Category: Amateur Radio

TechMinds: Testing a DC-160 MHz Panadapter Switch

Over on his YouTube channel Tech Minds has uploaded a video where he tests out a cheap US$90 automatic antenna switch with DC-160 MHz range that he purchased from Chinese goods retailer Banggood. An automatic antenna switch like this is required when wanting to use an SDR such as an RTL-SDR as a panadapter with a transmit capable radio. The switch will automatically switch the SDR to ground when transmitting, so that high power does not enter the SDR via the shared antenna and destroy it.

In the video Tech Minds shows how to set the switch connections up and then demonstrates the switch in action with a Yaesu FT-991A and SDRplay SDR. He notes that this cheap Chinese version is actually built better than the MFJ-1708 antenna switch which until recently was the only commercial option available. It is also half the price.

PANADAPTER For Any Radio DC - 160 MHz SDR Antenna Switch

WSJTX Introduces Q65: Best Weak Signal Performance QSO Mode

WSJTX is a popular program for various digital amateur radio protocols such as FT8 and WSPR which are designed for making contacts with very weak and low power signals on HF. With some of these protocols contacts can be made all over the world in poor conditions with very low transmit power. If you're interested we have a tutorial on how you can use the direct sampling mode on a RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongle to set up a super low cost monitor for FT8, WSPR etc on a Raspberry Pi.

Recently WSJTX have introduced a new mode called "Q65" which claims to have the best weak signal performance amongst all modes implemented in WSJTX. As explained in the Q65 quickstart guide (pdf) they note:

Q65 is particularly effective for tropospheric scatter, rain scatter, ionospheric scatter, and EME on VHF and higher bands, as well as other types of fast-fading signals.

Q65 uses 65-tone frequency-shift keying and builds on the demonstrated weak-signal strengths of QRA64, a mode introduced to WSJT-X in 2016.

If anyone has tested reception of this mode with an RTL-SDR please let us know in the comments. It will be interesting to see what sort of distances can be achieved.

WSJTX Receiving Q65

FAASGS: A Setup to Build a Fully Automatic Amateur and APT Weather Satellite Ground Station

Over on GitHub stdevPavelmc has released his software called FAASGS (Fully Automatic Amateur Satellite Ground Station). FAASGS is an open source program that allows RTL-SDR users to set up a satellite ground station that tunes, record and generate images for NOAA APT weather satellites, as well as records FM amateur radio satellites. The software runs on a single board computer such as a Raspberry Pi, however in the authors own setup he uses an Orange Pi Prime board. The features include:

  • Web interface to see the next passes, the recorded ones, and details for it.
  • Receive any satellite in FM mode (SSB is possible but no there is doppler control yet, so no SSB by now)
  • Record the satellite pass and keep the audio for later.
    • APT WX audio is preserved in wav format and 22050 hz of sampling (the format wximage needs to work with)
    • FM audio satellites is preserved in .mp3 mode but with high quality settings, and other tricks.
      • The spectrogram of the audio is embedded as album art (see below).
      • The pass data and receiving station are stored in the mp3 tags.
  • Automatic decode APT images from WX sats (NOAA 15, 18 and 19)
  • For the voice FM sats we craft a spectrogram and embedd the metadata of the pass on the image
FAASGS main screen showing recordings
FAASGS screen showing an FM amateur radio satellite pass

DragonOS: Decoding FT8 on Linux with WSJT-X

DragonOS is a ready to use Ubuntu Linux image that comes preinstalled with multiple SDR program. The creator of DragonOS, Aaron, uploads various YouTube tutorials showing how to use some of the preinstalled software. This month one of his tutorials covers how to use a SDRplay RSP1A or a HackRF to receive and decode FT8 with the preinstalled software WSJT-X or JS8Call. Aaron also notes that an RTL-SDR could also be used as the SDR.

In the video he covers how to set up a virtual audio cable sink in Linux for getting audio from GQRX into WSJT-X, setting up rigctld to allow WSJT-X to control GQRX, configuring GQRX, CubicSDR and WSJT-X, and finally downloading and using GridTracker.

DragonOS Focal Receive FT8 w/ WSJT-X (RSP1A, HackRF One, GQRX, CubicSDR, GridTracker)

Using an RTL-SDR as a Panadapter with an Automatic Antenna Switcher

Over on YouTube "Gadget Talk" has uploaded a useful video showing how he set up an RTL-SDR V3 based panadapter system to use with his traditional amateur radio. The setup involves utilizing an antenna switcher which allows him to transmit with the RTL-SDR connected to the same antenna. The switch grounds the SDR during transmission, ensuring that the RTL-SDR is not overloaded with the transmit signal.

