Monday, August 24, 2015

RS-232 disappearing from PC's and so is PCI.... so now what to do when you run Linux as a HAM?

Hello all,

Well, it's no surprise that I am a big fan of Linux. On my blog I usually post about Linux stuff often enough.

Recently I bought a new PC. I used an "old" AMD 64 X2 4000+ with 8GB DDR2 800MHz memory, and I thought I would spoil myself with a new one.
As it was going to run Linux , it did not need be top of the line, so I bought myself an Intel Core i7 with 16GB 1600Mhz memory.
And when it arrived I started to add my SSD to it, and installed it next to my desk.....

Now, as you might know, I use a Kenwood TS-480satt, still love it, and that uses a RS-232 bus to communicate to my PC (and so do most transceivers, as USB has just come to the very latest models of all normal brands). And for as far as i know, most rotators use rs232 as well. My old PC had 3 of those RS-232 ports as I added an PCI card with 2 extra ports.

Now... my new PC had.... NONE!!!...... So I thought that I would just add the PCI card to the new PC. CRAP!!.... it has no PCI buses either! So this card became useless.....


So I started to look on the one site that solves 99% of my problems... www.ebay.com
And I found myself a new PCI-e card.....


Now you have these in 2 and 4 ports , or 1 parallel and 2 serial ports......
And they claim that these work under Linux..... NO THEY WILL NOT... (at least not out of the box, and not without tinkering a lot on your system) They are not worth to do so anyway....

These cards use a chip-set called CH382L and those might work fine with a simple driver for windows(not tested), but for Linux they are a major pain up the a$$ as this chip-set has not found its way to the Linux kernel (yet).

I tried 2 nights in a row to fix this... no luck what so ever.... google did not help a lot either, it just came up with a lot of results of either not working solutions, or people like me searching for a solution....

So, now how to solve this..... EASY ... buy the proper chip-set....
I ordered a very nice version , with a breakout cable for 4, yes 4 serial ports. (and you have them for 8 ports as well)

The chip-set it uses is: MCS9904
And I bought it with this eBay seller... eBay seller "only" 24 euro's
There is also a MOSCHIP 9901 chip-set, for a 2 port version, which I GUESS will work too.
I did not test one (yet). Example: eBay seller

Now this MSC9904 chip-set does work out of the box when using Linux Mint 17.2 (so my best guess would be that Ubuntu and Debian will work as well as they are builds from the same Linux tree)



When using those cheap a$$ USB-RS232 cables, it usually means that as soon as you start to make a QSO , the cable malfunctions. this PCI-e card does not have any problem with that.

An other HAM, who tested one of my cables, said that this usually has to do with the harmonics of the used frequency being too close to the internal oscillator or the max232 ic used in the converter.
I personally think this could be solved with proper shielding and such, as my way too expensive cable has no problem with this for as far as i know.

So as a conclusion, as long as you buy the MSC9904 chip-set, you're good to go!
I noticed that if it has this chip-set, they will write it on the eBay page. I guess the sellers found out that Linux users are looking for this ;)
Yes, it is not as cheap as the others, but this at least works.....

Hopefully this will help you out when you buy a new PC without PCI and RS232 (which is basically any new PC you can buy these days.)
If any one found another chip-set that works, please do tell us in the comments!!

73's
Alex
PA1SBM

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A new PSU... KPO SPS-30-II ... PART 2: Installing the missing part

So I promised part 2 soon , so here it is :)

This week my order of 10 clixons (50c N.O.) arrived.....
And today i had time to add this to my latest PSU.....

So again i got rid of 13 screws....


And i looked at an empty spot where a clixon should be......


The holes you see there are only in the metal sheet they use for a heat sink... they are not drilled through.... which took me about a minute to fix.... 2 nice holes all the way through.....

I installed the clixon.....


You can see the slightly smaller black bolts i used to install the clixon. You would say this is as it came from the factory if you would not know better....

When wiring up everything, I noticed it that it would be better to rotate the fan 90 degrees, so the wire would exit the fan close to the clixon. (2nd picture)




The fan they use i this model is not (how surprising)  an expensive one.... I might replace in time with one which is better (at least one with a ball bearing)
I am not sure yet as it might also be handy to have a "noise" warning if it becomes too hot.




