Thursday, 30 January 2014

Windows 8/Windows 8.1 procedure for unsigned drivers and problems with antivirus

Windows 8/Windows 8.1 procedure for unsigned drivers and problems with antivirus

There are a couple of problems with "new" software when using Windows 8 or 8.1, not specific to BladeRF, SDR-Console V2, or UT-100C DVB-T dongle betas.

My comments are not a criticism of Windows 8, it is a vast improvement on Windows 7 and a necessary path for creating an ecosystem operating system where a common user interface is available on all devices, be they PCs, laptops, tablets or phones. This is necessary for the central administration of all devices in an enterprise setting. In any case, I prefer the Windows 8 interface and access programs in the start tiles system. Windows Explorer has been re-written and is much better.

The first issue is that Windows 8 won't install unsigned drivers or even tell you that it hasn't. Given security issues, that is not such a bad thing, but I wish Windows 8 would at least tell you of the problem (as Windows 7 does) when installing drivers, codecs too, I think. Developers can get around the problem by getting drivers signed, but I understand that easier said than done, particularly with beta software.

The issue is "easy?" enough to get around as Windows 8.1 provides a special restart which turns off the blocking of unsigned drivers. It is accessible through Settings- Change PC settings-update and recovery- recovery- advanced settings- advanced startup- restart now. On restart, an option (7 from memory) is available to start with the driver protection turned off. The process is a little different in Windows 8 from memory; Google it if need be.

For a more detailed guide see: I am not sure you get the compatibility warning at the start.

The second issue is Norton Antivirus. Again, it is only doing its job, but it quarantines any executable code that is not in common use. I can't remember the error it gives, but it at least tells you. That specific protection can't be turned off, so it is necessary to turn Nortons off while dealing with the code and exempt relevant files and folders from the antivirus.

Ok, it's a bit inconvenient, but it's there for our protection. You can't have it both ways using beta devices and code.

The exact position in regard to BladeRF, I am not sure of its current status re Windows 8 or Nortons, as I have been doing other things, as you can see from my blog. Specifically I do have these issues with the DVD-T TX and its software, but I work around them as outlined above.

I don't want to start a flood of anti-Windows 8, it's been overdone already. Windows 8 is a good operating system given the changing nature of computing. My advice is use it and you will why you didn't change earlier.

Friday, 24 January 2014

UT-100C new drivers and software, ATV? DVB-T Repeater, Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro capture card

DVB-T, UT-100C new drivers and software, DVB-T Repeater

UT-100C new drivers and software

There are new drivers and software for the UT-100 series devices from Hides/ITE:

I have yet to try them, but they are meant to fix compatibilities with Windows 8 and 8.1, possibly the unsigned driver problem, and more fixes to the PC2TV. I have yet to try them out.

Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro capture card

I have had trouble getting PC2TV to work but have been concentrating on the video source end. I want to be able to transmit digital video, not analogue (composite or S-video). PC2TV worked with my laptop webcam straight off, so I have been trying to get HDMI video to work.

I want to be able to do amateur QSOs with real-time video and audio at high definition; the state of the art. As is noted later in this post, a repeater will assist this.

I bought a Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro PCI-E capture card (AU$249). It seems to work much better than the Avermedia card I was using and can capture HDMI video directly from the Canon camcorder I am using as a camera. I might have another go at using my Canon 650D for HDMI video. It can capture analogue video as well. I think it does the format conversion in hardware, but not sure yet.

The Blackmagic makes innovative pro TV and cine gear. It is worth looking at their site. The make a full HD video camera that uses SLR-D lenses for about $1000; very neat. They also do 2k and 4k versions for serious film makers. It is worth having a look at their site.

Hides BR100E ATV? DVB-T Repeater

There is more information available about the Hides BR100E DVB-T Repeater. See the link for details: It is a bargain at US$239. I have ordered one and will report on its abilities.

Initially it was unclear if it was able to function as an amateur repeater, in terms of transmitting call sign on both video and audio. It has the feature to do this. It will play any .TS file when not acting as a repeater. All that is needed is to make a recording to do this in accord with the appropriate spectrum management authority standard.

Getting information on the Hides gear is a bit of a problem. Amateur radio is not their primary market, but they do encourage and cater for it. The most up to up to date site for using their gear seems to be a German forum While I generally use Internet Explorer, Google Chrome seems to be better at translating sites into English.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Satellite tracking: hardware

Satellite tracking: hardware

I have made progress since the first post. I now have the main hardware assembled and am in the process of wiring everything together.

The original plan to use a pair of satellite dish positioner wasn't viable. Luckily I discovered that before my order for the second positioner was sent. It is possible to do it that way but there are two problems.

First, the positioners are driven by diseqc control. The controller I had was for linear actuators and simply passed the diseqc controls from the satellite receiver through. So I would have needed two satellite receivers with diseqc control for a positioner. Not a big deal except...

Second, all the amateur satellite controllers uses conventional rotators, with a 24 VAC motor and 500 Ohm potentiometer. A further consequence of this was that I couldn't use the terrestrial TV rotator as it used a pair of synchronous motors for turning and indicating. Neat system, but couldn't be used.

