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Weather Conditions www.hvdn.org | Dedicated to the relevancy & growth of electronics, maker & amateur radio hobbyists in the Hudson Valley

Thursday, February 14, 2019

March 23rd: TCF19 Computer Festival



This event has a little something for everyone interested in modern technology and applications, not just related to amateur radio or even computers.

The featured keynote this year will be led by Tony Sager of the Center For Internet Security which is headquartered just outside Albany, New York.  Tony will talk about the importance of cyber-security and how it affects almost every aspect of our connected lives today.

Other featured presentations include:
  • The State of Cyber Crime in New Jersey by NJ Department of Homeland Security Cyber Team!
  • Maintaining the Integrity of Elections in a Digital World – Rebecca Mercuri
  • Quantum Computing – Barry Burd 
  • Amateur Radio Satellite Spectrum - Steve Bossert 
  • WordPress Bootcamp – Lou Judice
  • Cybercrime and Theremin Zen – Kip Rosser 
  • MMDVM Hotspot Construction - Joe Apuzzo  
  • Hands-on Arduino Workshop for Beginners – Katalin Frolio
  • All Day Robotics Pavilion – Seung-yun Kim
What about amateur radio? 

HVDN's very own Joe Apuzzo N1JTA and Steve Bossert K2GOG will be among the 50+ presentations and workshops also taking place during this fantastic event.

In N1JTA's 30 minute presentation he will talk about how radio and computers has converged through the popularity of digital modes in Amateur radio and how it has grown exponentially over the last few years due to the affordability of VHF/UHF digital handheld radios and other equipment.

is full duplex capable and the same size as a Raspberry Pi Zero. 

A large part of this growth can also be attributed to the impact of hot spot devices and the unique learning capability they create. A hot spot is a small access point type device that uses amateur radio spectrum and a decentralized network of servers to enable global or local  digital communication.

Joe will cover at a high level, what is needed to construct your own "micro repeater" or hot spot device and how it works, along with how to create secure connections and utilize a decentralized network maintained by a group of amateur radio operators around the world.

Brandmeister is unique in that it can route all types of digital voice traffic through its decentralized network of servers to end node devices such as hotspots and repeaters

Since the hot spot device is nothing more than a Raspberry Pi single board computer and a multi mode digital voice modem hat plus some open source software called Pi-Star it is relatively inexpensive but very complex to understand how it works.

Steve will be cover in varying detail more than 21,000 MHz of spectrum available to amateur radio operators looking to experiment with satellite communications today. While much of this spectrum is above 1.2 GHz, this still leaves over 60 MHz of varied spectrum that can be used by those holding the easiest to get Technician class amateur radio license and with minimal expense.

Your DMR radio can also be used for satellite communications
via analog FM mode you might have forgot exists.

Steve's discussion will cover the most common spectrum used today for amateur radio operators interested in satellite communications, additional spectrum users to be mindful of and a review of the most active satellites that can be used with less than $100 of invested equipment.  He will also give a "sneak peak" on this topic to attendees of the March 11th HVDN meeting in Rhinebeck, NY.

More about TCF19, the full agenda and when is Joe's presentation can be found at https://tcf-nj.org/

Interested in other interesting events? Check out the HVDN activity calendar


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

February 11th: Would you like to meet a super hero or two?

Hudson Valley Digital Network (HVDN) is proud to offer an exciting event open to any current or aspiring amateur radio or electronic hobbyist regardless of any other memberships on February 11th 2019.

Join us in welcoming newly elected ARRL Hudson Division Director, Ria Jairam N2RJ and Sean Swehla KD2HGY of the Squidwrench maker group for an evening of education and fun in Rhinebeck, New York starting at 6:00 PM.

Event Details:

Doors to the community space at CO. located at 6571 Spring Brook Ave in Rhinebeck New York officially open at 5:30 PM with the presentations starting a little after 6:00 PM. Light refreshments and hot/cold beverages will be served. The event concludes at 7:30 although the space is available for discussion after and up until about 8:30 PM.


HVDN Presenters: Ria Jairam N2RJ & Sean Swehla  KD2HGY

Ria will share details on where she thinks ham radio is headed, how to be part of it and how to make the hobby interesting to a wider audience.

Sean will talk about the upcoming oscilloscope build project event that Squidwrench and HVDN have collaborated on. Details on this pre-registration only event can be found at:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/build-it-oscilloscope-signal-source-tickets-53349617141 


Where Do I Go?

