Ham radio


 

 

Here it is, the Operating System On a Stick for the raspberry pi2 or pi3 including all necessary Pskmail stuff.

After lots of experimentation with various operating systems for the pi3 I think I now have found a solution which is pretty much ideal for the stuff I am doing while traveling with our camper. I prefer the raspberry pi over the various laptops I am carrying, mainly because of the low power consumption. I don’t have to worry anymore when we are camping without a mains connection, the solar panel on the roof provides enough power for the raspberry computer and a low power ham radio station.

Several people have asked for a complete and easy solution for the raspi including the pskmail programs for server and client (details on the pskmail.org website).

Well, here it is. And I will start with a description how to put in onto your raspi 2 or 3.

Installation

You will need the following hardware:

  • A micro-SD card of min. 128 MB, preferably quality 10
  • A USB stick, preferable USB3 of > 4 GB. I prefer to use the 16 GB variety, which enables me to add other operating systems (e.g. lubuntu or mint) if necessary.

You need two software images, berryboot and raspbian.

You can download the berryboot image at:

The image for the pi/3 is called berryboot-20170527-pi2-pi3.zip The image is 36 MB only. To install the image: extract the contents of the .zip file to a normal (FAT formatted) SD card, and put it in your Raspberry Pi.
Once you start your Pi it will start an installer that reformats the SD card and asks you where to find the operating system.

The image for the USB stick can be downloaded from http://pskmail.org/downloads using linux with:

(in case you don’t have linux yet, get the USB stick version from PA0R, see a previous article @ PA0R.COM…).

First unzip the 16 GB image with:

  • gunzip raspbian_pskmail-v.1.0.img.gz

then write the image to the stick with the following procedure:

  • 1.: Mount the USB stick
  • 2.: Check where it is mounted with:
    • lsblk  (look for a disk with a size < 16 GB, probably /dev/sdb, sometimes /dev/sdc)
  • 3.: write the image to the disk using a terminal with:
    • sudo dd if=raspbian_pskmail-v.1.0.img of=/dev/sdb bs=4M status=progress

If this is successful you are ready with the initial work.

Now is the time to start for the first time. Insert the SD card and the USB stick into the raspi and apply power to the raspi. You will be greeted with the berryboot boot loader. For details on the first start take a look at:

When berryboot asks where to find the OS, tell it to look at the USB disk. If all is well it will boot into raspbian, and you are have a functioning system with fldigi, pskmail server, pskmail client, libreoffice etc.

The SSH server is running by default, the user/password is pi/raspberry. Change the password before you go on line. You can start the vnc server via the SSH server with:

  • vncserver :10

which connects display nr. 10 to vnc. It will allow you to use any vnc client on your LAN to perform further experiments. You can now start the pskmail client and server remotely, and connect to it any time you want.

desktop 1_001

 

I hope you have as much fun with it as I have….

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You are on a holiday trip and your windows laptop strikes. Now what?

  • You could use your friends´ new Window$ 10 NSA computer but you don´t like the idea to leave your passwords on a random hard disk which is almost sure to get hacked…
  • You don´t recall that one important password anyway…
  • Moreover the files you were working on and the photos you want to send are all on the crashed device and you don´t know how on earth you can recover them quickly…
  • And of course the alien machine has a different mix of programs so you are strongly handicapped…
  • You have this sked on your ham radio but of course your XYL´s laptop does not have an RTTY program on it… Come to think of it, it also lacks your favorite logbook program and the satellite predictor..

No reason for despair, provided you are prepared for such a catastrophe!

Put Linux on a USB stick and run your OS from the stick!