After that it was just a bit of soldering and the job was done.....


I put back the cover, screwed in 13 screws.... and reinstalled it on the shelf....
Again, I now have no fan noise if everything is in idle mode.... nice and quiet....

So from a silent shack, I wish you 73's!

Alex
PA1SBM

A new PSU... KPO SPS-30-II ... PART 1: The good, the bad and not so bad at all

A while back I bought a KPO SPS 30-II .... And I promised to write something about it in a few weeks... well.. a few weeks became a few months....

So without any more delay..... here it is , a 59 euro 30 amps power supply......
yeah you read it right... 59 euro..... (thats dirt ass cheap for dutch standards)

It looks like this.....


Not too bad in my opinion, nice clear meters, and if you take the price into account, it's beautiful.
It feels well build as well , as only the front s plastic, the rest is all metal....
It does have this nasty warning at the top back.....


I guess this is a bit over exaggerated as the construction will not allow this to become too hot... (airflow is continues, and the components are on the bottom and not at the top)

Soooooo.... Let's take a look inside....
Well yes.... not that quick though.... to get inside you need to take out  >>13<< screws.
My 1st thought was that this was a tad too much.... but no.... as soon as you have them all out you will notice that without the 13 screws, the structural integrity has completely gone... and it feels not well build at all anymore...  Not that this is a problem, i do not know any people that would take it apart, and then put it on a shelf to use it....


So now we can take a look inside....


At first glance, this PSU looks really nice... A bit like the other proper build KPO i wrote about earlier... No spilled heat paste or white glue stuff...
But after about 30 seconds i noticed a missing part..... AGAIN!!!


In the picture above, again, the clixon is not installed.... KPO clearly did want to put it in as the 2 holes give away their intentions.... (ohh by the way, the heat past you see in this pic, is the only you will find in this unit)
I do not know why they will not just add this.... the PSU is 59 euro, add the stupid thing and make it 64,95... still cheap...

So how does it perform... As I did not have time to have it run at high current for a while, I measured the DC voltage with no load (just 2 small vhf/uhf transceivers powered on) and 1 measurement with a load of around 8 amps....


As you can see , with 8 amps , the PSU drops 0.06 volts..... I think that this will do perfectly for all my VHF/UHF sets.... (I will measure some higher currents on all my PSU's in the near future)


Part 2 , adding the missing part will come soon :)

73's

Alex
PA1SBM



Saturday, August 15, 2015

The FoxDelta.com 1-50 MHz swr analyzer.........

A while back I was browsing the internet..... I always wanted a SWR analyser, but i always thought that the price was a bit high for a tool I only use like 5 times a year....
 So somehow I got to a site.... foxdelta.com ...... And I found this..... aaz-0914a
..... 50 bucks...... After like thinking about it for about a month, I ordered it....

Then after a few weeks....... No i have to be honest.... it was more like just over a week from the US/India to the Netherlands... nice and fast....


WOOHOOO!!! its here...... but then... ohh crap... real life.....

So after a month... I started to unpack it.... holly crap this is nice......


Every thing in zip-lock bags, even the PCB... and the PCB looks sweet as well.....
And oh crap again... real life.... Again a month later....
Finally some free time.... lets go !!!


And after about an hour or two we got a working project.....

Well, in this picture it was not working to be honest.... I kinda screwed up a C on the PCB... soldered it on the wrong spot... so no input signal came to the controller.
So this is when it was really done :)


And, as there is no OSX or Linux software yet to my knowledge (I will check up on this later), I had to steal my girlfriends windows 10 laptop.... she never noticed :).....

And then you get nice graphs.... like this.....


Now this is from my 10m antenna, which I thought to dip a little later in the band.... more around 28.450 MHz.... and I thought the SWR would be a little lower, but I never actually measured this at all.... So now I need a propper SWR meter.... guess I need to borrow one :)
If the analyzer is way off, I will post again , but I think it is not that far off to be honest...


73's
till later!!

Alex
PA1SBM




Wednesday, April 22, 2015

New toy's !! Arduino's for HAM projects.

Hi all....

Today the mail arrived with a new toy....
I ordered an Arduino UNO and a Nano....

I did not have time to do a lot of things with it, but I uploaded a quick program to it.... just watch the orange led blinking SOS in morse....



