Category Archives: SDR

GRAVES: Reflections out of the blue

A GRAVES reflection from a meteor trail, August 21st, 2017 at 10:51 UTC. Received with FDM-S2 from Elad, a discone antenna and software V3 from Simon Brown

Undoubtly, a Graves is a fine French wine from the Bordeaux region in western France. So it is so surprise that also GRAVES is an extraordinary Radar station. It was built to detect and follow satellites and their debris. They sequentially cover from 90° to 270° azimut in five big sectors A to D, and change from sector to sector each 19,2 seconds. Each of this sector is further divided into 6 segments of 7,5° width, covered for 3,2 seconds each.

They are transmitting on 143,050 MHz. If you are in Europe and tune into 143.049,0 kHz USB, you probably will hear/see some reflections of meteors, airplanes and even spacecraft. The distance between the transmitter and my location is about 630 km, and for their southly directed transmissions, there most of the time is no direct reception.

So, if you tune into 143.049,0 kHz, you will see just a blue spectrogram: noise. If you wait for a while, some signals will appear out of this blue; see screenshot on the top. With Simon Brown’s free software Version 3 you may also take a level diagram in smallest time steps of just 50 milliseconds:

A level diagram of the meteor trail reflection from the spectrogram at the top, visualized qith QtiPlot.

This level diagram shows the big advantage of SDRs, working on the signals on HF level, rather than of audio level as with legacy radios. The latter additionally introduce e.g. noise and phase errors. Of course, you may also listen to this signal:

From this audio, in turn, you may do an audio spectrogram, possibly revealing further details of e.g. of the trilling sound like that from a ricocheting bullet: The Searchers (the 1956’er Western film by John Ford, not the British boy group from 1960 …) on VHF.

Audio spectrogram of the sound, revealing “packets” of sound which result in the trilling audio. At start, these packet show a width of about 42 milliseconds to be reduced to 37 milliseconds.

P.S. If you want to donate: my favourite Graves is from Domaine de Chevalier, blanc …

SDR-Transceiver-Netz des DARC e.V.?

Weiter gibt es Ungereimtheiten beim seit einigen Jahren groß angekündigten Remote-Transceiver-Netz des DARC e.V., das seine Fördermitglieder schon mit jeder Menge Geld vorfinanziert haben. Offenbar wird es nur von zwei Personen getragen, wobei man für die komplette Software sogar auf ein Nicht-Mitglied des “Bundesverbandes für den Amateurfunkdienst” zurückgreifen musste – der somit einem Kreis entstammt, der das Netz nach dem Willen des Vorstandes nicht einmal wird nutzen dürfen …

Den Stand der Dinge habe ich nach öffentlich zugänglichen Informationen in der Juli-Ausgabe der Fachzeitschrift “Funktelegramm” zusammengefasst. DARC-Noch-Mitglied DL7AG hat diesen Text mit Erlaubnis von Joachim Kraft, Herausgeber und Chefredakteur des “Funktelegramm”, auf seine Website gestellt.

Wie inzwischen weiter bekannt wurde, hat allein das DARC-Mitglied des Entwickler-Duos, Helmut Goebkes, für das Projekt 25.382,70 Euro erhalten. Der Auftrag wurde ihm freihändig und ohne Ausschreibung vom DARC-Vorstand zugeschoben. Der Software-Entwickler Stefan Görg – kein DARC-Mitglied – ging hingegen leer aus. Er hatte auch niemals Geld verlangt.

Überdies nehmen die Ungereimtheiten innerhalb des DARC darüber zu, wer dieses Netz eines Tages überhaupt wird benutzen dürfen: nur DARC-Mitglieder oder jeder Funkamateur? Der DARC-Vorstand möchte es exklusiv seinen zahlenden Mitgliedern zur Verfügung stellen – wobei der Zutritt zum Verein nicht diskriminierungsfrei ist. Viele andere Funkamateure – darunter sogar Betreiber des Netzes! – teilen jedoch diese restriktive Sicht des DARC-Vorstandes nicht und setzen sich für einen wahren Ham Spirit ein: „Die Ausbreitungsbedingungen sowie die eigene Aussendung können mit der neuen Technologie von Funkamateuren aus der ganzen Welt beobachtet werden. Die intensive, ja wissenschaftliche Auseinandersetzung mit einem großen Frequenzspektrum ist damit jedermann möglich“, heißt es etwa von den Betreibern aus Bad Honnef, die sich im Gegensatz zu ihrem Vereinsvorstand ein für alle Funkamateure weltweit offenes System wünschen.

Noch aber ist es nicht so weit. Denn, so Hardware-Mann Helmut Goebkes: “Der Aufbau der Infrastruktur eines solchen Vorhabens erfordert schon noch ein bisserl mehr als nur irgendwo eine Hardware ins Netz zu stellen.”

Beispielsweise erfordert es eine Klärung der amateurfunk-genehmlichen Rechtslage, die der DARC auch im vierten Projektjahr immer noch nicht erreichen konnte. Der erhoffte sich übrigens für seinen Verlagsableger ein Geschäft mit der Hardware und warb mit großer Tröte dafür, dass die Transceiver über die DARC GmbH beziehbar sein werden. Auch das hat sich trotz vollmundiger Ankündigungen noch nicht materialisiert.