Rhinebeck is home to many unique attractions ranging from the home of the 200+ year old Dutchess County Fair  and Beekman Arms which is the oldest Inn in the United States.

There are many more modern attractions, one of which is the very sleek CO. co-working office and community space just across from the fairgrounds. It should be easy to find.

Anyone who is a professional "work from home, with a laptop" sort of person may also be provided a complimentary pass to use the facility for the later part of the afternoon prior to the start of the HVDN meeting.  Please contact Steve Bossert K2GOG and co-founder of HVDN at steve.bossert@gmail.com or at 1.914.573.1799 for details.


Friday, January 25, 2019

How To Guide: Satellite Based APRS iGate

There is so much amazing activity these days surrounding satellite and software defined radio (SDR), but there are not many clear and current guides for those interested in creating receive only gateways to send satellite born APRS signals over the internet. Let's change that.



APRS & Satellites (and balloons, drones, etc)

Currently there are three active satellite based digipeaters in low earth orbit. The International Space Station (ISS), PCsat NO-44, and SAT NO-84 all operate on 145.825 MHz.

There is also a fourth APRS satellite named FalconSat-3 that was turned over from the United States Air Force in 2017 for amateur radio use, but is operated on 145.840 MHz and requires a little more work to use. There are other amateur digital mode satellites in the planning stages.


othernet amateur radio aprs
Image Courtesy of  http://aprs.org/outnet.html


What is an iGateway?

An iGateway is nothing more than a radio receiver that is connected to the internet. Signals received by the antenna are passed from the radio over the internet.  The iGateway is designed for digital or data signals and not voice however. Websites such as findu.com and aprs.fi are two examples are where the benefit of igateways can be shown and show APRS data.

There is also the Othernet (Formerly known as Outernet) project that sends information from its ground station back up towards different satellites that "datacast" to special receivers such as the Dreamcatcher. Properly addressed APRS messages are in turn broadcast over this separate satellite network. This is not the same as an iGateway, but does add some other unique potential.  For an amateur to route a message with APRS through one of the mentioned satellites earlier, one must use the path of "OUTNET" instead of "ARISS".

General users of APRS for ground based modes typically leave the path as WIDE1-1 or WIDE2-1, but those interested in satellite communications must use the alternatives listed since a satellite works differently from a propagation perspective to ground based or even low altitude aircraft or balloons.

How To:  SDR & Raspberry Pi iGateway

To create an iGateway you will require:

  • An inexpensive USB SDR
  • Raspberry Pi Computer or other similar device
  • Antenna capable of overhead reception
  • Various cables and stuff for your installation

There are way too many variables on antennas and cabling specific to every installation so we will keep this brief and skip that part. The shortest run of coaxial cable from antenna to radio is needed. The highest and clearest view towards the horizon in as many directions as possible is required for optimal reception when considering setting up a iGateway.

The satellites we will be monitoring pass over most locations about 3-5 times every day for just a few moments, so it's possible a APRS capable satellite will pass over once every 60-90 minutes.

Lets setup the software bits and bobs....

The main goal of this article is to only share the steps for configuring software to get a SDR dongle working with a Raspberry Pi.  These steps can also work for those looking for alternate uses for SDR based hardware such as the now out of date L-band focused Dreamcatcher v 2.03 boards that were replaced with the newer Ku-band Dreamcatcher v3 and likely could be used too.

The real magic here is the software and how it will all work together.

First step, is get a working operating system on your device of choice such as the Raspberry Pi or Dreamcatcher v2.03. Most of these instructions will work for other linux based computers but is not the focus of this article.

Please run sudo apt-get update and sudo apt-get upgrade first to ensure your operating system is current and has most all of the popular packages installed for general use before continuing.

Second step, involves setup of Dire Wolf which translates sound to packet decoding. Run the following on your device to install it.
sudo apt-get install libasound2-dev
git clone https://github.com/wb2osz/direwolf
cd direwolf
make
sudo make install
make install-conf
Next, you need to configure the operating system to take virtual audio from an inexpensive SDR dongle and pass it to direwolf.  Go ahead and plug in your SDR dongle to your raspberry pi. If you are using a Dreamcatcher, there is no need since the SDR is part of the board already!
sudo apt-get install cmake build-essential libusb-1.0-0-dev
cd
git clone git://git.osmocom.org/rtl-sdr-git
cd rtl-sdr
mkdir build
cd build
cmake ../ -DINSTALL-UDEV_RULES=ON -DDETACH+KERNAL_DRIVER=ON
make
sudo make install
sudo ldconfig
sudo reboot

Let's pause for a moment and test the SDR to make sure its recognized.

run "rtl_test"  and ensure you get a status update like this before continuing. This shows that the SDR is being recognized by your Raspberry Pi, Dreamcatcher 2.03 or other single board linux computer.