18238580_1503526646355787_1517543866535038366_oThe procedure is simple:

  • Connect your stick to the computer
  • Switch the computer on
  • While it is booting, push the ESC, or F12 key, depending on the brand of the machine. The boot menu will appear now.
  • Choose the USB device with your portable OS on it and press Enter…

I have prepared an image for a 16 GB USB stick which contains Lubuntu Linux and a ntsf Data partition which can be read on Windows and Linux. Lubuntu Linux has a look similar to Windows XP, so you will not encounter any problems to use it. It contains all the tools you will need for disk maintenance, Internet browsing etc. and you can add your own programs later. For my ham friends I made sure a working copy of FLDIGI 4.0.3 is on board, so you can start using it straight away…

Download at: http://pskmail.org/downloads/lubuntuimage16.img.gz

The image for a 16 GB stick (preferably USB3, as it is faster even when your machine has only USB2).

How to prepare the USB stick? On Linux it is very easy using a terminal:

  • Unzip the image file (´gunzip lubuntuimage16.img.gz´)
  • Make sure which device you want to write (´lsblk´), probably /dev/sdb
  • Write the image to the stick with:
    ´dd if=lubuntuimage16.img of=/dev/sdx bs=4M status=progress´

On Windows you have to do some more work. First you have to install the programs you need to handle the image. They are both .exe files and you get them at:

Once you have installed these 2 programs the rest is easy:

  • Unzip the archive with 7-zip.exe
  • Write the image to the USB stick with win32diskimager.exe.

desktop 3_009

What can you do with it?

The stick contains a complete linux operating system (lubuntu 16.04.2 LTS) which enables you to do everything you are used to do in Windoze. It also includes a 8 GB ntsf partition which you can use to store data for portable use. The programs will NOT use the had disk, which means your data is safe in all circumstances!

You can use it in different modes:

  1. Run linux from the stick in persistent mode, it will remember your data
  2. Run Linux in RAM and write the data to the stick before shutdown
  3. Run linux in RAM without remembering the data
  4. Install lubuntu to your hard drive, dual boot with windows or alone.

I have used the last possibility after having used Windows 10 for 2 full days. I have concluded that it is better for my temper not to get ¨help¨ from Micro$oft all the time, and take decisions myself.

It will make me live longer…

You installed PSKMAIL, and connected your Raspberry Pi or your laptop to your transceiver.

 What now?

The possibilities with PSKMAIL are manifold. The best way to get to grips with most of them is to start the easy way and take it step by step.

What do you  need for the first steps?

1: A working USB HF TRX, preferably with a narrow filter. 500 Hz is ideal, it is nice when also 300 or 250 Hz filters are available. QRP will work, I can work SM0RWO-1 with 5 Watts and 10m of wire from our camper in Spain.

2: An antenna. Ranging from a 3-element beam to 10 metres of wire with a suitable tuner.I normally use the wire and a fishing rod on top of the camper for mobile use.

3: A server. I mean you need to be able to hear/work at least one of the active servers.There are several factors influencing this. One is your location, the second one is our friend the sun with its spots. In practise you will also encounter the third, often more important one which is the environmental noise conditions at your location. A ship in the middle of the Atlantic is ideal, a  campsite full of Chinese battery chargers is catastrophical. Skip is also important. Don’t try a server which is too close, skip is normally quite long on 30m which is the main band of operation for PSKmail at the moment.

Why do I hear so few servers?

PSKmail is an amateur service run by amateurs. So we are depending on those who make servers available for others. Europe is pretty well covered at the moment, for the rest of the world it is off and on… You can see which servers are active on a web site: http://www.PSKmail.org/users. By the way, to run your own server at home or at your local club station you only need a raspberry pi with a USB audio dongle, an old transceiver and a piece of wire. And internet access via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. The servers normally beacon during the first 5 minutes of every hour. If you can hear them you can work them…

I can hear a server. What now?

I would take it one step at the time. PSKmail has two working modes, connected and unconnected. The easiest way is to try unconnected mode first. The “ping” command sends a request to all servers asking if they hear you. Once you get an answer you can send a beacon, and check if it reaches APRS. Once this is successful you are able to use PSKmail for real communication. My guess is that at least 70% of the users are using unconnected mode for APRS beaconing and texting.

