9 April 2017

Going international

It was great to see lots of people at the GMDX convention last weekend. My presentation seemed to be well received and generated a good number of in-depth questions. It was the right decision to not do a demonstration as part of the presentation: there wasn't enough time and it would have been too disruptive. Instead I set up a demonstration station in the coffee area and had a large number of interested visitors with often quite technical questions. It is clear that there is a lot of interest in SDR these days.

http://www.dxconvention.comMy mind now turns to the International DX Convention, more commonly known simply as Visalia. I will be giving a broadly similar presentation there on Friday 21st April at 10:30 in Charter Oak, rooms A/B/E. Again there will be no demonstration but the plan is to have my controllers on the FlexRadio booth. If possible I will try to connect one of them up to a Flex radio - I am sure they'll have one or two there!

If you're a delegate at the convention, please do come by and say hi.

31 March 2017

GMDX Convention

I'm starting to pack up everything ready for the GMDX Convention tomorrow. I'll be presenting my paper at 15:30 but there will not be time to attempt any sort of demonstration during the presentation. Instead, I hope to be able to set up a demonstration in the adjacent room, where coffee is served and I will try to man that during break times.

I will have both mini and maxi controllers running but as my laptop is somewhat video ports challenged I'll only be able to display either the mini OR the maxi screen actually on the controller's built in display.

Looking forward to seeing lots of you there.

30 March 2017

PCB update

I now have a few requests for PCBs and am planning to place an order for 10 of each board - mini and maxi - in the next few days. The cost difference per board between 10-off and 25-off quantities is under $1, so there is no real advantage in taking the risk with a larger quantity.

If you think you might want a board or two please do let me know - full details are a few posts below this one.

Update 2017-04-09: The PCB order will not now be placed until I return from Visalia.Too many issues to resolve in the time available and it was always going to be tight on delivery time scale, so it's better to wait until I am back from my travels.

28 March 2017

Mini controller finished

The mini controller is in its box and looks great! This should be a really good form factor for remote operation away from the shack.

Showing VFO-B as the control VFO (note underlined frequency!)
I'll be taking both the Mini and the Maxi controller to the GMDX convention this coming weekend. All I have to do now is finish my presentation...

Maxi controller QRV

Today I completed construction of the Mk II Maxi Controller and put it into service as my main station radio controller. This involved moving the host controller code over to my station PC - the first time the code has been fully separated from its development environment.

The development environment is a considerably more powerful system, so I was interesting to see how the controller would work on a less powerful and, perhaps, more commonplace processor. In fact only one problem emerged - it was necessary to add a few lines of code to ensure that the default  Windows time slice was set correctly so that the many timers in the code would work reliably. This had not been a problem on the development machine but it was soon readily apparent on the station system!

So this is a big step forward today. The Mk I controller has been retired and I am now fully operational with the Mk II hybrid architecture. So far it seems to work just fine, although conditions are poor and there's not much to work.

Big empty box! All the Maxi hardware is on the panel PCB
At least the box can be used as a base for the microHAM
A general view of the 'WGV station

21 March 2017

PCBs 4 U?

As long term followers of this Blog will know, I have now designed and prototyped two printed circuit board designs: A single VFO knob mini-controller and a two VFO knob maxi-controller.

The mini-controller PCB
These PCBs work well and the time has come to decide whether to make them available for others to build their own controllers. In some respects it would be nicer for potential builders to come up with their own physical layouts, in pursuit of one of the main objectives of the project: a fully bespoke solution.

The maxi-controller PCB
Not everyone will want to do that, of course. For those that want to brew their own I will publish full source code for both the I/O controller and the Host controller. I'll make the PCB "Gerber" files available and I'll also publish DXF files for the panels I have designed, suitable for CNC milling.

I'm looking into PCB production costs. Perhaps unsurprisingly but disappointing, nonetheless, I can order PCBs from China and have them here inside a week for less than half the cost of an equivalent UK-based service, even after import duties and VAT are accounted for. Costs, landed in the UK, look likely to be in the order of

Mini controller: £12.00
Maxi-controller: £15.00

These costs are based on minimum orders of ten of each. The price comes down somewhat at higher volumes.

Who who wants one (or more)? Contact me via e-mail (see QRZ.com). I'll start putting a list together and see where we get to.

20 March 2017

Mini controller built

Things have been a bit hectic at 'WGV Towers recently, so there hasn't been much progress to report on the mini controller. I did get it built and have spent some time playing with the software.

In fact rather few issues remained and the mini controller works very well indeed. I have a few minor additional functions that I'd like to implement to make the mini controller more flexible but in general I think we're pretty well there.

I'm just waiting for the mini controller and Mk II maxi controller aluminium panels to come back from CNC milling. I'll then be able to spray them and mount the PCBs, ready for the trip up to Stirling for the GMDX Group presentation at 15:30 on 1st April, A couple of weeks later I'll be heading off to the IDXC at Visalia, where I'm giving a similar presentation on Friday 21st April at 10:30. I'll post more about that in due course.