New Technology for 2020~ What If?

July 16, 2020 ~ Fun Times @ N6QW

First a bit of follow on to the Nextion Displays adventures using my newly developed (stumbled upon) skill set to add background images to the display. This was a fun exercise! 

There is a bit of a process to converting a jpeg to a png; but there is free software available so that the final image must match the size of the display (like 320X240).

Once you have those images you are then set to let the fun and games begin. Imagine having a screen with a png of the Trump with a couple of push buttons. Once loaded on the Arduino and engaging a push button that is identified as MASKS, a canned message appears on the screen which reads "Only wimps use masks".  A different button with the title OBAMA produces the striking message "Obama did it!" Finally a button entitled SCHOOLS results in "Schools must open no matter who gets killed". I am giving away an idea that some entreprenuer could turn into cash.

Or if you had an image of a female that when you pushed a button marked JOBS the message "Let them find a different job" flashes on the screen.  Or perhaps an approach with a button marked BEANS where an alternate photo comes up  that switches between "Goya Beans will make you Grow!", with the "Goya Beans will make you Go! See the fun you could have...

(The celebrity above is Ina Ray Hutton a famous All Girl Big Band Leader from the 1940's. Interestingly enough I believe she passed away in Ventura, CA (about 2o miles from here). Yes, this is a photo of the Nextion screen where the background is posted in a vertical array versus a horizontal array.)

Finally maybe a photo of the chief minion in waiting whose button marked COVID19 would flash the message "We are in a good place". The bigger screens could have lots of buttons. Don't you just love this technology? 

With the  capability for a scrolling message -- the Goya Beans scrolling across the screen perhaps in various colors delivers a powerful message. Do you want to grow or do you want to go?


Back to the SDR stuff! Several days ago I posted a layout of a new RADIG board. Here is an update on the progress on that board with the major components installed. Noteworthy this is the smallest of the four boards I have built.

Starting on the left are two 3.5 mm stereo jacks for the Line In and Line Out. These are actually ground isolated from the board. Next are the two modem transformers (black dots on the top) and to be installed between the modem transformers is a 12 VDC DPDT Relay so the the I and Q channels are reversed on transmit. 

Yes Virgina, they do this on the Soft Rock transceivers using the Tayloe form factor --check your schematic. Next are the bargain priced (now from Mouser) ADE-1's. Following that is the "magic splitter/combiner transformer". In the upper right hand corner is the 74AC74 which divides by four and provides two quadrature LO  signals to the ADE-1's. I added a couple of 10K pots so you could accomplish two goals. The 1st is to insue a balance of the LO signal levels to each ADE-1 and the second to limit the LO signal level to no more than 1 Volt PTP. 

The next board to be built will be the relay steered bi-directional amp and a plug in Band Pass Filter board.

A bit of a plug for QRP-Labs (Hans Summers) and the plug-in BPF Filter kits. For less than $15 plus shipping you can have three bands --like 80, 40 or 20M. Or perhaps 60, 40 and 20M. Then again with the sunspots possibly improving, a 40, 20 and 17M combo would be a good fit for a tri-band transceiver. Plug In offers quick band change; but adds a step in that you would move QUISK to a new band but mechnaically you would have to plug in the right filter combo. 

Read that plug in filters is a Triple "S" solution to the band switching problem: Simple, Signal Isolation, and Synergistic. The problem of the right band and wrong filter is evident -- wrong filter no signals! Signal isolation was a problem in one of the popular kit rigs.

I suffer from FFS ( Fat Finger Syndrome) while others in our beloved hobby have the dreaded GH (Gorilla Hands). I am endeavoring to refine the plug in filter approach so that those with FFS or GH can safely and reliably switch bands without phyiscally destroying the filter boards in the change over.  Stay tuned to this space. 


Pete N6QW

July 15, 2020 ~ Nextion Success!

