Friday, January 17, 2020

A Night of Yaesu Upgrades

It all started with a programming change. All I wanted to do was add a couple new memory channels into the FTM-400DR. For some unknown reason, the two versions of the radios admin software would not download the current settings from the radio to the PC.

After some browsing online I saw others mentioning that the radios need the latest firmware to work with the latest programming software. I had updated both radios a year ago but since then Yaesu released the C4FM DG-ID features sometime in the last year.

Well if it wasn't a ton of work with lots of steps that took me about 3-4 hours from start to finish.

The FTM-400DR had to have the cover removed and a tiny switch flipped. Two different firmware updates each with their own utility and instructions. The two updates were DSP and main firmware.

The FTM-100DR had three updates. No cover radio disassembly was required this time but two hidden switches had to be uncovered and changed. All three updates also had their own utility and instructions. The three updates were DSP, main, and panel firmware.

The good news after all the radio work the memory changes I wanted to make from the beginning finally worked.

Now I can go to bed.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A Personally Hosted Cloud File Solution

I understand that not everyone has the knowledge or equipment to host servers at home. But for those that do this is a great solution that I settled on after testing a few different ones.

Yes, you can get free or paid cloud file storage from DropBox, OneDrive, GoogleDrive, etc. But I often talk to people concerned that these solutions are holding your personal and important data files in exchange for some kind of loss of personal privacy. Well if you are concerned about that you can deploy your own personal cloud storage solution at home.

I used a VMWare appliance for OwnCloud personal edition. This is the free version of the product with fewer features than the Enterprise version that customers must buy or subscribe too.

The appliance is the easiest way to get ownCloud up and running and is best for non-technical users. It is built on UCS ("Univention Corporate Server") and is fully set up and configured with a secure connection and the ownCloud Proxy app. You can install this on VirtualBox or VMWare which are software virtualization platforms that run as an app on your PC or can be installed on a dedicated server like I have at home, you download their OVA file and load it up. Appliance installation instructions are provided in the documentation, it's not that difficult to install.

Once installed you have an Administrator account to login and start configuring the system. The appliance will store your data within as long as your host system has the room accommodate the growth of the virtual machine appliance, but I opted to configure External Storage as I have a Drobo device where most of my home data is already stored. By linking this network storage to the OwnCloud server I now have access to all the files I want to share via my personal cloud. You can and should be selective on what data you share in your personal cloud. I configured certain folders on the Drobo to be seen by ownCloud, but not all of my files and folders.

Keep in mind that one of the true benefits of cloud storage services like DropBox and the others is that your data is located in a cloud location offsite from your home. This can be an excellent backup solution.

If you are hosting your own cloud, you lose this offsite backup. Your data hasn't moved anywhere or been copied to somewhere else. This is just a private was of accessing your data from anywhere using the built-in website or the desktop client software for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android. You still need to backup your data at home in some other method.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

My new SDR - the RSP1A from SDRplay


SDRplay is a UK based designer and manufacturer of very well made SDR receivers (IMHO).

The RSP1A is a second generation of their RSP1 entry level model which retails for about $150 in Canada.

The specs

The RSP1A is our new improved entry-level receiver—it is a powerful wideband full featured 14 bit SDR and perfect as an all round general coverage communications receiver plus much much more.  The RSP1A covers the complete radio spectrum from 1kHz (VLF) to 2GHz (Microwaves) with up to a massive 10MHz of visible bandwidth. With the companion SDRuno software which has all the popular ham bands and shortwave broadcast bands as “presets” for instant set-up. 
  • Covers all frequencies from 1kHz through LF, MW, HF, VHF, UHF and L-band to 2GHz, with no gaps
  • Excellent dynamic range for challenging reception conditions 
  • Low levels of spurious responses
  • Works with all the popular SDR software (including HDSDR, SDR Console, Cubic SDR and SDRuno)
  • ExtIO based plugin available
  • Software upgradeable for future standards
  • Strong and growing software support network
  • API provided to allow demodulator or application development
  • Multiplatform driver and API support including Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and Raspberry Pi 2/3 
  • Up to 16 individual receivers in any 10MHz slice of spectrum using SDRuno
  • Calibrated S meter and power measurements with SDRuno 
  • Ideal for monitoring of ISM/ IoT/ Telemetry bands <2ghz span="">
  • Ideal for portable operation 
  • Continuous coverage from 1kHz to 2GHz
  • Up to 10MHz visible bandwidth
  • Powers over the USB cable with a simple type B socket 
  • 4-bit ADC silicon technology (not another 8 bit dongle!)
  • 11 high-selectivity, built in front-end preselection filters
  • Software selectable AM/FM and DAB broadcast band notch filters
  • Software selectable multi-level Low Noise Preamplifier
  • Bias -T power supply for powering antenna-mounted LNA
  • RF shielding layer inside case
  • SDRunoWorld Class SDR software for Windows 
  • Documented API for new apps development 
  • Single SMA antenna socket covering entire frequency range

The most amazing feature in this receiver is that massive range. One receiver that can listen from;
  • LF (2200 meter band)
  • MF (630 and 160 meters)
  • HF (80, 60, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12, 10 meters)
  • VHF (6, 4, 2, 1.25 meters, then 70, 33, and 23 centimeters)
  • The only Amateur Radio band this receiver cannot reach (that I might care about) is the 13 centimeter Microwave band which is 2300–2310 MHz (lower segment), 2390–2450 MHz (upper segment)
The unit comes with a very well thought out software package called SDRuno. While this software looks intimidating when you first load it up, I found excellent online tutorial videos from various sources that explained everything I need to get started. After that I figured things out by trial and error over an evening or two.

My antenna of choice getting started with this SDR was a super discone from AOR already mounted high on my small tower. While this is built for the higher frequencies (10m - 13cm), I was amazed to hear low HF transmissions as well. A different and better antenna (or two) may be in the plans for the future.