Haken soll die Inbetriebnahme des Transceiver-Netzes zudem noch daran, so DARC-Mann Goebkes, dass “entsprechende sendefähige Breitbandantennen (!) am Aufstellort vorhanden sein” müssten. Aber nur schwer vorstellbar, dass dem nach einer langen Bewerbungsphase für die 15, 18 oder 19 Standorte nicht ist. Denn, so der DARC, diese mussten sich ja in einem Bewerbungsverfahren unter den mehr als 1.000 Ortsvereinen “durchsetzen”. Und selbstverständlich wird eine der Bedingungen für den ersehnten Zuschlag gewesen sein, für die entsprechende Infrastruktur zu sorgen – wie sie im übrigen schon an vielen Standorten vorhanden ist.

 

SDR Console V3: Signal History and six RX Panes!

KPL

NEW: The Receivers’ Pane on top covers spectrum and spectrogram of up to six demodulators – look at different modes and bandwidths. Also new: “Signal History” at the bottom.

Simon Brown, G4ELI, has further developed his software SDR Console which has become THE platform for a real bunch of very different SDRs. The new public preview has two more exciting features:

  • “Signal History” takes the signal strength of the given bandwidth each 50 milliseconds, which can be saved in a CSV file. It is also shown in three different speeds on a display.
  • “Receivers’ Pane” shows up to six combos of spectrum/spectrogram of the complete up to 24 parallel demodulators (they additionally can be shown in the Matrix, as in former versions).

See screenshot on at the top.

“Signal History” offers many applications, to name just three:

  • analyze fading and its structure with an unsurpassed time resolution of 50 ms
  • document fade-in and fade out
  • measure signal-to-noise ratio of signals

As an First Aid, I have written a PDF of 19 pages with 36 instructive Figures. There you find a step-by-step introduction plus numerous example on how to use this valuable tool in practice. Please download it here. (Another tab opens, where you have to double-click “SDR_COM_Marker” to start download.)

Surely, I will come back to these most welcomed features in more detail. For now only some screenshot examples regarding “Signal History”, which have been realized by analyzing the CSV files with QtiPlot:

With some statistics applied on the CSV file of Signal History, you’ll get a deep inisght into fading structures. Top: original data (black), averaged (yellow), median (read line). Bottom: box diagram, histogram, 3D-band. See following screenshots for some examples.

 

… and this is just the beginning! [Receiver: Elad FDM-S2 & AirSpy with SpyVerter]

AirSpy: How to listen to DAB+ Broadcast

It’s pure fun to listen to N-Joy, a North-German broadcaster, in DAB+. This digital mode should replace all classical FM broadcast, and has already done this in some countries where others offer both – like Germany.

DAB+ takes place in former TV bands. Several stations are bundled in a bouqet. In Germany, one usually is in comfortable reach of at least one of these bunches, see footprint on a map, with stations around my location:

map

Footprint of DAB+ broadcasts in Germany. Pin = my location. In the list you see the stations plus the channel (“bouquet”), here 5C omnidirectional from Hannover with 10 kW and 6C, also from Hannover, but pointed to the east, with 8 kW.

As AirSpy is covering also these frequencies with high sensitivity and a decent dynamic range, I gave it a try.

First software used is called Welle (English: wave) by a team around Albrecht Lohofener. I use it on a PC/W10. It’s easy to install, and then start it by the usual double-click. An MS-DOS windows opens, starting a routine for searching and opening the AirsSpy connected to your PC. This window informs you on all steps the software is doing.

Then the graphical user interface starts. First you have to scan the bands: click “Sendersuchlauf -> Start” (the software detects on what country code your OS is running and switches automatically to e.g. English), see screenshot:

Welle

The scan is running, 13 stations have been found so far. With expert mode (“Expertenmodus”) activated, you see the spectrum of the frequncy set being scanned.

From the spectrum (right), you might see if HF gain ius ok, or that you should go from automatic (“Auto HF-Verstärkung”) to manual gain control (“Manuelle Versätrkung”) to either imporve sensitivity or to avoid distortion due to strong transmitters nearby. With me, “Auto” drives fine.

After finishing the scan, “Welle”  comes down with the bouquets in reach:

Sputnik

Just click your station from the list on the left, and the station will be heard. Many of them provice additonal information, as here MDR Sputnik with weather. On the right you again see the spectrum of the whole bouquet (6B, 183,648 MHz) plus additional information an the quality.

Secondly, a more technical approach is offered by Jan van Katwijk with also free Qt-DAB. I also use it on my PC/W10. After downloading the suite, containing also other intersting software, just start “qt-dab-0.999”. An MS-DOS windows opens, followed after some seconds by the GUI. Here you have to define the receiver from a drop-down list, choose the boquet (5C, in this case), and scanning serves you the stations’ list. You may have up to five different windows open – from the MS-DOS window to more detailed technical data, including a QPSK phase window, right from the spectrum.