In the video he also shows how to set up the HDSDR receiver software and the HRD Rig Control software for controlling the hardware radio through the software and vice versa.

SDR Panadapter Using an Antenna Switcher

New SDRUno Plugin Video Demos: Frequency Annotation, WEFAX, SSTV, DXToolbox

Earlier this year SDRplay updated their SDRuno software to have plugin functionality. This allows third party programmers to implement their own decoders and software which interfaces with SDRuno directly. Recently we've seen some new plugins become public, and in one of their recent blog posts, SDRplay highlights a few new ones.

SDRplay writes the following about three demonstration videos:

The first shows the latest version of FRAN – a FRequency ANnotation programme, developed by Eric Cottrell – it can read SWSKEDS or .s1b memory bank files and display the active stations from the files on the main spectrum window. This is an example of a Community Plugin

Quick Look at the FRAN Plugin (VID558)

FRAN complements the DX Cluster demo plugin provided by SDRplay. This programme displays DX cluster callsigns on the SDRuno spectrum display. A DX cluster is a network of computers, each running a software package dedicated to gathering, and disseminating, information on amateur radio DX activities. With this plugin you can overlay the DX cluster callsigns as they pop up. There’s a choice of how long you let them display and you can control the way in which they appear. Here we show it successfully tuning in to a US station flagged by the cluster. (The receiver was in the UK):

Quick Look at the DXcluster Plugin (VID560)

Finally there’s this new video showing the new plugin for interfacing the software suite from Black Cat Systems to SDRuno enabling DXToolbox, HF WEFAX and Slow Scan TV decodes:

Quick Look at the Black Cat Systems plugin

Black Cat Systems has a range of software available – more information can be found at: https://blackcatsystems.com/ For more about the SDRuno plugin system for both users and potential developers, go to https://www.sdrplay.com/plugins/

Happysat Reviews the QO-100 Bullseye LNB

Thank you to Happysat for reviewing the QO-100 Bullseye LNB which we have available in our store, eBay and Aliexpress. The Bullseye LNB is an ultra stable TCXO (temperature compensated oscillator) based LNB which makes it very good at receiving the narrowband signals on the QO-100 amateur geostationary satellite.

Standard LNBs that are sometimes used for QO-100 are not designed for narrowband signals and hence do not have temperature compensated oscillator which can result in the signals drifting in frequency significantly as the ambient temperature fluctuates. Happysat also notes that the extra stability seems to have increased signal strength on the more wideband DATV reception as well.

First test's on Es-Hail Narrow SSB transponder compared to my old regular sat-tv LNB clearly is showing more signal stability overall.

It does need some time for both the tuner and LNB to get stable, but that's only a few minutes.

Weather conditions shows less "drifting" of the pll where the old LNB was very sensitive of temperature changes, clouds before the sun did have immediately effect on the signal stability.

Some days with storms reception was impossible on SSB Narrow band.

Winter is coming over here so it gets a lot colder and more storms, but I don't expect any problems with this LNB.

Wideband testing DATV reception also shows a more stable signal although its a wider signal then narrowband, it also did increase the signal, e.g. a signal lock happens much faster.

More information about Happysat's setup and his use of the Bullseye QO-100 LNB can be found on his QO-100 website.

Other reviews of the Bullseye LNB include a YouTube video from TechMinds and F4DAV's in depth review on his website.

The Bullseye LNB for QO-100

DragonOS: QRadioLink Radio over IP with an RTL-SDR

DragonOS is a ready to use Ubuntu Linux image that comes preinstalled with multiple SDR program. DragonOS-Focal (the build with the latest updates) has recently been updated to include the latest version of an interesting program called QRadioLink. We've posted about QRadioLink a few times in the past, but if you haven't heard about QRadioLink before this is the description from the website:

QRadioLink is a GNU/Linux multimode SDR (software defined radio) transceiver application using the Internet for VOIP communication (radio over IP), built on top of GNU radio, which allows experimenting with software defined radio hardware using different digital and analog radio signals and a Qt5 user interface.

Its primary purpose is educational (demonstrating radio communications to children at schools), but it can also be customized for low power data communications on various ISM frequency bands. It can also be used as an amateur radio SDR transceiver for experimentation.

The latest DragonOS YouTube video author Aaron demonstrates the use of the QRadioLink Radio over IP feature, when combined with an RTL-SDR and umurmur server. Umurmur is a minimalistic mumble server, which is a Voice over IP (VoIP) application. Aaron runs the RTL-SDR and mumble server on a remote LattePanda single board computer, which then broadcasts music received via the RTL-SDR over a VoIP internet link to a laptop.

DragonOS Focal QRadioLink Radio over IP w/ RTLSDR (GNU Radio, umurmur, lattepanda)