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Monday, May 22, 2017

Video: Farhan in the SolderSmoke Shack! BITX, JBOTS, McDonald Straw Sig Gen, uBITX, Sweperino and more!

Thanks again to Farhan for visiting us.  It was great to see his reaction to my humble implementations of his great designs.  I got him to sign my BITX17.  This was really a fantastic day for me and for my family.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Farhan Visits SolderSmoke Headquarters

Wow, today was an important day in the history of SolderSmoke.  Our friend -- and newly minted member of the QRP Hall of Fame -- Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE came to see us.  We had a great time.  I showed him all the many devices that I built based on his designs. 

We shot a video of the shack visit. I will post it to YouTube in a few days.

Thanks for coming to see us Farhan.  And congratulations on the richly deserved Hall of Fame Induction.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Homebrew History is Made: Farhan @ W7ZOI

Thanks to Wes W7ZOI for sending me the link to his page describing the visit of our friend Farhan.  I think this visit was a historic gathering of homebrew heroes and their groundbreaking rigs. Read all about it here:

Please help me convince Farhan to visit SolderSmoke HQ before returning to India!   Send him (or me) e-mails, texts, tweets, or just post messages of support below this post.   

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

WA8WDQ's Automated Filter Scanner (and a tip from VK1VXG)

Bill, Pete,

Thought I'd share today's activities.  Using Bill's excellent wire stripping technique, I was able to finish assembling my 7 MHz bandpass filter.  At this point, I'd normally terminate the filter then hook up the signal generator and oscilloscope to manually scan/observe the filter's response.  But today, I took a different tack.  Using the AD9851/Arduino signal generator I built last year coupled with the W7ZOI AD8307 Power Meter I built this year, I wrote some additional Arduino code to scan a block of frequencies while using the Arduino's A/D to record a level at each scanned frequency, thus characterizing the filter's response.  I also used a W7ZOI unidirectional TIA to boost the generator's output to within the full scale range of the A/D.  This setup is similar to the popular PHSNA project that has gained attention over the last couple of years.  The Arduino formats the data as CSV then feeds it into Numbers (the Mac Excel equivalent.) for plotting (see attached but please forgive the labels/legend on the plots as I didn't take the time to format them).  Unfortunately, my Arduino UNO is low on RAM so I'm only able to save a max of 100 scanned frequencies.  Even with the lack of resolution, as you can see, the output is definitely useable to get a sense of the filter shape and roll-off.  I'm now motivated to write some plotting code so I can get a more real-time output in lieu of the spreadsheet.  The output of the AD9851 seems pretty flat within several MHz as is the TIA, so the accuracy should be pretty good within moderately sized scan blocks.  Adding additional external FLASH (or moving to a bigger Arduino like the Zero) will fix the low resolution.  FYI - Arduino behavior when RAM is low can be very erratic!  It started crashing when I got close to the max available :(.  
If you haven't as yet, definitely check out the PHSNA project.  They've added a boat load of features beyond just scanning filter response . . . and at a fraction of the cost of a spectrum analyzer with a tracking generator.

Brad  WA8WDQ

Hi Bill,

I'm having trouble posting a comment in response to Brad, WA8WDQ's
automated Filter scanner project, and I'm hoping you wouldn't mind
passing this tip along.  It might be of use to other readers too.

Recent versions of the Arduino software include a Serial Plotter feature
that lets you graph directly from your arduino.  By making use of this
feature Brad wouldn't need to save data on the uno - just send it back
to the computer and graph in realtime.  It is a little primitive, but
still usable. I believe the plot window is 500 datapoints wide.

There is a nice tutorial on how to use it here:

If you're in a hurry  and can survive with a bit of inaccuracy in your
sweep measurement you can also get away with using a simple diode
detector RF probe.  This is good enough for a "yep, that filter does
what I want" measurement, but not for measuring exact loss or 3db
bandwidth etc.

Hope that helps,


Greg, VK1VXG

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

An NE602 SSB Design from China: The KN-Q7 by BA6BF

Allison KB1GMX alerted us to this rig.  Pete and I had been discussing with her various designs for SSB transceivers.  I recently completed an NE602 rig.

I really like the KN-Q7 (click on the picture above for a closer look).  The T/R switching is much simpler than my use of three DPDT relays.  It even seems simpler than the Epiphyte's switching of the BFO and VFO frequencies.  I also like the analog VFO and BFOs inside the 602s, but I think Pete would use an Si5351.  The AF amp muting circuit is kind of neat. 

I questioned the need for the extra IF amp for the receiver.  My rig just uses the two NE602s and an AF amp circuit from the BITX40 module (2N3904 and an LM386), and with this I can hear the band noise floor on 40.   But Allison points out that different bandpass and crystal filter have different losses, so with these components some additional gain may have been necessary. YMMV.

Here is the kit manual:

It is interesting that Peter notes a need for additional mic gain.  Some of the NE602 rig designs run an electret mic right into the NE602 balanced modulator with no mic amp. For a few days I had my amplified D-104 mic running into the NE602 in this way.  I too found that I was having to "loud talk" into the mic.  I put an LM741 mic amp in there and it fixed the problem. I wonder if later versions of the KN-Q7 included a mic amp.  I will check on this later.  

