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Author Topic: Help me make plans?  (Read 21181 times)

Posts: 290

« Reply #30 on: December 08, 2013, 04:52:28 AM »

What a great collection of advise.

Now, lets move into a reality. Some hams are never happy with their gear. Dont ever buy a rig another ham is not lusting for. If you hate it, you cannot sell it. That would be the 718 that is entry level.

Buy a great rig and quit shopping.

If you get a sdr, buy the Anan xxx, the support group will get you going.

If you buy a knob radio, get a ftdx5k or a k3. The users of these rigs have high levels of positive review.

Stop shopping, play radio.

Greg kc8iir

Posts: 2835

« Reply #31 on: December 08, 2013, 06:17:08 AM »

How does all that provide an advantage to me? Would I need to become a serious contester? ;-)

Sorry, if we have to explain it to you - You would not understand it anyway..

Stan K9IUQ

Posts: 2100

« Reply #32 on: December 08, 2013, 08:41:36 AM »

Re: KD8TUT  reply #20

Regarding your #1 & 2 interest requirements and your knowledge computers, have you checked out the new Ten Tec 506 Rebel ( CW only if interested)? relatively inexpensive and open source for requirement of experimentation plus you can by/build the "knob box" if you feel the need.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2013, 08:49:53 AM by W1JKA » Logged

Posts: 680

« Reply #33 on: December 08, 2013, 10:25:45 AM »

We should note that in any eHam discussion involving Flex radios, the following points are strawmen:

3. Firewire - When you can't buy a PC with PCI slots for Firewire cards, buy last years and store it for a spare. Should give you another 10 yrs.

This is not a viable option. We have dozens of 10 year old and older machines at JPL preserved for just this reason, and from first hand experience, it is not easy to get it to work.  If you have to support a 10 year old billion dollar spacecraft, sure, but to support a $1500 radio that you might have replaced by then?  You'd have to love working with PC boatanchors which is a lot harder than analog radio boat anchors. 

Don't forget that PowerSDR is windows only.  The OP was talking about potentially working with the software, so that means keeping archival copies of Visual Studio etc., and making sure they work. 


Posts: 680

« Reply #34 on: December 08, 2013, 10:44:24 AM »

Well, one of the areas I'm looking at is SDR on Linux which is the development environment I'm most comfortable in. Also I'm concerned (through experience) that a Flex may become a doorstop when Flex stops software support for older hardware.

An open source setting, would allow access to the source code and allow me to keep the hardware operating regardless of support status.

PowerSDR is "open source" up to some point. There's not very much documentation in terms of how it works, so basically, you can get the source code and start figuring it out. I did some mapping of the architecture a few years back which is on the web. The DSP core is based on dttsp from Bob McGwier and Frank Brickle which was Linux based, but has been modified somewhat for Flex (so it compiles on VisualStudio, among other things).  Not much documentation on dttsp, other than what you glean from the code.

The basic architecture is that there are events hanging off all the various controls on the screens that go out and call a variety of entry points in dttsp to set various operating parameters.  The API is defined in terms of the DLL entry points, so you know the names and parameter names, but not much more than that. The CAT control works by taking the CAT commands and changing the value of the onscreen parameter, which then triggers the "field change" event, which then does what's needed DLL-wise with dttsp.

The interface between PC and SDR in PowerSDR is quite opaque, except for the legacy SDR1k.  It uses MIDI events and various audio interface stuff to talk to the non-open-source microcontroller inside the radio. I've reverse engineered some of it from the source code on the PC side, but I don't know for sure if it's right.

I"m not so interested in USB connections. I have no preference between a 1394 connection or ethernet, except to say that ethernet gives you a 290 foot distance to play with- and keeping the radio equipment away from my computers is an advantage.

This is practically speaking, a non-issue.  Ethernet is wired, and those cables carry plenty of RFI.  I would say that modern USB is a whole lot better than 1394, which is essentially a moribund standard.  Both have limited isochronous capability based on 8kHz frames.

A significant problem with the original flex architecture is that it is exceedingly intolerant of dropping a buffer on transmit. If the DSP pipeline pauses, or the audio interface hiccups, the I/Q signals stop flowing to the RF section, and you get a burst of pure local oscillator until they resume.  This is because the flex architecture relies on the DSP chain doing the I/Q balance for image rejection, etc.

It's a fairly challenging windows device driver/multimedia system thing, and one that Flex's  software development team didn't get a real good handle on: they went to a different architecture where the dsp chain is "inside the radio" so it doesn't depend on making Windows work.

Posts: 680

« Reply #35 on: December 08, 2013, 11:08:42 AM »

Thanks very much for taking the time to reply, however as a new, non-demanding, computer expert ham... the information presented is useless because you're trying to argue with someone (other than me).

Here's what I'm interested in:

1. Flexradios, non Flex SDR radios, and SDR in general.
Get yourself a softrock or funcube or equivalent.  <$50 and you get to fool with SDR in a variety of ways.  I bought one of the first SDR1k radios (when they were a bare board set) and it was very interesting, but a bit pricey for a "fool around with DSP".. the softrock and funcube fit that niche very, very well.   

I'd go with something that does NOT use a sound card, just because it's one less set of cables to fool with.  The receivers that are based on USB TV widgets are a great way to start.

The most important thing is "useful" software to fool with it.  whatever platform you're most familiar with is where you should look.  gnuradio on Linux isn't bad, if you're a Linux hacker type, and don't mind seeing installation instructions that say "untar the distro, make clean; make" and you're used to reading man pages and have decent google-fu.

