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Author Topic: PowerSDR, Flex, RF, crashes  (Read 13395 times)
NI0Z
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« on: March 30, 2013, 06:38:05 AM »

Thought I would share an observation that PSDR can crash when certain RF frequencies get loose and into your shack computer.  I managed to find this with my amp tuned just a certain way on 15 meters.  My guess is that the particular tunning was spilling out extra RF and it was causing PowerSDR to lock on transmit and crash. A slight amp tuning adjustment was all it took to get rid of the issue.  I did not change anything but the AMP tuning.  Tuning the amp back to where it created the issue did in fact recreate the issue.  No other programs were impacted, only PSDR on xmit.  

Hopefully the info will help someone else who runs into this, just try retuning and see if your issue goes away.

Also, for whatever reason, PowerSDR uses more resources on an exact same computer under Windows 8.  This was enough to push me off Big Bertha and to build a new machine I call HamZilla.  I posted some articles on the whole HamZilla build out and issues if your interested in building your own Ham Machine.  I suppose that with the advent of newer SDRs coming out we wont need super,computers anymore to run Certain SDRs. Hopefully i have provided some interesting info in the articles on selecting components somyou can get the most bang for the buck.  Lol

Hope all the usual suspects here are doing well, thought I would drop in for a post.

We all talk about how time and experince changes our views about our equipment.  While I have had a blast getting it all to work, given the instability overall of the Windows operating systems and the fact that a lot of Ham software is either aging or getting bloated and messy that I dont really reccomemd building a complicated system around computers.  If you want to focus being on the air then a traditional rig is a far better experience.  Add a panadapter and you pretty much have the best of both worlds.

« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 06:43:02 AM by NI0Z » Logged

WD5GWY
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2013, 08:54:29 AM »

I've been lucky with my setup and have experienced only one lockup with
PowerSDR and my Flex 1500. (no amp) But, the problem was I had way
too many things going on at once on the same computer. ( I get carried away
at times and leave several programs opened)  Now, I can keep PowerSDR running
and just a couple of other things going and no problems. 
 At 5 watts I don't expect any RFI problems to happen. But, I have had them with
traditional radios in the past too. (making the computer crash etc.) Proper
grounds and rerouting of cables etc. (including some ferrite beads) solved that
problem.
  While I enjoy using SDR radio, I would not want it to be my only radio. That is
why I have the FT-1000MP MKV and several other rigs. I do have an amp, but, have
been too lazy to use it.( Amaritron 811H) Besides, I seem to do pretty well whether
I'm running qrp at 5 watts or less, or 200 watts on the 1000MP MKV. (and even with
the amp at 500-600 watts)
Either way, I'm glad there is such a wide selection of radios to mess with.
james
WD5GWY
 
 
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K9IUQ
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2013, 02:34:16 PM »

Thought I would share an observation

 see if your issue goes away.

If you want to focus being on the air then a traditional rig is a far better experience.  

Yep that was my experience too. I finally got rid of the Flexradio and all the issues went away.

A Flexradio is like a new wife or girlfriend. It all starts out great until you learn that she has baggage you did not know about.....

It has been pretty quiet on the eham SDR and Flex forums. I suspect Flexers enthusiasm for the new 6000 radios has waned because of the long wait for them to arrive. Flex is now projecting delivery in 3rd quarter 2013. Of course last year they were projecting delivery in 3rd quarter 2012. I would guess the smarthams with extra big $$$ will go for the new Kenwood TS-990s - available NOW and no computer needed.  Wink  

While I enjoy using SDR radio, I would not want it to be my only radio.

Cheesy And so it goes....

Stan K9IUQ

« Last Edit: March 30, 2013, 02:43:32 PM by K9IUQ » Logged
W4HIJ
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« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2013, 09:05:32 PM »

Interesting, I never want to operate anything BUT SDR ever again. Doesn't matter the brand name. I hope we get more and more of them to choose from in the future. Of course even if they have knobs and a frequency display ala the KX-3, I still would have a GUI up on my monitor. I've gotten quite used to it by now and would hate going back. Might have even bought the Elecraft this time around if they had come anywhere near selling it at the price point they originally hyped when it was still vaporware.
 Thank you James for having the good sense  to point out that RF getting into PC's and crashing them is nothing new, I had that problem way back when while using a Kenwood TS-450 with my first foray into PC logging. A little attention to proper station setup usually mitigates the issue.
73,
Michael, W4HIJ
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NI0Z
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« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2013, 06:12:31 AM »

Well, this all appears to be an issue with installing the new computer and RF.  My radio time yesterday started off with more PowerSDR crashes.  I saw this issue on other bands.  Basically I turned the drive down to the amp to about 25 watts in and all was well again. 

While I have had to go to quite some lengths to arrange and position equipment to avoid issues, it seems that HamZilla might not be as well shielded as Big Bertha.  It makes since in a way comparing the two cases and even the weight of the two machines. 

