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Archive for category Amateur Radio

Baofeng BL-5 Battery Pack: Recharge and Reassembly

Separately charging all four cells from the Baofeng BL-5 packs covered the Electronics Bench with wires:

Baofeng BL-5 cell charging

Baofeng BL-5 cell charging

The cell sits on a ceramic tile as a nod to fire safety, although I doubt it makes any difference.

The discharge tests showed two nearly identical pairs:

Baofeng BL-5 Cells - Separate Charge - 2018-02-24

Baofeng BL-5 Cells – Separate Charge – 2018-02-24

Surprisingly, cells A and B (upper traces) were deaders in the original packs. Cells C and D (lower traces) were more-or-less fully charged, but now have a lower terminal voltage and slightly lower capacity. I have no explanation for that, nor for the voltage undulations.

The rebuilt packs pair up A+B and C+D.

Reassembling pairs into the pack shell and resoldering all the leads produces a good pack:

Baofeng BL-5 battery rebuild

Baofeng BL-5 battery rebuild

I later added a snippet of heavy manila paper under the nickel tape bent around the edge of the pack as a third level of insulation, in the interest of having the nickel tape not produce a dead short between the isolated – terminal and the + cell case.

Memo to Self: tape the long wiggly leads from the protection PCB to the radio contacts (at the left side) before soldering the PCB to the cell terminals, because an inadvertent short will convert the 8205A battery protection IC into a Light-Emitting IC, at least for a moment, and subsequently release the Acrid Smell of Electrical Death. A handful of charge PCBs are en route halfway around the planet, from which I intend to liberate one IC for this board; with luck, I didn’t incinerate anything else.

The pack works fine in the radio, as does the APRS interface:

APRS Coverage in Poughkeepsie - 2018-03-01

APRS Coverage in Poughkeepsie – 2018-03-01

Unfortunately, two APRS iGates vanished in the last year, leaving poor coverage south of Poughkeepsie.

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APRS/Voice HT Interface: Cap Failure

The TinyTrak3 on the Wouxun adapter wasn’t working, showing a dim red Power LED to indicate it wasn’t getting enough juice. A bit of tracing showed my adapter board provided just over 5 V to the poor thing, not the nearly 9 V it should be getting, which led me to believe the transistor switching the supply had failed. A bit more tracing, however, revealed the true problem:

Failed electrolytic cap

Failed electrolytic cap

The schmutz on the black cap matches up with a crater in the rear of the (originally not so) brown cap.

The Little Box o’ SMD Caps revealed two nearly identical sets of 33 μF caps, one with a 6 V rating, the other with 16 V rating. Yup, when I added that cap in the hopes of reducing RFI troubles, I soldered the wrong one onto the PCB: it’s my fault!

The poor thing lasted for over six years with just under 9 V applied to it, so I can’t complain.

I removed the corpse and reassembled the box without the additional cap (and without the terminals contacting the back of the Wouxun, because reasons). If RFI turns out to be a problem, I’ll take another look at the situation.

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APRS/Voice HT Interface: Baofeng Mods

My carefully contrived plug plates for Wouxun radios:

Wouxun plug plate - epoxy cap

Wouxun plug plate – epoxy cap

… of course don’t fit the Baofeng radio. This being in the nature of a final fix, I chopped off enough protrusions to make the remainder fit snugly into the recess.

APRS-voice HT interface - Baofeng mods

APRS-voice HT interface – Baofeng mods

The case containing the TinyTrak3 GPS board and the APRS-voice adapter PCB of course doesn’t fit in place of the Baofeng battery pack, so I replaced the battery contact studs with simple 4-40 screws to prevent heartache & confusion.

Based on one ride, both Baofeng batteries have very little capacity left after several years on the shelf, which comes as absolutely no surprise whatsoever.

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Raspberry Pi Swap File Size

As part of some protracted flailing around while trying to get GNU Radio running on a Raspberry Pi 3, I discovered Raspbian defaults to a 100 MB swap file, rather than a swap partition, and everything I thought I knew about swap management seems inoperative. The key hint came from some notes on gr-gsm installation.

Tweak the /etc/dphys-swapfile config file to set CONF_SWAPFACTOR=2 for a 2 GB swap file = twice the size of the Pi’s 1 GB memory.

Start it up:

sudo dphys-swapfile swapoff
sudo dphys-swapfile setup
sudo dphys-swapfile swapon

And verify it worked:

cat /proc/meminfo 
MemTotal:         949580 kB
MemFree:          194560 kB
MemAvailable:     594460 kB
Buffers:           85684 kB
Cached:           377276 kB
SwapCached:            0 kB
Active:           600332 kB
Inactive:         104668 kB
Active(anon):     250408 kB
Inactive(anon):    20688 kB
Active(file):     349924 kB
Inactive(file):    83980 kB
Unevictable:           0 kB
Mlocked:               0 kB
SwapTotal:       1918972 kB
SwapFree:        1918972 kB
Dirty:                40 kB
Writeback:             0 kB
AnonPages:        242072 kB
Mapped:           136072 kB
Shmem:             29060 kB
Slab:              33992 kB
SReclaimable:      22104 kB
SUnreclaim:        11888 kB
KernelStack:        1728 kB
PageTables:         3488 kB
NFS_Unstable:          0 kB
Bounce:                0 kB
WritebackTmp:          0 kB
CommitLimit:     2393760 kB
Committed_AS:     947048 kB
VmallocTotal:    1114112 kB
VmallocUsed:           0 kB
VmallocChunk:          0 kB
CmaTotal:           8192 kB
CmaFree:            6796 kB