Once you are happy with the above, you can tackle the more difficult challenges…

Have fun 🙂

A new breed of transmitting devices could soon revolutionize the world of amateur radio. At the moment it is only possible for ham radio stations to use the short wave bands with a special licence. For this they have to go through the burden of taking exams, be controlled by the FCC and the ARRL and a lot more negative stuff which compromises fun…

The invention of the non-transmitter could open these capabilities to everyone, without hassle. A non-transmitter is a device which is capable of generating electromagnetic waves without being a transmitter. A new class of devices called PLC (Power Line Communication) and SMPSU (switching Mode Power Supply Unit) devices are capable of doing this. They are not transmitters, and so they don’t fall under the jurisdiction of the FCC. The trick is that they are not transmitters until they are connected to an antenna. So to use them properly as a transmitting device you connect them to a non-antenna. The biggest contender for the non-antenna predicate is already built into your house, it is called mains wiring.

The difference between an antenna and a non-antenna is quite obvious. For the average ham, a piece of wire of, say 10 meters length is an antenna which will enable him/her to contact New Zealand with a transmitting power of 5 Watts. Your mains wiring is different. It contains at least 100 meters of wire, so it is a non-antenna.
This opens a host of new possibilities. As this is a non-ham affair, you could use the non-ham part of the spectrum to fulfill a lot of communication needs. Think about using spread spectrum between 21.35 MHz and 28 MHz, using your non-transmitter to disseminate videos, starting a spy communication network, etc. etc. The only thing you have to do is make sure you are using a non-transmitter, and connect it to a non-antenna.

I have already started to upgrade my neighbours’ switching power supply, which has a free running oscillator, to use a PLL. I will modulate it using GMSK and  Reed-Solomon coding on top of a Spread SpectrumDirect Sequence coder using a nice pseudo random algorithm to fit my special PLC SDR receiver… connect it to my non-antenna and see if I can work some DX firsts on the new PLC bands… Yeeeehaaaah…..

I wrote this in December 2012, and forgot to hit the “publish”  button…

I have suffered a lot of cold, moist days in Santana. It is very much like living steadily in the middle of a cloud. Santana lies on the North coast of Madeira, and it is a favorite dwelling for ham radio operators who love ham radio contesting. From the CR3L residence in Santana you are overlooking the Atlantic to North and Middle America, and also to Europe, and behind that Japan. The QTH lies 500 meters above sea level, on a down slope. Which is the ideal place for launching electromagnetic radiation towards NA, EU and also Asia. There are now 2 antenna towers with beams for 10 – 40 meters, and verticals for 80 and 160 .

Through the moderate temperatures and ultra moist climate, vegetation is abundant on Madeira

But it has a severe disadvantage. The prevailing North.East winds bring clouds in from the North Atlantic. When these hit the 2000 meters high mountain ridge on the north side of the island they stop their journey and, in panic, release the water they carry onto the people living there. Santana is in the middle of a   permanent cloud, and temperatures are normally 5 degrees Celcius lower than in Funchal on the south coast. This year, the cloud stayed for the whole week, and standing underneath the 40 meter beam it was impossible to see where it was pointing most of the time. Unfortunately both rotor control units had a failure, and I had a splendid run on the 15 meters band when I noticed that the antenna had  actually been pointing towards the mountain for most of the 6 hour shift…

The CR3L shack is housed in one of those characteristic Madeiran houses

Until this year, I had only visited Santana during the last week of November, during the the most important contest of the year, the CQ World Wide CW contest. This year everything would be different, average temperatures for the end of May are 17-23 degrees, and we decided to give it a try.  The more so because in 2010 the multi/multi category of the contest was won by the RRDXA team from Santana. And in years before I have had only second and third places operating in teams from CT9L, TS7N and 5A7A, always in the M/2 or M/M categories. A perfect opportunity for a nice, warm vacation. I was even able to motivate the XYL, who had been in Santana before, to join the team. Madeira offers lots of possibilities for wandering through the mountains and other forms of sportive entertainment. Funchal is a very interesting city with its harbour and market place, and there are plenty of interesting cafes on the waterfront.