In addition to reducing my power a bit, grounding HamZilla seemed to have stopped it for now.  I will probably rethink things though.  I might be up to the task of one more rack build this summer.  I need to think up a way to get the computers all the way away from the radio gear.  That will require some serious thought on my part and maybe even changing out my deck and building my own. 

As for SDRs, hmmmm, I am starting to think about that as well.  The radios I consider replacing the flex with are just out of my price range.  In my case it might be as simple as buying the KX3 Amp when ever it comes to be and selling the flex 5000. 

I'll think this all out on paper before I do anything, that's for sure!

Had a nice day on the air yesterday despite the poor weather here.  Met some great hams and chewed a bit.  There are some great people out there!


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K9IUQ
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« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2013, 06:38:58 AM »

My radio time yesterday started off with more PowerSDR crashes. 

While I have had to go to quite some lengths to arrange and position equipment to avoid issues,

You can always spot a Flexradio owner at a hamfest. He is the fellow carrying a large bag of ferrites and the ARRL RFI Book...  Wink

Stan K9IUQ
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K5TED
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« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2013, 08:23:55 PM »

I haven't had any lockup problems with my Flex 3000.

Shack computer is not really that special, just a AMD 965 with 16GB RAM, SSD RAID array for the system drive. I run PSDR, HRD, Logbook, And whatever else strikes my fancy all while carrying on QSO's just fine, controlling the Flex with a dedicated USB touch screen.

Presently, I have two external USB soundcards in addition to the onboard soundcard, one Signalink, the Flex 3000, along with two other CAT enabled modern all mode shack-in-a-box transceivers, a legacy CAT enabled transceiver, and two PC controlled all-mode wideband receivers, all connected at the same time to the shack PC, and all can be operated with HRD simultaneously if desired, with all the sound devices doing whatever I need them to do, including whichever USB headset I feel like using at the time, while running PSDR, FreeDV, SDRadio, JT65-HF, WSJT or WSPR at the same time, even while it's running a scheduled security scan.

All the USB cables are "ferrited" for good measure, which is a good idea with any shack PC. USB leads are a direct RF path to your motherboard, regardless of which type of radio you are using.

When I built the PC, I made sure to "ferrite" all the internal power cables, drive controller cables, audio cables, and USB jumpers, etc, using an assortment of different, appropriately sized snap-on ferrites, and Type 43 toroids on the drive cabling.

I'm not sure why the concept of using ferrite chokes and cores on external PC cabling is derided and made the brunt of jokes, considering the fact most any radio is full of them already. It's just good engineering practice in a strong RF field.

Some of us do well with technology, others not so well.



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NI0Z
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« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2013, 03:50:32 AM »

Hi K5TED,

I think that the ferrites are overly excessive in the PC.  I just think that it needs a little shielding and RF grounding.  One shouldn't have to add 10's and 20's of ferrites to run their SDR.  I only use 3-4 on the main cables.  Your missing some of the story on all this and you can read about it in my articles as to what's changes.

I'll only repeat again that one doesn't need tons of ferrites to run their Flex radio, it's not the issue.  In my case I run a fairly cheap amp and I am sure it's part the cause for the loose RF in the shack.  Again, RF grounding the computer seems to have completely resolved the issue.  I simply forgot to hook the extra ground strap to the new PC.

I got around all over the world yesterday in great fashion on 15 without incident.  Some Flex owners get rather passionate about their rigs at times and can get defensive and start insulting owners that have issues... I don't think that's really the right way to approach hamming.  Hams have to let other hams talk about their issues, find solutions, and move forward, either with or without their Flex radios.

Check out my background a bit before playing the problem with technology card on this post.  Lol you might be surprised.  Yes, I made a mistake forgetting that one little wire.  Smiley

It's likely you have my post a little bit out of context, so I will just leave it at that.


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K5TED
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« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2013, 11:14:45 AM »

Hi Mark -

I did read your Hamzilla build articles. Good stuff.

Mitigating RF noise through the judicious use of chokes is not only to "make the Flex work right". It serves two functions:

1. To prevent the cacaphony of EMI from getting out of the shielded PC case by means of the USB, video, audio, power, etc. cable array, all, some or none of which may or may not be well suppressed.

2. To prevent excessive stray transmitter RF from getting into the motherboard via the USB, video, audio, power, etc. cable array.

The EMI from the PC can cause interference, in my case, with some antennas I have deployed close to the shack. Stopping it at the source, actually, as close the the motherboard as possible, has noticeably improved my reception on MW and low HF. Interestingly, a wandering birdie problem I had on 15m went completely away after choking the USB and audio leads on one of the external sound cards. The toroid on the drive leads came about as I noticed a particular noise seemed to be related to drive activity. Toroid ON, problem gone.

As for the transmitter RF getting into the PC, I've used beads, chokes, and good wiring practice since well before the advent of the Flex, to prevent problems with microphones, external speech processors, external digital mode interfaces, wandering mice, RF induced headset noise, etc.

15 years of broadcast engineering and production, plus 13 years of IT business office A/V and data center design and management taught me a few tricks about ambient RF/EMI problems.