Now we need to configure Dire Wolf and the best way to do that is copy some of the great work that Keith G6NHU has compiled. Head on over to his interesting site here:

http://qso365.co.uk/2017/02/a-guide-to-setting-up-an-aprs-receive-only-igate-using-a-raspberry-pi-and-an-rtl-sdr-dongle/ 

The only basic change you need to make is to select the correct frequency. In the United States much of the APRS activity is on 144.390 MHz, but since we are interested in satellite based APRS, change it to 145.825 MHz instead.

What did you say about balloons?

Perhaps you may tire of the same general activity on APRS terrestrial activity or even what may be bouncing off a satellite.  The next logical thing to look into would be tracking a balloon of some sort.

Taner DB1NTO has a new product out to cater to people looking to track something that can only carry a very light weight device.  He calls it PicoAPRS Lite and should open up lots of possibilities to experiment with alongside perhaps with a portable version of an iGateway connected via cellular hotspot.



If anyone in the Hudson Valley is interested in experimenting with tracking objects other than a house which does not move much, or a car, lets start talking.

The STEM (31630) DMR talk group seems a logical spot as well as the AMSAT (98006) talk group, so lets make something happen here when spring time arrives!










Wednesday, January 23, 2019

March 30th: DMR University

The Hudson Valley of New York has recently become a hot bed for modern physical and digital destinations of interest to the amateur radio community.


DMR has permanently changed the way amateur radio operators approach local communication through repeaters, hotspots and direct communications.


As the highest growth digital voice technology today, please join Lenny N2LEN along with other local "DMR Experts" on Saturday March 30th at Greene County Emergency Services located
at 25 Volunteer Drive, Cairo NY 12413.

DMR University will be taking place in the main conference room downstairs.

The agenda is as follows:

9:00 AM - Morning Session
  • Introductions and brief history of DMR
  • Overview of current Digital Voice Modes
  • How DMR is Unique: C-bridge, Brandmeister, TGIF networks
  • Hotspots/MMDVM: Shark RF Openspot2, Zumspot, Jumbospot, etc...
  • Overview of Current DMR Radios
  • Anatomy of a DMR Repeater
  • Introduction to Talkgroups
  • Understanding Zones, Contact Lists, & RX Groups
  • Scan Lists
  • DMR Etiquette: How to act on the DMR network


12:00 PM - Lunch Break
  • Bring your own food or visit a nearby restaurant

           

Afternoon Session
  • How to Build a Codeplug
  • Hand's On Programming Exercises

Len kindly asks that those interested in attending to reserve a seat in advance and to bring a laptop for programming, your radio, any programming cable you may have, and have a copy of the Programming Software you use installed on the laptop. 

However, do not worry if you do not have a DMR radio or laptop, there will be some radios for you to experiment with. 

Important: To reserve a seat, please email Len at n2len@aol.com

If you haven't already done so, please go to Register here for your DMR ID# and obtain a DMR ID number. (https://www.radioid.net/register#!)



Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Survey Results: U.S. 2018 70cm Band Spectrum



A poll concerning the use of 420 to 450 MHz spectrum in the United States was posted on the popular QRZ.com website on August 29th 2018.  Participation was open through end of 2018.


There were actually a total of 83 votes, but 6 respondents indicated they do not use 70cm or only listen from time to time. This would have represented 7.22% of the total results. All details below do not include those 6 responses since they do not actively use 70cm spectrum in the United States.

Maybe 2019 will be different for those and others not currently using 70cm for many different activities.  Here are the results of the 2018 survey.

Methodology & Goals

The reason to run a survey was to quantify the current and major use cases of the 420-450 MHz amateur spectrum in the United States. There is currently a huge disruption taking place thanks to digital voice communications through modes such as DMR, Fusion, D-Star and others and a survey helps to add fact to this statement.

