on 4M, but is rather pants - very inefficient - not much RF out for an awful lot of current consumption.

There's been some sporadic E on 4M yesterday:

and today:

Yesterdays hop over to LZ2WO in Bulgaria is a reasonable distance at 2149.15 km (1343.220 miles), at a bearing of 109.3 degrees.

Good, egh?

Saturday, 20 April 2019

A Portsdown Conundrum


As part of my Es'hail-2 experiments, I am now preparing a DATV TX system for the satellite. I've ordered a Spectrian linear amplifier which seems to be the way to go, it looks like this but isnt here yet:

But in the mean time, I have been playing with an eBay sourced "wi-fi booster":

I have modified this to be permanently in TX by shorting pins of the op-amp as per many published explanations:

and simply connected this between the 23cm output port on the Portsdown and the Wi-Fi antenna that came with the amplifier.

Firstly, to test all is well with the setup, I have set the Portsdown to:

  • Frequency 146.5MHz
  • Modulation: DVB-S
  • Encoder: MPEG-2
  • Output to: Lime Mini
  • Source: TestCard
  • SR 1000
  • FEC 7/8
  • Lime Gain 88
This feeds from the 2M output port of the Portsdown to the linear I made back here and then to the 2M beam on the mast.

I have connected a "white stick" antenna thats on the house somewhere to the input of the MiniTiouner from here and these are the results:


Now, I change the Portsdown TX frequency to be 2407.75 MHz, change the antenna on the MiniTiouner to be a 2.4GHz patch on the bench:

and this is the result:

With a suitable piece of wire shoved into the front input socket on the spectrum analyser I can see the 2.4GHz signal I am transmitting:

So I am really not sure why I can't decode the TV signal on the MiniTiouner - any ideas anyone?

** UPDATE **

So, thanks to the BATC forum and mainly G8GKQ, we concluded this was a phase noise issue.

I did some experiments starting at 23cm (1296 MHz) and slowly increased the TX frequency until it failed; I found this to be at 2150 MHz. It turns out the problem is ripple in the PSU for the MiniTiouner - so this is an RX issue not a TX issue as I suspected.

The MiniTiouner includes a buck converter to take the DC input and drop it down to 4V to feed the on-board regulators. I was feeding this with either 12V or 18V and also routing this input voltage up the coax to the LNB. It seems that the higher the voltage, the more the ripple.

I've modified my MiniTiouner now to run the internal RX electronics from the USB power (I have it connected to a USB 3.0 PCI card with an internal PSU connection)  and only now use the external switchable 12/18V for the LNB power.

Not sure I fully understand the reason for the problem, but it is now fixed.

Local conditions.