Three cheers for designer Shi Ke, BA6BF!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Still Photos and Slow-Motion Video from Shenandoah Rocket Launches

The above slow-motion video of launch #3 is pretty cool.    You can very briefly see a bit of the yellow parachute deploying. The best video from this flight is at the end, as the rocket floats over the farm buildings and comes perilously close to landing on top of one of the silos.  I put some snap shots at the end. Five other launch videos are available here:


Launch crew visible -  N2CQR with hat, Billy to his left. Randy's son (next to Billy) launches the rocket!

Smoke trail back to the launch pad.

MECO! And you can see the smoke trail up to the rocket

The view across the Shenandoah Valley.

Skyline Drive runs along that ridgeline

Here is a hunk of flame-proof wadding ejected by the rocket.

We were afraid it would land on the silo.  It was close.

GREAT BALLS OF FIRE! And a smoke trail.  

Part of the deploying parachute is visible.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

SolderSmoke Podcast #196 Rockets, Pete's EXPULSION, SDR, DiFX, '602 rigs, T.O.M.

View from rocket. I'm in front of the swing-set, with hat on. Billy to my left.

SolderSmoke Podcast #196 is available.
5 May 2017

Shenandoah Rocket Launch -- With video!

Pete and the QRPARCI HOF: We thank you for your support! 
Note the strange seasonality of these kinds of events... Always in the Springtime...
April is the cruelest month. Especially the FIRST DAY!  

Feel Tech Follow-up -- the DC blocking cap issue.

HBTV?  Roku Challenge? 

A tube of Desitin?  Why?

SDR Misadventures. 
SDR on a tablet  Just like WA7HRG
Pi Day   More RaspPi Linux observations  TOO HARD
The problem of Si5351 and updated libraries -- old sketches don't work!
My SDR question: If we go with direct sampling, no need for I and Q at front end  No image problem, right?  But why is there often a digital I and Q in the direct sampling receivers?

Getting RF in through the DDS jack.

Electric Radio:  Reading from the history of SSB.  And from the T.O.M. article
Joe Carr K4IPV : Homebrew Hero from Falls Church Va.  Any more info on him?

Pete's newest DifX
Pete's new digital scope.

Bill's NE602 RIG, Epiphyte History.
He put AADE crystal filter impedance match circuits in backward  That's why he needed RF amp. Duh.
The perils of a crowded box 
Building RF amp board (BITX Module design) for the NE602 rig.
NE602s do not put out a lot of power. uW
BITX Module Amp circuits very stable.
Chassis as the heat sink.
Mic amp?  We don't need no stinkin' mic amp!  But yes, we do. 741 on the way.

Parts on e-bay very expensive!  Back to the hamfests. On to Manassas!

Congrats to Tony Fishpool G4WIF, who received the Don Cameron, G4STT, Award for an outstanding contribution to low power amateur radio at the RSGB AGM meeting in Cardiff.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Rocket Key-Chain Camera Video!

This project started almost 5 years ago when Billy, his friend Ben and I built a nice BIG Estes Model Rocket that Elisa had bought me for my birthday.  Here is the original post about this:

Building the thing was no problem, but finding a place to launch it was.  Model rocket launches are prohibited inside the Washington DC beltway, and when you get outside the beltway it is hard to find a suitable open field. Out rocket camera sat in a box.  We said "someday" for five years.

Yesterday I was going out to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia picking up Billy after the completion of his freshman year in college.  I decided that yesterday would be the day.  I used Google Maps to look for places with a big open field near the highway.  I recharged the key chain camera.

At the first of my possible launch sites we found lots of fields, but also lots of fences, and cows and horses who might not like our noisy rocket.  We were about to give up hope when I spotted a farmer at work.  I explained the situation to Randy.  He agreed to let us launch, but wanted us to do it from his nearby house so that his family could watch.  This was very nice of them.

After one failed attempt, WHOOOSH!  That D12-3 engine really pushed that thing up there!  The family loved it.   It was  great.  The parachute deployed perfectly.  Billy would run across the field to retrieve the rocket (you can see him running up to get it in one of the attached videos).  When we got home I was amazed to find that the little camera had worked perfectly on all three launches. 

The Waters Edge Rocket Research Society would be so proud of us.  VIVA LA WERRS! VIVA!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Color Code Violation -- Almost as Bad as Breaking Ohm's Law!

A cautionary tale:   How would you read the color code on that little resistor?    It was plucked from a strip marked 2.2 ohms.   And indeed it is red-red-gold.  2.2 ohms, right?   But no,  my friends. On the DVM it reads 2.2 kilo ohms.  2200 ohms.  Believe me, that makes a big difference when it is in the Vcc line of your driver!  It took me a while to find out WHY that driver wasn't driving very well.  

This turned out to be one of those very satisfying trouble-shoots --  the problem was elusive and it wasn't all my fault.  But I should have MEASURED the resistor value before soldering it in. 