The survey included 10 questions focused on use cases or common applications of the spectrum in question. These questions were than able to be aggregated into 5 general categories of:

  • Analog FM Voice - Repeater based communication, Point to Point Simplex and short range hot spot use for things like Echolink were the three questions asked. The survey indicated 44.17% of active 70cm users use analog FM communication methods.
  • Wide Band Modes - There was only one question asked in the 2018 survey about wide band modes and focused on amateur television or ATV. This type of activity requires channels four or more times wider than the widest audio only modes.  Only 2.41% of the survey respondents use wide band modes in 70cm spectrum based on the 2018 survey.
  • Digital Voice Modes - Repeater, simplex and hot spot use cases were the three digital voice mode use questions within 70cm spectrum. For relatively new technology, an impressive 23.38% of survey takers reported to use digital voice as a primary activity on 70cm in the United States.
  • Weak Signal Modes - Two weak signal questions were asked that covered single side band voice (SSB) and all other terrestrial or natural objects often associated with weak signal work such as beacons, EME bounce, Morse code and other things such as FT8, PSK31 and WSPR.  11.69% or survey takers enjoy the challenges of weak signal mode operation on 70cm with 7 of 9 category votes captured by SSB, likely during UHF contest periods.
  • Satellite Modes - Only one question was asked since most all satellite operation takes place in a protected portion of the 70cm spectrum from 435 to 438 MHz. Uplink and downlink use of any mode used to make contact through man made objects like a space station or satellite were easy to ask in one question in the 2018 survey. With 18.18% of the survey results coming from satellite based use cases, it is clear that amateurs who use 70cm for this reason are active and create a strong reason to have dedicated spectrum for this sort of application. Most any mode is permitted and 2019 will start to see a rise in digital voice satellite use thanks to the recently launched and operational D-Star ONE.

Additional Survey Insights

The below table lists out all questions 9 of 10 questions and the category they contributed towards. 



Some Additional Thoughts

Considering at of the end of 2018 there are 755,416 licensed radio amateurs in the US according to official FCC records, this survey sample size is microscopic. However, the total number of active annual radio operators is probably closer to 20% (1 in 5) This would equal 151,083 of  active amateurs in the last year somewhere across all amateur spectrum and not just on 70cm.

The QRZ.com website is pretty popular and seemed to be the best place to field a survey since its fairly agnostic and does not favor those for or against the direction of the ARRL which may have clouded the survey results, but likely would have increased the total number of respondents.

QRZ.com may attract more forward thinking amateur radio operators who are open to learning about new and advanced things to do within this hobby where they can be openly discussed. Many members of the ARRL are on QRZ.com, but only the ARRL can report on things from its membership which is only 170,000 as of 2016 or 22.5% of all amateurs in the US.

While ARRL membership totals are pretty close to the number of estimated active amateur radio operators, the ARRL also includes some non-US members, clubs and supporters so may not accurately represent those most active in the amateur community.  Its total membership may only represent a smaller number of active amateur radio operators than it may care to admit but may be changing due to new leadership in 2019.

If we were to consider that possibly 3 of every 10 active licensed hams (151,083) also frequent QRZ.com, the total pool of likely respondents would have been about 45,325 and potentially 1 of every 7 QRZ.com visitors who may have even found the survey area and logged in to take it would mean roughly a total pool of 6,346.

Ergo, 83 responses from a pool of 6,346 is 1.3% which is right on the border for statistically significant survey results considering that a professional firm touts results over 2% as very successful.  A 2019 survey hopefully will do much better.

If a 2019 survey for 70cm use cases can be organized by the ARRL and other organizations on neutral grounds, it would likely be more accurate based on total responses and prove beneficial towards leadership in emerging aspects of the hobby to create better experiences for all amateur radio operators in the United States looking at digital voice operation, best practices and equipment purchasing decisions.

Questions?  Comments?

If you wish to contact the team responsible for this article, please send a detailed email to 4info@hvdn.org  but remove the "4" or your message will not go through.


Reminder:  Upcoming Kit Build Event. Learn More Here.


Thursday, December 27, 2018

March 9th 2019: Upcoming Kit Build Event

HVDN and Squidwrench have teamed up to sponsor an event right here in the heart of the Hudson Valley aimed at those wanting to hone soldering skills and build something very useful for electronic circuit building, troubleshooting and experimentation.

maker space poughkeepsie

Build It: Oscilloscope & Signal Source Kit

The oscilloscope kit that will form the centerpoint of the March 9th 2019 event is well documented across the internet and we will make it even more fun to build in a social atmosphere and ensure everyone leaves with a functioning multi purpose piece of test equipment or two....

Tickets are limited so, so be sure to sign up early if there is interest.