Then it became possible to continue flailing …

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Ham-It-Up Test Signal Source: Simulation

Rather than bestir myself to measure the Test Signal Source on the Ham-It-Up upconverter:

Ham-It-Up Test Signal source - LTSpice schematic

Ham-It-Up Test Signal source – LTSpice schematic

The 74LVC2G14 Schmitt-Trigger Inverter datasheet supplies useful parameters:

Ham-It-Up Test Signal source - LTSpice Schmitt params

Ham-It-Up Test Signal source – LTSpice Schmitt params

All of which come together and produce a waveform (clicky for more dots):

Ham-It-Up Test Signal source - LTSpice waveform

Ham-It-Up Test Signal source – LTSpice waveform

Which suggests the Test Signal ticks along at tens-of-MHz, rather than the tens-of-kHz I expected from the birdies in the filtered 60 kHz preamp response.

Of course, hell hath no fury like that of an unjustified assumption, so actually measuring the waveform would verify the cap value and similar details.

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WWVB Reception: 60 kHz Tuning Fork Resonator Filter

Some early morning data from the WWVB preamp with the 60 kHz tuning fork resonator filter in full effect (clicky for more dots):

WWVB - xtal filter - waterfall 5 fps RBW 109.9 Hz Res 0.02 s - gqrx window - 20171116_103542

WWVB – xtal filter – waterfall 5 fps RBW 109.9 Hz Res 0.02 s – gqrx window – 20171116_103542

The dotted line comes from WWVB’s 1 Hz PWM (-ish) modulation: yeah, it works!

The filter cuts out the extraneous RF around the WWVB signal, as compared with a previous waterfall and some truly ugly hash:

WWVB - 24 hr reception AGC - 2017-01-16 to 17 - cropped

WWVB – 24 hr reception AGC – 2017-01-16 to 17 – cropped

Well, not quite all the hash. Enabling the SDR’s hardware AGC and zooming out a bit reveals some strong birdies:

WWVB - xtal filter - waterfall - hardware AGC - 2017-11-16 0612 EST

WWVB – xtal filter – waterfall – hardware AGC – 2017-11-16 0612 EST

The big spike over on the left at 125.000 MHz comes from the Ham-It-Up local oscillator. A series of harmonics starting suspiciously close to 125.032768 kHz produces the one at 125.066 MHz, just to the right of the WWVB signal, which leads me to suspect a rogue RTC in the attic.

There is, in fact, a free running “Test Signal Source” on the Ham-It-Up board:

Ham-It-Up Test Signal source - schematic

Ham-It-Up Test Signal source – schematic

Although I have nary a clue about that bad boy’s frequency, measuring it and cutting the inverter’s power trace / grounding the cap may be in order.

The SDR’s AGC contributes about 30 dB of gain, compresses the hottest signals at -25 dB, and raises those harmonics out of the grass, so it’s not an unalloyed benefit. Manually cranking on 10 dB seems better:

WWVB - xtal filter - waterfall - 10 dB hardware preamp - 2017-11-16 0630 EST

WWVB – xtal filter – waterfall – 10 dB hardware preamp – 2017-11-16 0630 EST

The bump in the middle shows the WWVB preamp’s 2 kHz bandwidth around the 60 kHz filter output, so the receiver isn’t horribly compressed. The carrier rises 30 dB over that lump, in reasonable agreement with the manual measurements over a much narrower bandwidth:

60 kHz Preamp - Bandwidth - 1 Hz steps

60 kHz Preamp – Bandwidth – 1 Hz steps

With all that in mind, a bit of careful tweaking produces a nice picture:

WWVB - xtal filter - waterfall - 10 dB hardware preamp - 2017-11-16 0713 EST

WWVB – xtal filter – waterfall – 10 dB hardware preamp – 2017-11-16 0713 EST

I love it when a plan comes together …

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Wouxun KG-UV3D: End of Life

Radio communication between our bikes failed on the way back from a grocery ride and the problem turned out to be a failed radio:

Wouxun KG-UV3D - defunct

Wouxun KG-UV3D – defunct

The Wouxun KG-UV3D radio seems jammed firmly somewhere in its power-up sequence, doesn’t respond to any buttons, and has no hard-reset switch. On the other paw, it’s been in constant (and rugged!) use for almost exactly five years, so I suppose it doesn’t owe me much of anything.

The new radio, another KG-UV3D from PowerWerx, has marginally different spacing around the screw attaching the plug cover preventing the previous screw from fitting, so I kludged up a screw from a 2 mm socket-head screw, a 2.5 mm (yes) washer, and a pair of 2 mm nuts:

Wouxun KG-UV3D - APRS plug plate screw

Wouxun KG-UV3D – APRS plug plate screw

Which looks a bit odd, but holds the plug adapter plate firmly in place:

Wouxun KG-UV3D - APRS Voice Plug Block

Wouxun KG-UV3D – APRS Voice Plug Block

I suppose when the radio on my bike fails, I must rebuild both APRS + voice interfaces for Yet Another Radio, because the Wouxuns will be completely unobtainable.

The weather abruptly became too cold for riding, at least for sissies such as we, but maybe we’ll get out later in the month …

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