Superb Arduino Book

March 27, 2015

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This is the best getting started book for Arduino. The little booklet that comes with the Vilros starter kit is great for total “newbies”, and the Arduino for amateur radio book is quite good – but this one is the best by far. It walks through the Arduino and not only talks about programming, but also describes the electronic side of the equation at a level that ham radio operators can understand – and in more general terms than the ham radio Arduino book.

For example, in Chapter 2, they talk about Pulse Width Modulation and the code – with a very simple circuit. This is what I need, because I want to have answers to questions like:

“Where exactly do I tap into an SWR sensing circuit – and what is the Arduino reading – and how should I create the feedback loop so that the Arduino can control the remote antenna tuner based on what the reading is?”

Sure – I can find web sites where someone says “Do this, do that”, but very few explain why such circuits work and how the code manages whats going on.

This book does.

At work – I am very, very pleased. I am moving to another group that is building a data layer and will be able to really start building my “Ontology for Sensor Data Layer”, which is a network of all relationships between sensors on machines (trains, planes, automobiles and oil and gas pipelines) and then facilitate “Predictive Analytics” on such data. I can’t believe I am on a project that is right out there on the forefront of such technology. I have never had a more exciting job in my 34 year career.

And working for a company started by Thomas A. Edison, Telegrapher!

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Station Pro II “Pods”

March 25, 2015

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The thing that makes the Station Pro II “system” work is the little “Pod” PC boards. These are “breakout boxes” that let you configure and wire up each of your transceivers neatly – reducing wiring clutter. Each pod connects to the Station Pro II switch box using a standard RS-232 connector, and then you choose which ports you want to control and switch using the breakout wires. For all three rigs, I will wire up these things:

  • Key
  • Microphone
  • Headphone
  • Speaker
  • Antenna
  • Amp

I have to think hard about the computer connections. Right now – the K3 goes through a DB9 to USB adapter, the KX3 a mini plug to USB wire, and the Patriot – yet another USB cable. The problem is – each one of these use a different driver on my MacPro Tower, so I might just have the three rigs go into the Mac and not switch any of these. I also have a fourth USB port that I use for my Arduino test and experimentation platform (which I will use to develop the circuitry and code for the remote antenna tuner project).

I don’t work digital modes, and tried to get into that a couple of times, but since I am using my keyboard time to write code at work and at home for Arduino stuff – I find CW and SSB modes that are much more relaxing – and which give me a break from staring at the computer monitor. I like the map on MacLoggerDX – its like having a Logbook and DX Atlas all in one program – really nice. I find keeping that map as “wallpaper” complements my CW and SSB work.

Anyway – as far as wiring up each pod, I will have to map the following diagrams to the pod:

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The mic and phones will be plugged into the front of the Station Pro II.

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The key will be plugged into the back, and this unit will send the amp control line to the ACOM 1500 and the speaker to a new little rechargeable bluetooth speaker that I just love:

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Each pod will connect using standard printer cables, and 12V power will be supplied by my second (smaller) Astron linear power supply. That power supply has power poles – and since it will only ever be powering the Array Solutions boxes and Station Pro Ii and one QRP rig – there is plenty of headroom for these things. The K3 gets its own larger Astron RS-35M supply, since that rig plus the ACOM 1500 will be used for “serious ATNO chasing”. I am sure the KX3 will become my “go to” rig on most days since I actually like it better than the K3. I do have the KX3 amp adapter plug – so in a pinch, and in an extreme emergency – I would drive the ACOM 1500 with the KX3, probably getting only 300 watts out – but hey – in an emergency that would be the best I could do (unless I bought a 100 watt amp from Elecraft or Ten Tec – both look attractive, but way over priced.

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The K3 – connections will mapped back to the pod, and I will solder and label each connector.

kx3-right

The KX3 has a BNC antenna port – and I have a BNC right angle cable to connect to the antenna switch box.

kx3-left

The “serious business” side of the KX3 will be mapped to the pod.

patriot-back

Besides the mic connector being on the front of the Patriot, the back connectors include the basic Phone / Speaker, Key, antenna and power connectors. I doubt I will be using the Patriot for a lot of on air work – more for futzing and making a QSO after modifying the code. Mostly occasional one off tests. But still -the Station Pro II means I can switch between all three without swapping cables by plugging and unplugging.

I love my Begali Simplex key – because since I am an old Vibroplex “Bug” keyer – the spring action works better for me than the magnetic action on their other (more expensive) keys:

Simplex

Finally, once you adjust the K3 and KX3 properly for RX EQ sound – you can make almost anything sound good, but lately my favorite headphones is the Koss DJ 200:

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They have a stereo and mono switch that really helps in noisy conditions – especially when the signal is bobbing in the noise.

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This antenna box will be connected using a standard network CAt network cable, and it will all fit nicely on my small operating area. Here is an example of a completed Pod:

pod

Remoting the AT2K – or building its replacement will free up some space and simplify the complex even more. And that’s what the Station Pro II does – “simplify the complex” . . . . in other words its an “elegant” solution!