There will be a few more articles related to test equipment and the DSO150 oscilloscope found on HVDN along with info about our own signal source that can be used with this piece of equipment to form the basic additions to a set of inexpensive test equipment every hobbyist or professional should own.

mount beacon mt. beacon hamfest  DSO150 ham radio university LIMARC MBARC OMARC PEARL


Event registration and details can be found at the below link:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/build-it-oscilloscope-signal-source-tickets-53349617141

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

64 Satellites: Can I get a ride too?

T- Minus     10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1...LIFTOFF!!!

SpaceX was able to put 64 various size satellites into orbit with only one Falcon 9 rocket. The total payload weighed in at 8,800 pounds (4,000 kilograms).

learn about satellites class students
Jerry Buxton, N0JY of AMSAT pictured at the SpaceX launch facility.
AMSAT was responsible for the Fox1Cliff (OSCAR-95) communications
satellite available to amateur radio operators world wide

Payload Details

Of the 64 objects launched on December 3rd,  the amateur radio Fox-1Cliff which is now known as OSCAR 95 is just one of many satellites, so here is the full list of publicly known 60 satellites and basic details, so let's get going.....



amsat satellite amateur radio student space


Lists: We love lists!

Not every satellite was a "CubeSat" which are normally 10cm cube weighing less than 4 kilograms.The largest satellite part of this launch was potentially the 231-pound (105-kilogram) KazSTSAT Earth-imaging satellite.  

There was also the Elysium Star 2 which carries the remains of Robert Lawrence, an African American astronaut was selected for the U.S. Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory program.

64 satellites launched  AMSAT OSCAR 9


#1 - AISTECHSAT 2: The second in the AISTECHSAT series and is a 6U CubeSat developed by Aistech to provide thermal images of the Earth. It will also help with maritime and aeronautical tracking as a prototype for a larger constellation.

Thermal imaging system is on board that is used in forest management, fire detection, gathering data for agriculture like identifying the health of the plant, analysing land for expansion. It can also detect energy consumption and loss of buildings.

The satellite also provides airborne and maritime vessel tracking via AIS and ADS-B receivers. The AISTECHSAT can also use a bidirectional communication system on board to send and receive automatic information from the vessel or remote asset worldwide.

For aircraft tracking an ADS-B receiver is on board. HVDN has its own ADS-B receiver that tracks aircraft in the Hudson Valley and is available to its membership. More information can be found here

----

#2 - Astrocast 0.1: Astrocast is a planned network of Nanosatellites providing global L-band machine-to-machine (M2M) services. The satellites are orbiting in a low earth polar orbit. This allows the creation of a global network covering the entire globe, including the poles. 

After integration of the NanoLink terminal, the ground based assets can reliably and securely send any kind of sensor data to the constellation of nanosatellites that will acknowledge the reception. Astrocast enables transmission of 1KB/day from any region on the earth.

A geographically distributed network of ground stations collects the data gathered by the satellites. The data are then uploaded to a cloud storage for access by the customer.

----

#3 - Audacy:   Audacy is building a space-based data relay network via a constellation of medium Earth orbit relay satellites along with our ground facilities. These satellites will maintain constant connectivity for our customers’ spacecraft from any point on Earth to lunar orbit


Details on 59 more satellites

Fantastic research has already been done by Gunter Krebs on all the other satellites that were part of this historic launch.  Have a look at all his hard work at  https://space.skyrocket.de/index.html 


https://space.skyrocket.de/index.html
Add caption
Talk about stuff like this?

Care to talk with others interested in satellite communications and technology plus the experiments conducted up above?   Here are some spots to check out related to amateur radio:
  • AMSAT DMR Talk Group:  98006 (Listen in here)

Monday, December 03, 2018

Review Update: New PicoAPRS Model(s) & Firmware Update

Lately it seems the only attention APRS has been getting is if and how it is implemented on new DMR radios.

This is not fair, so let us look at some dedicated APRS only devices compared to some radios that offer location and message sharing capability.

PicoAPRS product is the smallest
APRS transceiver on the market

Location Finding: Different devices for different people


Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) is a technology 20+ years in the making that lets amateur radio operators use low speed data over narrow channels to share location and basic text status updates in a few formats.
Cool Thing:  It is also possible to use APRS for telemetry data, such as weather information or malfunctioning equipment status updates. APRS can also be used to track things, like a rocket or a balloon. This is the Amateur Radio version of "Internet of Things" before that was even a term.
Ham equipment vendors Yaesu (Fusion), Kenwood and Icom (D-Star) all offer different digital voice mode radios and none are DMR products which is the most popular digital voice mode today.