QT_2

Qt-DAB presents you with up to five windows: MS-DOS on top; gain control main window and technical data below, and spectrum plus QPSK phase constellation at the bottom. “Klassik Radio” on 173,352 MHz playing Bach: “What God does that is done well”. Not to talk of what the authors of the DAB software had done …

Thanks to both, Albrecht and Jan, to have developed this fine piece to software, free of charge!

Steckt sie alle in die Tasche: Reuters “Pocket”

Reuter_Pocket

Burkhard Reuter mit seinem “Pocket”: Eine Entwicklung, auf die er stolz sein kann

Wo eigentlich bleiben die Weltempfänger? Die Spitzenklasse kommt heute nicht aus Japan und schon gar nicht mehr aus den USA oder aus Fürth, sondern aus: Dessau. Dort hat Burkhard Reuter unter anderem seinen Pocket entwickelt. Das ist ein Taschenempfänger, den es auch mit Sendeteil gibt. Seine Leistung ist absolute Spitzenklasse. Sein Konzept folgt einem ab initio selbst entwickelten und “Spectrum Based Signal Processing” genannten Algorithmus. Alles an diesem Gerät ist schlichtweg außergewöhnlich: von der Leistung über die Wertigkeit bis zum Preis. Für die Titelgeschichte der Mai-Ausgabe 2017 der Fachzeitschrift FUNKAMATEUR habe ich Burkhard Reuter in seiner Werkstatt besucht, mir seinen Weg und sein Konzept erläutern lassen sowie seinen Receiver auf Herz und Nieren getestet.

Where have all the world band radios gone? The most recent one – and probably the best ever produced – emerged out of the workshop of Burkhard Reuter (pictured above) from Dessau/Germany, the city of Bauhaus fame. For the cover story (May, 2017) of the German FUNKAMATEUR magazine, I visited him and did an in-depth test of this smart receiver, following his unique “Spectrum Based Signal Processing” algorithm. His Pocket turned out to surpass reception quality of each and every world band radio before, scratching the performance of even professional table top receivers. Some versions of it also include a ham radio transmitter (QRP). Already another modern classics from the Bauhaus city …

 

Airspy & SpyVerter: An Excellent Performer on HF

24ch

24 broadcast channels demodulated in parallel on shortwave – and Airspy plus SpyVerter do need just a quarter of PC’s power!

Always being interested in SDRs with remarkable HF performance, Airspy and the matching up-converter, namely SpyVerter, attracted me. It is a 10-bit SDR, covering 24 MHz to 1.800 MHz (just Airspy) plus 1 kHz to 60 MHz by help of SpyVerter (+120 MHz). Both come in solid metal cases.

I did test this combo in detail on HF, i.e. under 30 MHz. It proofs to be a sensitive setup with a surprisingly dynamic range, ending up in clear recpetion of up to a nearly 10 MHz wide band. This may be recorded and eventually played “as live”.

The test has been published on 19 pages plus 25 instructive illustrations, and the PDF can be dowloaded here. It is a real hands-on test in real practice. This includes also weak signal reception of data, demodulating and decoding of 24 HFDL airband channels in parallel, DRM and FAX decoding (KVM70/Honolulu) and reception of Auckland VOLMET von 6.679 kHz via long path.

The result ist simply stunning: if you are in search for a “low cost, high perfomance SDR”, that’s exactly is it. Yes – Youssef and his team advertise it with this claim, but it is one of the rare cases where such a claim meets reality. Be surprised, become convinced!

French version: Bernard Malet was so kind to translate the paper into French, merci!
Téléchargez ici, s’il vous plait.

LimeSDR: First Experiences on HF

One hour in the 20 m ham radio band with LimeSDR and SpyVerter, zoomed out of a one hour’s recording of 30 MHz width. Antenna: quadloop of 20 m circumference.

LimeSDR is a Crowdsupply project – delivering an SDR which covers 100 kHz to 3.8 GHz with bandwdiths of up to 2 x 30 MHz. I was interested almost exclusively in the range 100 kHz to 30 MHz. The board arrived on March 17th, and I already have done some tests with it. From these very first results & a recommendation:

  • Installing is easy (W10), if you follow the instructions.
  • Without modification, LimeSDR is simply useless on HF. It’s deaf near to a dummy load.
  • The producer recommends a “modification” by just removing one SMD. Then some life came into this range. But it was hard to sort the ghost stations from the real ones.
  • Even a low-pass filter from Heros didn’t helped that much.
  • Just before selling the board on ebay, I connected the antenna first with Spyverter – a state-of-the-art up-converter with an IIP3 of +35 dBm, transferring the band of 0 – 30 MHz to 120 – 150 MHz. This is a range, where LimeSDR sees some light.

So, if you are disappointed by the near-non HF performance of naked LimeSDR: an able up-converter will change the game. Recording and sonagrams had been made with SDR-Radio.com V3.

30 MHz live with LimeSDR and SpyVerter shows that it generally works. Same antenna as above.

“Ghost signals” make it sometimes difficult to distinguish them from real signals. This sonagram has been made with SpyVerter. Broadcast stations are easy to find out (in their majority). But it gets difficult to sort the ghost stations from the few real ones in the left part.

 

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