Arduino and C

March 24, 2015

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I started playing with this Arduino Starter Kit that I purchased from Amazon for $60.00. It has everything that I know I will be using in future projects – plus an introduction to the platform that will really launch my ability to just imagine a project and run with it. It comes with a great little booklet, and the whole thing reminds me of that “150 in 1″ Electronics Kit that my parents got for me at Christmas when I was a little bugger:

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The C language is really great. I did not make the “OOP Leap” to C++ or Java, but I am very comfortable with C and its a real kick to be using it with the Arduino stuff. Last night I futzed with the “Blink” test program (Arduino’s “Hello World”), and had an error. Taking the first line of that error and putting it in Google brought the solution:

libedit

Its hard to imagine just how far we have come since the 1960’s – when I was playing with that 150 in 1 kit. But there is real nostalgia here – so many GREAT memories come flooding back – life in Newton, NJ, playing with electronics before I was 10 years old – and then running into another kid in my Boy Scout Troop who had his ham license (Dave, WA2KUF), and also Brother Joe Totoricci – at Don Bosco College (WB2SOR), and Larry Reiser, WB2KBH (now N9LR). And then helping start the Sussex County Amateur Radio Club – and meeting the guy who put the first antenna on the Empire State Building – Bob (W2LV), Walt Murphy, N2WM and a really nice guy, Bill Latham, W2SHM. There were others (Tom Moulton – WA2BAW, Steve Carrol and Dave Baginski – forgot their calls), but all great memories.

Any way – my mind is deeply dreaming these days of useful Arduino projects for the ham shack. I’ll be working one small chunk at a time on the Station Pro II – and probably get it done in a week or so, and then start plotting my first Arduino Project – a Remote Antenna Tuner using the AT2K or better yet – a vaccuum variable capacitor based LC or Pi tuner – like this Harris CU-2310:

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The idea will be to send a little RF to the unit and have it automatically tune for lowest SWR. I actually have a complete SWR circuit from an old ATR-30 down under the house. The Arduino can sense the SWR and then move the motors until the circuit is tuned.

Here is one such project – pretty advanced stuff:

http://www.qsl.net/on7eq/projects/arduino_atu.htm

There are so many cool “maker” sites out there – this is where you will find the kind of hams we want in the hobby in the future. Hams that actually experiment, tinker and make stuff work!

 

 

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The antenna and amplifier switching unit is just about done. I will make one last eyeball inspection of all components and solder joints – and then will “commit” – by soldering all of the SO-239’s to the PC board:

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I need to run one piece of LMR-400 from the Ratpack remote switch out in the back yard to the 160/30M antenna, and then I will have just one antenna feed line to plug into the is unit. I only have one amp – the ACOM-1500, and will have three rigs – the K3, KX3 and Patriot. The K3 and KX3 will drive the ACOM (I have the special KX3 drive line adapter).

Yesterday I was doing really well with the front panel board and then made a big mistake. Jim is going to desolder a 26 pin header mistake of mine. I was down on myself for such a big goof (I tried to de-solder with a solder sucker, but just couldn’t get it right), so Jim will do it for me. I realized that I haven’t soldered a PC board for over 10 years – so I was getting tired and was literally soldering “one last thing” – and blammo – a mistake.

While I wait for Jim to bail me out on that board – I have a weeks worth of other tasks – and by the time I get them done, the front panel board will be back and in good shape.

Tomorrow I will wire up the three “break out pods” . . .

Big Week Ahead

March 23, 2015

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A lot of important things going on this week – I’m hoping this full sized rainbow (the photo doesn’t nearly do it justice) brings good luck!

 

Random Thoughts

March 22, 2015

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Here is a cartoon – from my ARRL “Gil” cartoon book. It says it all about “the state of on air behavior”. Look at the date! What is old is new again.

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I sorted all of the parts for the Station Pro II. I’m using this wonderful DeWalt stackable carrying case that is just perfect for the job. Since all of the parts seemed to be “triple packed” – the project at first seemed almost daunting. Once all of that packing was removed the number of parts and scope of this project looks a lot less. Still – there are a ton of relays to wire – several IC sockets – and many header pins to solder. The break out “pods” will take some work.

I did wire one Rig Runner DC power strip on my smaller Astron Linear power supply. I use the big Astron with just the K3 on it – clean power with plenty of “headroom”, and the smaller one for the QRP rigs – the KX3 and Patriot and the four accessories I will have – Array Solutions switch boxes, AT2K lamp and Station Pro II.

Elliot, N6PF, and I picked up his new N6BT “Evolution Vertical” from Tom – who was visiting in San Jose yesterday, and we looked at where it will be isntalled – which we will do next weekend. This vertical is a very interesting design, and we really enjoyed coffee and a pretty long chat about DX-peditions, contests and antennas. Tom had some great stories about the “competition” between DX-peditioners, which reminded me of these movies:

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Today I will start work on the Station Pro II, and will also play some more with Python talking to the Patriot and its C code. I plan on building a Python based Patriot Rig Control and Logbook program – just for the fun of it.

Arduino and Python!

March 20, 2015

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I’ve been scratching my head over a decision I’ve had to make at work – which language should we use on our graph meta data layer project – where we will be using either Titan or HBase and most likely Spark and GraphX for a project? Spark was written in Scala – and the integration for doing anything on the Spark platform is quite wonderful. The problem? The standard for all of our data scientists is R and Python. This is a GREAT problem to have since I hate Java and love both Python and Scala. If the only thing I were to do in the world is code Spark / GraphX apps – then Scala would be the hands down winner. But for the best “swiss army knife” of all programming languages, it has to be Python. This also means its the best language to learn in today’s modern big data and data science world. My very good friend, Jack, K6JEB works for UC Berkeley, and said that the curriculum for Data Scientists has switched from Java to Python. OK – I’m sold.

And Python is great for Arduino and Ham Radio! So – here the “twain shall meet” . . . work and hobby – and benefitting each other in a synergistic way! (Remember, at GE my work is with sensor data – meaning I need to process data that comes off the industrial version of what I am playing with in Arduino).

When I Googled Arduino and Python – holy moly – a ton of GREAT links popped up, and I really like this fellows videos – very well done and he has the same enthusiasm I do for this subject area – so, I’m going through his video’s – both on Arduino and Arduino and Python. Here is the link to this fellows excellent series:

http://www.toptechboy.com/arduino-lessons/

 

 

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