Pictured Left to Right  - Kenwood TH-D74, Xiaomi Mijia,  TYT MD-UV380, Alinco MD-5TGP, Mobilinkd TNC2 and PicoAPRSv2
Pictured Left to Right - Kenwood TH-D74, Xiaomi Mijia,
TYT MD-UV380, Alinco MD-5TGP, Mobilinkd TNC2, PicoAPRS

Vendors such as Anytone, TYT, Retevis and Alinco support the ability to send GPS data that can appear on the APRS.fi website, but this is not really APRS in the traditional sense, but some call it D-APRS.
Hot Stuff: A good comparison of APRS to another form of location sharing was done from a hot air balloon this summer.


Location Battleground:  Get ready!!

Beyond amateur radio which is a licensed radio service globally, there are now unlicensed radios such as the GoTenna, Xiaomi Mijia and Motorola T800 that allows users to share location data with one another, but are far from as robust as what is possible via amateur radio at any level thanks to APRS but come close and are slightly easier to use as discovered a recent hamfest.



Non-Voice Capable APRS Devices

Two of the smallest and full featured APRS devices that are not voice transmission capable are the PicoAPRS v2 and MobileLinkd TNC2 which have been reviewed in the past on HVDN Review Lens.



The Mobilinkd device is more of an accessory gadget that physically plugs into most any two way radio with appropriate cable.

THe Mobilink TNC2 also requires a smartphone paired over bluetooth that runs an application to send, receive and view location of users or send messages based on the GPS built in to the smartphone. This is sort of messy but is an elegant solution....

APRSdroid application found on Google Play store

The PicoAPRS however is a totally self contained device that is a GPS, data radio and user interface in one even smaller package.


Taner, DB1NTO has made many improvements in his PicoAPRS product since its introduction and that is what we will explore. No smartphone needed or other radio needed!


What is the difference between the PicoAPRS v2 and v3?

For something already really small, Taner made it even smaller in the latest version while retaining every feature and even adding a few things such as a modular battery and even better precision GPS/GLONASS reception.




Can I connect the PicoAPRS to a computer?

Everything can be configured with the two buttons on the PicoAPRS.

If you want to customize a beacon comment, such as "Please call me on 146.520MHz or DMR TG 31630", that takes many button presses.

It is possible to do this instead via a terminal program such as TeraTerm. The otherwise very good PicoAPRS manual is somewhat lite on detail about this, so here are some simple steps for those that are not computer experts.

--------

Connect PicoAPRS to computer:  On the PicoAPRS, navigate to the menu called  "USB Mode" and change it to "Config". Then connect the PicoAPRS to your PC and it should install USB drivers automatically in many cases. If not, this is what you need from Silicon Labs.  

Configure a few things on your computer:  In "Control Panel" and "Device Manager" in Microsoft Windows, you can now see which COM port your PicoAPRS will use.


Now you need to configure TeraTerm by selecting the serial port connection that matches your PicoAPRS.


Next, open up the menu titled "Setup" and go to "Terminal" and configure to be CR+LF and check mark the "Echo" box.  This lets you see what commands you send to the PicoAPRS.


Finally, open up "Setup" again and go to "Serial Port..."  You need to select the same COM port your PicoAPRS is using and set the speed to 115200.  No other setting will work.  It needs to be 115200!!



Now, you are ready.  Press any key or the ? and you should get the below message returned to you which shows what you can configure from the computer with your PicoAPRS


To change the beacon message, just type *C* with your own text after it and press enter

Sidenote on other computer things:  On the PicoAPRS, you can also change the USB settings to give you GPS NMEA data. Go ahead and try it while still connected to TeraTerm. Changing to that mode will let you see something like this:


There are also many other applications that will let you use the KISS-TNC mode for even more advanced things. Some of these include PinPoint APRS and WinLink plus of course the old standby of APRSISCE32 but is not part of this review.

There is also a new "Serial USB" data mode too which has a lot of interesting potential if you want a total stealth data radio to go with you anywhere with your laptop.

Get to the point!!!  All I am trying to say is that the PicoAPRS does a lot more than look like a cute little ham radio toy.



New Feature In PicoAPRS Firmware v10 

While v9 software is the most current as of December 3rd 2018, v10 is not far away and will add a status message function in addition to beacon messaging.  This gives you two different types of status updates sent at different intervals from the PicoAPRS.