I bought a 2nd Nextion and it would not load from the SD Card. Big Clue! Next I used a USB to TTL adapter (the one I use to load the Arduino Pro-Mini) but actually made a hookup mistake wherein I connected the RX on the Adapter to the TX on the Nextion and of course now the TX is connected to RX. I clicked on the upload and selected the COM Port and when I did that -- Boom it loaded the image Going back to the 1st unit which I thought was defunct -- same reversed hook up and loaded an image on that one.

Then I remembered I had to do the same switcheroo on the Pro-Mini cable 

We are smoking here! It is so cool to have your photo on the front of a color TFT. Having a mask on is what will save all of us. DO NOT Listen to the emperor or his chief minion in waiting -- going without a mask will get you dead!

Pete N6QW

July 14, 2020 ~ Bastille Day

Hey Jeff, was it worth selling your soul? On Bastille Day we have the equivalent of "Let Them Eat Cake" with the statement "Let Them Find Another Job". Wow someone is disconnected from reality. They are more than just "tone deaf"!

Above is a new board layout (4X3 Inches)  for a RADIG mainboard that would be used with QUISK. It will house the two Modem Transformers, the two ADE-1's, The 74AC74, 5 VDC Regulator, two trim pots and the special Bifilar Wound Summer/Splitter Transformer. Off board will be a similar sized board to house Plug-In Band Pass Filters, the Bi-directional Amp Stage and a couple relays.

Pete N6QW

What if ...

We must ask that question as that often drives creativity, innovation and new ideas. Our hobby has shifted somewhat to buying appliance rigs as the price points make it hard to resist "flashing the plastic". The ICOM 7300 is a striking example of what $1000 can be purchased. True it does make one feel good that after spending a "king's ransom" (my term for $1000) that you have a feature rich and undeniably now have become a member of the special ICOM 7300 army. Unquestionably you have something that works and works well. Read high marks for quality. 

Not many homebrew rigs pack all of the features of the ICOM 7300 into something sitting in the shack. While many would hold up the uBitx V6.0 as an example from the other side, it is not a true homebrew rig, nor does not employ  SDR technology. That is not to denigrate the uBitx V6.0; but to simply marvel and honor that it is a very nice analog transceiver. 

It is patently clear to me that my several homebrew SDR transceivers outshine the strictly analog homebrew transceivers I have built. On a comparative cost basis --the SDR ones are even up with the cost of the conventional ones. Figure about $150 as a price point and you can have either one in that budget range. So it is an easy decision. Add a couple of amps and you now have a 500 watt SDR station.

While there are those who would fiddle and fuss with two transistor CW transmitters and a Direct Conversion Receiver, with a just a bit more hardware (and creativity) you could move up to a SDR transceiver. The embedded SBC's (Raspberry Pi3 or 4) or sophisticated Microcontroller (Teensy 3.5 or 4.0) makes that magic happen. When I turn on one of my conventional homebrew transceivers, I wonder what is lurking out there. I must tune the band to find out --one frequency at a time.

But when I turn on my Homebrew RADIG -- I know because I can visually see about a 48 kHz slice of the Spectrum. With one of the commercial boards I have (Omnia) I can see 96 kHz which of course depends on the on-board CODEC chip.

There is another factor that I have been tracking -- signal reports. Each time I operate with either rig, I note the feedback on the signal quality -- not whether one was stronger than the other but the "presence factor". Hands down (about 90% of the time) the station at the other end specifically mentions how good the SDR sounds. Whereas the comments on the filter rigs typically will say "sounds OK for a homebrew rig"!

So as we continue "not being in a good place" with Covid19, time for you to think about building a homebrew SDR transceiver.

I heard repeated some funny comments supposedly from a late night comedian. When the emperor gets booted out of office in November, he will start a TV network so he can still stay in touch with his racist followers by saying outlandish and untruthful things. One of programs, which he intends to host personally, is entitled "Felons and Friends". The other is a roadshow called the "Redbook" which is a tour guide of museums, monuments and statues dedicated to the Confederacy . How quaint.

Even though you may not be Sicilian, never forgive the emperor who has pardoned a bunch of Felons who coincidentally are his peeps! Come the November election it is our chance to even the score. We Sicilians don't forget either!

Pete N6QW

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