Here is the scary part:  The next resistor from the same strip was marked the same way, but measured 2.2 ohms.  Be careful out there. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

How LCD Displays Work (Video)

8 Bit Guy does a great job de-mystifying the LCD displays that we have been using.

Friday, April 28, 2017

An Old but Cool DiFX: The Epiphyte

I've been hearing about this rig for many years.   It first appeared in the September 1994 issue of QRPp, the journal of the NORCAL QRP club. A condensed version of that article appeared in SPRAT 81 (Winter 94-95). The designer is Derry Spittle VE7QK from Vancouver, British Columbia.

The name always puzzled me.  Here is the explanation:  It started with the Neophyte: A very simple direct conversion receiver that many of us built.  The Neophyte was mostly an NE602 and an LM386.  In the Epiphyte, a crystal filter and a second NE602 were added, turning the Neophytes into a superhet receiver and -- with some additional circuitry -- an SSB transceiver.  The Oxford English Dictionary reportedly defines an Epiphyte as "a plant that grows on another plant"(see picture below).   The Epiphyte grew out of the Neophyte.

And this plant grew in British Columbia, which seems -- like Australia and New Zealand -- to be fertile ground for simple phone rigs.  I'm pretty sure the "Wee Willy" DSB rig also came out of BC, and it may have had a similar purpose:   allowing for portable contact with the BC Public Service Net on 75 Meters.  

There are many features of the Epiphyte that I like:  There is a simple 455 kHz filter and a ceramic resonator BFO/Carrier oscillator. The original design featured a VXO-like circuit using a ceramic resonator at 4.19 MHz.  And it ran off AA batteries (as did the NE602 DSB rig I took to the Dominican Republic).

Unlike my NE602 rig, the Epiphyte made an artful use of the fact that NE602's can be set up to have TWO inputs and TWO outputs.  Where I used DPDT relays to switch inputs and outputs from both NE602s,  OM Spittle left all the inputs and outputs connected, and simply switched the VFO and BFO signals.  Ingenious.  

There were updates and improvements.  The Epiphyte 2 and 3 featured increased power out (5 watts vs. 1 Watt).  Version 3 has an IRF-510 in the final, driven by a CA3020A chip.  That chip is capable of 70 db gain.  Wow. 

In 1996 NORCAL and G-QRP donated 50 EP-2 kits to radio amateurs in third world countries. Very nice.

In 2000 NORCAL did a kit of the EP-3 -- it sold out in 24 hours.  Here is a nice article on the EP-3:

And above we have a video from Japan of an EP-3 in action.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Video (Audio) of N2CQR (me) on 40 Meters with BITX DIGI-TIA

This was the icing on the cake.  Ruben AC2RJ up in New York was monitoring as I called CQ with my BITX Digi-Tia last night on 40 meters.  He recorded the contacts that ensued.  I was really glad that he recorded VE3XBO describing his experiences with a BITX 40 Module at his local radio club -- The WAX Group of the Barrie Radio Club in Ontario. 

Farhan's module is really starting to show up more often on the band. On the 19th of April I talked to Bruce KC1FSZ -- he was on his Peppermint Bark BITX 40.  And on March 30 I talked to Josh KE8CPD on his BITX 40.

Click on the arrow (above) to listen to Ruben's recording.  Ruben has a nice YouTube channel here:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

DiFX! My New NE602 Rig is On the Air

Pete would call this a DiFX:  a transceiver that is Different from a BITX.  This started with my effort to get an Si5351 working with a little 1 inch square OLED screen.  Tom Hall AK2B helped me with the software (thanks Tom). Once I got that done, I figured I could build a simple receiver with a homebrew 11 MHz crystal filter, two NE602 chips, and an LM386 AF amplifier.  That was working great, then Pete told me to turn it into a transceiver.  I used some of Pete's boards (thanks Pete).  

The Epiphyte transceivers also use two NE602's, but they ingeniously switch the BFO and VFO between the two chips.  I didn't switch the oscillators -- instead I switched the inputs and outputs of the two chips using two DPDT relays (thanks Jim).  A third DPDT relay switches the antenna between T and R, and turns on and off the PA stage and the AF amplifier.

This is a DIFX, but there is some BITX circuitry in there.  The power amplifier stages are right out of the BITX Module, as is the AF amplifier (thank again Farhan).

The only real problem I ran into had to do with the very low power out of the NE602 VFO mixer on transmit and the impedance matching between the NE602 and the PA chain.  I had to increase the gain on the first RF amp (pre-driver) using ideas from Steve Weber's 40 meter SSB CW QST contest rig (thanks Steve).  I experimented with various connections between the NE602 and the BP filter.  Finally I got it going.

The heat sink on this one is different too:  it is just the chassis.   The IRF 510 is bolted (insulated) to the aluminum box.

I fired it up this afternoon and in spite of horrible conditions on 40, quickly had a nice rag chew with KJ4ZMV in Indiana.  I haven't even built a mic amp yet!  I am running the D-104 right into the NE602 balance modulator.  There are no signs of unwanted modulation or spurs.


Designer: Douglas Bowman | Dimodifikasi oleh Abdul Munir Original Posting Rounders 3 Column