The new firmware will be available around Christmas time 2018 along with a new and even smaller product from Tanner called PicoAPRS Lite which is designed for use with airborne payloads.

Please keep an eye on his website for more detail at http://www.db1nto.de/ for the new firmware, details on the v3 and the upcoming new PicoAPRS Lite product.


Monday, November 26, 2018

Power Pole Connectors: Why they are good to have

Electronic hobbyists know all too well that there are different types of connectors for specific intended (or unintended) applications.

Special HVDN Cyber Monday discount offer below this article

The Power Pole connector type is very helpful to have on hand. Here we will explore the correct way to install them and a few different uses for these genderless connectors across the "amateur radio", "maker" and "electronics hobbyist" communities.





What Is A Powerpole Connector?

The "Powerpole" is a family of electrical connectors originally brought to market by Anderson Power Products (APP),although plug compatible connectors are now available from alternate sources.

Specific variants of this series of connectors have become de facto standards for conveying "higher power" direct current (DC) electrical power, although these standards are inconsistent and sometimes ignored.

There are two parts to every power pole connector, the housing and terminal. There are also spacers and pins for even more potential covered later.

The Basics:  Powerpole Terminology


Powerpole housings come in many colors. This is great to help identify different applications such as positive voltage could be red, negative power could be black, a ground connection could be green, etc



The most common housing size also can accommodate different size terminals that can carry 15, 30 or 45 amps of power.

Great Feature: Housings can be used over and over by removing the inner terminal if you need to change to a larger size or different color.

Many other connectors that are crimp based can not be easily reused and this is a major benefit of powerpole connector housings.

It is a best practice to purchase extra terminals to have on hand if you crimp one poorly or eventually need to replace the terminal.




Powerpole terminals rated for 15, 30 and 45 amp also accept different diameter wires. Never try to use thicker wire in smaller gauge terminals, but it is ok to use smaller gauge wire in larger terminals.

Good advice for many amateur radio or robotic applications is to use the 30 amp #12 AWG as your standard size terminal.  Only very high current applications will require the 45 amp terminal versions and those are more expensive, thus better saved for those applications only.

Mating Powerpoles Together

The outside of the powerpole housing has special grooves that allow them to slide together and create a power pole block. There are four different ways each powerpole housing can mate together and every application may have different needs, so there is no uniform standard by design to promote different use cases.

Many applications in amateur radio involve power pole connections for DC power, the recommended way to assemble them would be RED on the LEFT, BLACK on the RIGHT with tongue down and hood up as pictured below.


The housings friction fit together are often very tight and not likely to pull apart, but there is also a small pin that can be inserted between housing to ensure the housings do not pull apart.

Since the power pole connector is genderless, meaning there is total uniformity and no male or female version it is sometimes necessary to flip the colors from one side to the other so a pair of connections can fit together.  Always assume that a RED powerpole connected to the end of a RED wire is positive DC voltage, never connect RED to BLACK and BLACK to RED.



Powerpole connectors have been gaining in popularity over the last 10  or more years. Something new is a polarized spacer to even further prevent accidental connections. These work in different ways, so sliding them on to sensitive equipment power cables may be a good thing to consider.

One of many new powerpole products offered at Quick Silver Radio 

Premade Powerpole Cables and Accessories

A specialized crimping tool is the best way to assemble your own power pole connections rather than generic pliers. It is also possible to crimp and solder terminals for even better reliability, but not mandatory.

There are many preassembled accessories like jumper cables,  12V accessory panels, and mounting kits to make using power pole your go to DC connector of choice.



Non-Power Use for Powerpole connectors

There are many other uses for these almost "Lego-like" power connectors that only you can think of. One example is using them as quick connectors for antenna projects such as portable linked wire dipoles for those interested in SOTA or Field Day HF operation or even to help make ladderline easier to splice used in other antenna projects.

KK5JY has a good article on using powerpoles
with antenna projects at http://www.kk5jy.net/dipole/

How to properly assemble Powerpole connectors

First, start by getting the best crimp tool you can afford. Do not cheap out or try to use the wrong tool for the job.  The result will be an improper connection and false blame on this great connector by not following best practices.

GB Electrical GS-388
A basic powerpole crimp tool

The above pictured power pole crimp tool is pretty basic and sells for less than $15 USD at most retailers. This tool is not the fanciest, but gets the job done and has not worn out since I first purchased in at a hamfest back in 2008 or 2009 and has performed flawlessly.