This is also where I want to use the Arduino's for.... morse stuff... Still looking into fun projects for them....

Ohh and on eBay the imitation ones are really cheap.... if you guy's know of fun morse projects, just leave something in the comments..

73's
Alex
PA1SBM

Friday, March 20, 2015

BITX20 - 24. PA part 2... the story continues....

Well, it has been a long while since the 2 criteria to work on the bitx20 both were valid....
A) I have to feel like it....
B) I need time...

But as i have the week off.... i picked up the project box where the Bitx20 is in and opened it up.....
I took out the PA and started to look what was needed.....

I left off here.....





So i grabbed the manual and started to work with the dreaded coils i had to make......
Fortunately I did not have to make trifilar's, just bifilar and singles, which is a lot better.

So after a bit the board looked like this.......

According to the manual you are done at this point.... but i already stated that  the manual is a bit quirky and not 100% correct due to Indian>English>"Dutch understanding" translations.
If you look closely you will see that a 220pF capacitor, 0.55uH coil and a 1N4001 are missing...
Also a 100pF, but you cant see that due to the heat sink being in front of it.
On the top part you see some missing components as well, but that is only if you wanna use a higher voltage on the PA (or actually on the IRF510) then the standard 12 volts. As I intend to use this with standard 12v (or actually 13.8), I choose the other build method described in the manual. few less components.. (diode's resistors and an lm317)

Now getting back to the non explained missing components.........
This is a mod that was allready added to the PCB and also to the parts.... but not so good in the build manual....
In the mod section you find something , but not how to make this L2....
this is the mod:  Bitx20 Linear AMP mod
As it was still not clear what and how to do with L2 (found out later that it was named L2) i downloaded the build manuals of the Bitx20 ver 3b/c.
In there i found exactly what was needed....... 14 turns on a T50-6.
The diode is used in the version 3b/c as well , so i put it in and i have no idea if i should or not.....
I still need to do some testing and do the measuring to see if all is ok....
At least the PA/PSU looks finished now :)





Onto the next part !!! This will be a rebuild of the VFO from test version to something a bit more neat (Has to be done as well as 1 of my cats decide to chew on all the wires.... grrr)  and i will put the VFO and Counter in HF tin enclosures (or whatever they are called in proper English :) .....
Something like this :)


We're getting near something that will actually work!
Untill the next time!

73's
Alex
PA1SBM

Monday, March 16, 2015

K-PO KPS30SW : Part 2 - adding a bi-metal thermal thingie.....

Hello all.....

About the title... As no-one posted a comment about what the proper name was of the temprature sensor, I still call it a "thingie"........

So yesterday i visited my good friend Hans (PD0AC). If you don't know him, you really should look at his blog as well <link>.

We started to talk about my PSU story and I told him about the bi-metal thermal thingie "missing" in one of them..... and he told me that he had "a few" laying around his shack.... (a few seems to mean between 20 and 30) so he gave me one of 60 degrees Celsius... meaning that it will close (make connection) if the temperature exceeds 60c we started to discus the temperature and we came to this conclusion...
  • lower has no use, because it will turn on too often in the warmer summer days
  • lower has no need as the power FET's will be ok till about 120c
  • higher is not needed as 60c is hot enough...
So today i put it in......

Opening this PSU is easy, flip it over and remove 6 screws....


And then you are left with this......


When you take a closer look at the back near the fan, you will see that K-PO has been nice enough to actually leave some taped holes where you can place the bi-metal thermal thingie without a problem..





So after bending the leads a bit for easier soldering , and adding some Thermal paste, i placed it where it should be....


Just a little tip..... the bolts i used were used to mount a floppy disk drive in the good old days...


Now in my opinion this all smells a bit like K-PO trying to reduce manufacturing costs... and let's be honest, i rather have them cut cost in a thermal switch thingy then something significant that can blow up your PSU.... But still, it's nice to have less fan noise in your shack.... 

And again, this in no way a bad PSU. You won't get more bang for your bucks as with K-PO PSU's
And after using them for about 5 years now, i do not believe they will fail anymore due to bad construction or design.


sneak preview: i also bought myself a K-PO SPS30II (which was 59 euro new!), more about that one in a few weeks.... 


73's
Alex
PA1SBM