As you can see, the shack PC's contain considerable less than 10 ferrite chokes:

1. PC for Radio control, digi modes, logging PC, anything to do with being physically connected to the radios, prior to the addition of Flex FW card, SSD's and HD6770 Silent CU GPU - has 7 internal wiring chokes.
http://k5ted.net/images/shackpcb.jpg

2. General use/HRD remote PC, not physically connected to any radios - No internal wiring chokes.
http://k5ted.net/images/shackpc2.jpg

I opted for lightweight aluminum cases, mostly for form factor and ergonomics(conveniently placed top/front USB ports), possibly sacrificing some small level of shielding.


So, no insults intended, just observing that there seems to be some unwarranted disdain and misinformation concerning PC problems with Flex radios. Most if not all of the problems can be solved through, as you point out with Hamzilla, good case grounding and plenty of horsepower. Sometimes, as in my case with a very compromised and compact antenna field, we must resort to choking the noise out.








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NK2F
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« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2013, 03:43:36 PM »

K9YC has a great tutorial on dealing with RFI, from and to your radio, be at SDR or traditional. I have applied his recommendations and my noise floor, already very low, has gone even lower.  Good reading

http://audiosystemsgroup.com/RFI-Ham.pdf
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W4HIJ
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« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2013, 05:53:57 PM »

 Back when I owned a Flex 5K, I never from day one had to add any ferrites anywhere other than what were already on the firewire cable. Same now with my 1500 and my 50 watt amplifier. The only ferrites that I added anywhere in my shack were on my PC's amplified speaker system and that was done way back when with the aforementioned TS-450 radio. That's also when I installed my  ground system that I've used for years and everything, including the PC is grounded to it at the antenna cables entry point into the shack. No problems with RFI since. YMMV..... Roll Eyes
Michael, W4HIJ
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NI0Z
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« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2013, 06:31:23 PM »

Back when I owned a Flex 5K, I never from day one had to add any ferrites anywhere other than what were already on the firewire cable. Same now with my 1500 and my 50 watt amplifier. The only ferrites that I added anywhere in my shack were on my PC's amplified speaker system and that was done way back when with the aforementioned TS-450 radio. That's also when I installed my  ground system that I've used for years and everything, including the PC is grounded to it at the antenna cables entry point into the shack. No problems with RFI since. YMMV..... Roll Eyes
Michael, W4HIJ

See, I only have them on the audio related cables as well and the original FireWire.  I guess there is a scientific argument for them in several places, however, I find that the audio cables were the only real place and then just strapping all the equipment to a real ground.  Mine goes out to a series of rods in the ground 16 feet apart.  I lowered my base noise floor from S7 to S2 doing things this way.  Second best investment I made after the Hex Beam!
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KH2BR
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« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2013, 10:36:56 PM »

One of these days I will build a filter network for my usb ports on the computer. I can run 400 watts on cw just fine, but when I jack it up to 700 I get a lock-up. I could fix the symptoms with a pile of ferrite beads, but that wont fix the problem. So, dont be a DOCTOR and fix the symptoms, Be a surgeon and fix the problem. Computers are built cheap, so you have to put your engineer hat on and go for the problem. I have seen some USB filters advertised on line, there are also some optically isolated usb devices but are expensive. I have a pc with a cheap plastic case, so I had to cover the inside with aluminum tape. Also, had to make sure all of my cables were shielded. What a hastle. had a problem with a router, and had to foil the inside of the case to kill spurs. They are selling junk. What ever happened to metal boxed gear.

Robert KH2BR
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NI0Z
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« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2013, 05:25:14 AM »

One of these days I will build a filter network for my usb ports on the computer. I can run 400 watts on cw just fine, but when I jack it up to 700 I get a lock-up. I could fix the symptoms with a pile of ferrite beads, but that wont fix the problem. So, dont be a DOCTOR and fix the symptoms, Be a surgeon and fix the problem. Computers are built cheap, so you have to put your engineer hat on and go for the problem. I have seen some USB filters advertised on line, there are also some optically isolated usb devices but are expensive. I have a pc with a cheap plastic case, so I had to cover the inside with aluminum tape. Also, had to make sure all of my cables were shielded. What a hastle. had a problem with a router, and had to foil the inside of the case to kill spurs. They are selling junk. What ever happened to metal boxed gear.

Robert KH2BR

I have found that USB keyboards are sensitive to RF.  using the old PS2 type seems to solve that particular problem.  Especially if you see your keyboard and or mouse freezing up.

Keyboards usually have a small oscillator in them that can get tripped up.

Hope this helps!
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NI0Z
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« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2013, 05:29:48 AM »

Incidentally, it truly appears that a simple ground strap to the computer from my RF ground solved all my issues.  Lol, one powerful little piece of wire! Smiley

HamZilla is quite an awesome computer to drive a SDR with!  Not even a blip with everything running.  ComMCat issues, HRD issues, all of it gone with the hemi under the hood.

Next up I am playing with the KX3 on a buddistick outdoors.  Hope to get out today, however, going to be real windy here so not sure it's going to work out!
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