A basic crimp tool compared to the fancier ratchet function ones take a little more time but I think provides a better crimp, but that is just personal opinion as I have both types of crimp tool.


basic powerpole crimp tool
A basic crimping tool gives a little more control over
the finished result, but does require a little more hand strength


Here is a great video on how to use the ratchet based tool. There are many more just like it, but this seems to be the best one showing proper process thanks to the Riviera Robotics Team of Santa Barbara, California no where close to the Hudson Valley of New York.


Special Discount Offer:  Thanks to Quicksilver Radio

John Bee, N1GNV and his team usually make it to most every decently sized "hamfest" in the North Eastern United States where they sell not only power pole related products, but many other tools, small parts and radio related accessories. Now you can take advantage of some savings with your next online purchase at Quicksilver Radio on Cyber Monday (Expires 11/27/2018)

Please use the following coupon code on your next purchase to appreciate some savings on your next purchase of power pole related equipment.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

How was it? Poughkeepsie Mini Maker Faire

The recent snow and damp conditions did not stop the crowd from making it to the Poughkeepsie Day School on Sunday November 18th to participate at the Poughkeepsie Mini Maker Faire.

So many people actually arrived, a shuttle bus needed to be arranged at the last minute to ferry guests from a not too distant parking lot at the local Boardman Library back to the event site.

Poughkeepsie Day School Puma - the official mascot of
both the school and the 2018 Poughkeepsie Maker Faire

The 2018 Poughkeepsie Mini-Maker Faire: What you missed

The official event was from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, with sponsors and demonstrations setting up before 9:00 AM, including the goats, llamas, chickens and rabbits! 

Eager human attendees were outside before the official start time and there was a steady trickle up until 2:30 PM. 

Lets make some cheese and memories with
 the goats from Sprout Creek Farm

Attendees had a chance to make cheese from goat milk,  spin yarn from locally sourced organic fiber and also make robots.

Outside in the parking lot were a few gourmet food truck to help keep stomachs almost as full as faire goer craniums during such a well organized and educationally rich event.

Mini Maker Faire has been taking place for a few years in Poughkeepsie.
Here is a photo from 2015 attendees using microscopes to view interesting things.

Members of the local makerspace called Squidwrench invited Hudson Valley Digital Network to help with the soldering demonstration where each willing participant was going to create a commemorative blinking LED light badge for workshop attendees to take home.

Correct temperature control and soldering of an LED

There were only 150 LED badges that were going to get built and with 5 soldering stations setup, every station built between 20 to 40 each and all but just a few of them being assembled by children between the age of 7 and 13 years old.

Using a 1000x microscope, it was possible to view the inside of
common LED lights found in many electronics and the badge
being assembled thanks to Squidwrench and Makezine.

Each of the multi color blinking LEDS contained 8 separate and different colored light emitters. A high power digital microscope that Hudson Valley Digital Network uses to take photos of circuit boards for some of our articles was used to show children what the inside of the LED looks like and how sensitive they are if too much heat is applied when soldering them to the board.

A damaged LED from too much heat while being assembled.

It was amazing to see how much interest everyone had with soldering and seeing what else can be viewed with the microscope.

One father who works as a design engineer for a semiconductor company and his two children even had a look at the fine details of fingers, including the dirt discovered that will make sure his little guys will always wash under fingernails from now on. 

Another young man and his brother each wanted a badge and one for mom and dad. Both were asking about how hot the soldering iron got, how much it cost, what else it can do and if it can melt other things other than solder. 


One of the last badges of the day nearing final completion

Demand was so great that Squidwrench ran out of badges and had to tap into private stocks of components to finish a few badges and even repair a few where makers got a little to enthusiastic. 

One maker got a special blue LED that looks like a Lego building block since the normal blinking LED got damaged during construction.

A member of HVDN and his daughter helping others
assemble the Squidwrench provider Maker Faire LED badges

It was a great day that brought a lot to the community and helped raise awareness of what goes into making and playing bagpipes, puppetry, how to care for animals and so much more not just related to electronics.

For anyone interested in purchasing the same digital microscope used at the Poughkeepsie Maker Faire, please have a look at Quicksilver Radio which is where the microscope was purchased while attending the Deerfield Nearfest and New England Tech Trek reviewed in a past article on HVDN this past October.

FLASH NEWS:  An upcoming article will include a special discount code for purchases made by HVDN follower on the Quicksilver radio website
Learn more about upcoming Maker events at makerfaire.com



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