2. Radios that are not primarily SDR, but have interesting ways that a computer can be put into the mix, or are capable of being controlled through software.
almost any of the modern radios can do this.  I have a IC7000 and it's trivially interfaces to most computers. The same is true for most other modern radios.

 I'd budget spending a few bucks for a USB to computer interface that does ALL of the interfacing (audio and control) with one cable, so you don't wind up with the rats nest.  I did the homebrew isolation transformer thing (cannibalizing off old modem cards), then the RigBlaster thing, and when I went to the "all in one" approach, I stopped worrying about the half dozen different cables, screwing around with level set pots, and so forth.

There's a variety of rig control programs out there that are nice.  I like Ham Radio Deluxe, but there's lots of others. These days, most allow "network" operation.

Personally, I don't care about arguing what rig is better. I care about getting a radio that will hold my interest for a while and not become obsolete before I'm willing to throw it out.
"obsolete" means a lot of different things.  There's a long tradition in ham radio of using "this thing that I found at a ham fest back in 1975 and have been storing in my garage for just this need, all I needed was some spare parts which I cannibalized from a piece of war surplus gear (that's WW2) my buddy had".   I'm not sure this is productive, but there are those that enjoy it.   It also leads to unrealistically high prices in the used market for what is essentially 50 year old junk (in terms of performance), because you need parts donors to keep your favorite box working.

It's not like someone is going to change the underlying modulation for CW or SSB, so a SSB radio from 1960 will interoperate over the air with the radio you buy today.

Modern radios are infinitely better, in terms of performance in general, than "favorite" rigs of yesteryear, largely due to the incorporation of hardcoded DSP.  Yes, there are oddities.. AGC loops on some classic rigs are better in some enviornments, but *in general* modern radios are much better, and have better reliability.  They are *not* user fixable or modifiable as much: That incredible functionality in a small package at a very low price (a kilobuck) comes with custom ASIC, or at the least mask programmed DSP chips and such.  My decades old FT-757GX works, but the frequency stability is terrible, the computer control is terrible, etc.

The model of use is "budget your 2 kilobuck, expect it to last 5-10 years, then buy a new radio"  $200-400/year.
I AM concerned about the 1394 connections being readily available in 10 years. Heck I did beta testing on the provisional standard for Apple Computer. 10 years is a long time... there's a lot of dead technology in ten years. And it's important to note that Ethernet is going nowhere, because ieee8023 is used *everywhere*.
exactly so. 


Maybe that lowers my stock as a ham... because you guys seem to be pointing out big important arguments and related fallacies... when I'm just trying to buy a radio.

My first radio.
Many hams are proud (excessively so, in my opinion) of traditional approaches. There is an appeal and value in skills developed over years of improvising and repurposing surplus.  However, you'll have noticed that repurposeable surplus is becoming less and less common.  Commercial manufacturers go to higher levels of integration and custom parts. Test equipment and commercial comm gear isn't made from commodity components any more.

Posts: 160

« Reply #36 on: December 08, 2013, 11:42:47 AM »

How does all that provide an advantage to me? Would I need to become a serious contester? ;-)

Sorry, if we have to explain it to you - You would not understand it anyway..

Stan K9IUQ

So you can't explain it. That's fine. I understand it quite well enough to know it's not an advantage for about 85% of hams.

Posts: 773

« Reply #37 on: December 08, 2013, 07:39:44 PM »

I think, for a computer literate person, sdr would be the way to go.
Buying a cheap plastic box radio and talking into it or sending CW must seem nuts to someone young, who has a cell phone, bluetooth, and all the other modern ways of communicating.

With sdr, there is a lot of software to play with, it runs digital modes well, some of it is open source, I think many use/hack Powersdr-IQ and such, and some programs run on non windows operating systems.

Here is someone having fun with their $150.00 Peaberry v2 taken from the Peaberry forum

by AA5IT ยป Mon Dec 02, 2013 8:08 pm

I built mine for the same bands. I logged in to post this report: I used thumb tacks to put a 4 foot square of 30 AWG wire on the wall of my second-floor office. I have a little window that measures 8" wide by 24" tall that is inset into the wall about 8 ". I mounted a 250 pf capacitor to the inside of the window area and coupled via transformer to the loop. All done in about 15 minutes.
I'm in Beaumont, Texas and worked a guy in Murphy NC. using PSK 31 and my Peaberry V2. This buildint is of steel construction and the ONLY possible way to get an atennuated signal in to the building is through that wall. He gave me a 479!
I went ahead and populated all 5 positions of the final FET's because I like to use the digital modes more than not.
Needless to say, I'm KEEPING this radio! I carry it in my briefcase every morning just in case I have time to do some hamming at work. Actually, I often have time and now I see how well this works I have yet another radio to use besides my FT-817 at work! This one is so fun because of the low power out. Takes almost no current to run the thing and I can use one of my Lithium packs I built for the 817 to run it ALL day! Also, there are a lot fewer cables to connect with the Peaberry which makes it even more inviting.

One last thing - I'm using Windows 8, PowerSDR 2.4.4 homebrew, or HDSDR, Eltima Virtual Comports, and either MixW, Winwarbler, FLDigi, or JT-65H and it's rocking right along with any combination.

Thanks again, David!
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Nov 29, 2013 1:21 am
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