So I had to try and buy some cheap rotators; not easy, and I didn't want to pay $1200 for the Yaesu G-5500, which are a pair of coupled rotators, the G550 for elevation and G450 for azimuth, and a combined control box. I managed to get a cheaper G550 as old stock on eBay (Aust), only to have the guy list an older model G500 for even less, sigh...

As I investigated controllers, I realised I didn't need the rotator control boxes, just a bare rotator was ok. By chance, I had been keeping (for 20 years) a new toroid transformer that was 25 VAC, close enough. So I cleaned out an old device for its case, switch and fuse to mount the transformer.

Then the hunt was on for a rotator. I found Ken Brownson KT4KI was selling reconditioned CD-44 (Ham-III?) rotors/rotators with controllers on eBay (USA). I emailed him to see if he could supply just the rotator, which he could for US$250 delivered to Australia (turned out ~US$90 freight). He said he had reconditioned bare G500 elevation rotors as well, but I had already bought the other one. Anyone after a rotator/rotor, see the photos for details.

I had already built a mount for the TV rotator using a 600 mm length of 250 mm plastic pipe, with end-caps, mounted on some 19 mm form ply (not recommended though, I had the pipe, which is expensive, as are the end caps at $30 each). My (yacht) mast has a flat flange for attaching the second section of mast, but I can attach the form-ply base easily with screws and bolts. The pipe is to transfer horizontal wind load to the base, rather than through the rotator. This is standard practice for rotators as it doubles their wind load capability; its just easier to do in a open-frame tower.

The following photos show the hardware and how it fits together. I end up with a reasonably aesthetic cylinder, with a pipe out the top, for mounting on the mast and for mounting antenna.

The last photo shows the two rotators mounted and an old TV antenna attached for illustration purpose.
What is not so obvious is the black pipe on the right-hand side. It is a 2m length of fibreglass pipe I had made ($80 each at local fibreglass fabricator, I couldn't buy the off-the self, despite much looking). It is to mount the crossed antenna I originally needed for 70cm, horizontal for ATV and vertical polarisation for FM repeaters. The fibreglass pipe is too big to fit though the G550 rotor, but all is not was not lost. I will cut it in half and mount on the ends of the gal steel pipe, so I still get my non-metallic mounts for the antenna.
For satellite tracking, circular polarisation is best, as the satellite tumbles. As such, both the 2m and 70 cm each need to be crossed and, using phasing coax, made into circular polarisation. I think the circular polarisation should still allow the vertical and horizontal polarisation I need for other purposes. I shall see. At worst, I can use coax switches to move between the modes. 
One problem I have encountered using the older CD-44 is that its start or run capacitor is mounted in the control box, not inside the rotator, as is modern practice. This presented two problems. First was getting a 130 uF 50 VAC capacitor, most are much smaller for 240 VAC motors. I was able to get two 60 uF 450 VAC capacitors locally, but they are huge! So the second problem was where to mount them. Fortunately, the rotator has terminals for the capacitor, so it can be mounted with the rotator. With a fairly weather-proof enclosure, I can mount them inside it; so the PVC pipe enclosure wasn't such a silly idea!
The controller I decided on is the ARS-USB It can control both rotators and just needs 12 VDC (for itself and the two positioning potentiometers inside each rotator) and 24 VAC (to turn rotators). It can be used with existing rotator controllers, but for me it is easier not to use them (plus I don't have one for the CD-44). The ARS-USB is quite a sophisticated device and very reasonably priced at 200 Euro from Spain. It provides a standard Yaesu GS232A interface. I will discuss the controller more in another post on the control software.
The current job is to do all the wiring, again not simple.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Christmas comes late: Red Pitaya- Software defined instrumentation- order for first batch

I occasionally troll through the "Kickstarter" projects for interesting ones, with both BladeRF and HackRF having their funding from there.

Some weeks ago I came across the "Red Pitaya" It seemed like "manna from heaven", a software-defined instrumentation system. Just what I wanted, not having the deep pockets needed for serious HF test gear.

I thought I had missed out on the first run, but was down for a subsequent one. However, I received a quote last night, that I immediately accepted. They are due to be shipped February 24, that's only about 45 sleeps... plus shipping time from Slovenia (Eastern Europe is booming, we don't hear much about it here (Australia). I will try and write it up on my other blog on multilevel change)

These are the objectives:

OSCILLOSCOPE: 2 channels @ 125 MS/s 14 bit digital with external or signal based triggering capability
SPECTRUM ANALYZER: 2 channels with 50 MHz bandwidth signal with waterfall diagram capability
ARBITRARY WAVEFORM GENERATOR: 2 channels @ 125 MHz 14 bit arbitrary waveform generation with external triggering capability
FREQUENCY RESPONSE ANALYZER: 2 channels with 60 MHz bandwidth
2x2 MIMO PID programmable controller"
This is what it looks like, except the production ones are red:
The "diagnostics kit" I have ordered includes a couple of probes and the software on an SD card. (Edit) The device runs Linux on its own CPU, loaded on the SD card, but the device can interface to tablets and PCs for a GUI.
The Red Pitaya (0-60 MHz) is a bit of a HF version of the UHF BladeRF (300 - 3000 MHz), albeit with the Red Pitaya being ADC-based compared with the BladeRF using a field programmable RF transceiver. (Edit)  The distinction seems a bit blurred as the first block of the TRX is an ADC. Reading the lower RX part of the block diagram, the chip has the usual elements of a superhet RX; RF amplifier, (quadrature) mixer, IF filters and amplifiers, before the ADC (see LMS6002D data sheet for more detail). The BladeRF TRX chip has a conventional RF frontend ahead of the ADCs as they can't sample at the 300 - 3000 MHz range.
As such, the BladeRF only needs a simple RF frontend so it can be attached to an antenna (see schematics on Nuand site). However, the need for sophisticated RF filtering is a major issue in the amateur SDR community, primarily to get selectivity. (1st IF taps in conventional TRX are one way around this; see other posts)

The Red Pitaya has the high impedance needed for instrumentation, but it would seem it would not require too much to implement a RF frontend for it. The Red Pitaya does work as a spectrum analyser, which are basically radios without the demodulation. One of the projected further uses of the Red Pitaya is as a SDR (RX and/or TRX?), so we shall have to wait and see.
Ironically, I use my BladeRF with SDR Console V2 as a spectrum analyser for my work on amateur TV, in which it excels. See other blog posts for details.

Ok, I dug a hole, then dug deeper! The distinction between the different devices, be they RX, TX, TRX or test instruments gets blurred with software-defined gear.

My mast is up, finally.

After much procrastination, my mast is up and I have a wire HF antenna, pending more elaborate VHF/UHF antenna.

When I say "mast" I mean mast, it is the lower part of a big yacht mast. All aluminium and only weighs about 80 kg. It is self-supporting but has guys for more stability.

The mast tilts toward the camera position with an elaborate hand-driven pair of linear actuators. Using only half the mast (the other piece bolts on the top), makes for easy lifting. It can be left 2/3 down if needed, so it is not an obstacle on the ground and so I don't hit my head on it!
As you can see, "Ace" is not a mini-zebra, per first photo, and is kindly killing the weeds in the second. He is primarily, a Queensland Cattle dog or Blue Heeler, and yes, they are meant to have long tails for my American readers! The shadow in the shadow is "Jet" as in black, our whippet, also in a compromised position.
The tilting device was made at great expense (by someone else) to lift the sample cores on a marine soil-testing rig in PNG, for marine structures, like jetties etc. As such, it is only performing a fraction of its former capabilities. I just saw it in the local Gumtree classifieds.
Some of the guys are secured to steel "Y" posts driven deeply into the ground with a home-made adaptor for a Kango jack-hammer ; much easier than a sledge hammer; "like slicing butter with a hot knife". I have a second one for driving grounding rods.  The Gold Coast Amateur Radio Society, GCARS, has videos most Wednesday nights. Mark managed to find a collection of YouTube videos on grounding antenna masts and towers, which included a specialised jack-hammer device for installing grounding rods; so I just had to have one... (they are available on eBay for the 30 mm jack hammers, but not the smaller Kango). Jack hammers are pretty essential tools when renovating houses around Brisbane because of the shale and rock. I bought mine second-hand twenty years ago and still get good use out of it. (The shirt is very over-size, not that I am exactly slim).
The antenna, just visible in the first photo is a Alpha Delta Single Wire Multi-Band Dipole Antennas DX-EE, 40m and above. It has a very steep inverted "V" (limited by the rope that came with it). A RigExpert AA-600 antenna analyser, used by a non-expert, indicates it needs considerable attention.
I will try to do a post on the RigExpert analyser when I know a bit more about it, but they are very neat devices.
My other HF antenna, a very old Hy-Gain 18AVT all-band vertical, can be seen leaning inside the timber screen in the first photo. The coax connector corroded away. I was looking at a new antenna, but they are expensive in Australia, about $600. I have learned a lot trying to fix the old one. It needs a new bottom loading coil, but the traps and 80m coil seem ok. (Yes, two of the traps are upside down). I will do a bit little more to see if it is repairable.
I want two HF antenna to play with phasing, noise-cancelling. I might try a RX only long wire.


Wednesday, 8 January 2014

First IF tap IC-7410- Circuits and further notes

I have added some notes and portions of the circuit and block diagram to my post on a 1st IF tap on my IC-7410.

Further, the design of the 7410 suggests it is a hydrid software defined receiver (SDR), as modulation/demodulation, noise control and the main filtering for different modes, are all done in a firmware-programmed digital signal processor. I bought the 7410 as it seemed the most advanced design of the available TRX in my price range. It is more so than I first thought.

In reading the circuit diagram, I wonder if it is possible to tap where the Rx and Tx separate from the shared antenna. If there is such a point, the sdr and TRX Rx may be able to share an antenna at the frontend of the TRX and operate as two separate Rx.