• Remote control of SDRuno with MQTT and Node-RED

    Getting back to looking at HF ACARS messages again and so with that comes the need to tune to the best HF frequency. (Best is still based on propagation and is a topic for another blog).
    My HF station is in Arizona, and San Francisco is the best ground station for it to hear. New York is a close second.
    SF mostly runs on two frequencies, 6559KHz and 13276KHz with 5508KHz thrown in from time to time. NY is sort of the same but different.
    So, the question (or goal) is to be able to switch between those frequencies on some sort of time schedule. (Sort of based on day and night – ie, follow the HF propagation).

    For the longest time I got fixated on getting SDRuno to do the memory channel switching for me. Spent waaaaay to long looking for plug-ins that would do the job.
    Thought about trying to set up squelch-less scanning to do the job.
    Spent some time looking to get the RSP2 working under SDR# since it seemed to have more plug-ins and options.
    Turns out this was the wrong way of looking at the problem…. All very well to get the program to do the automatic switching – which it can’t do – but what if I want some other frequency at some other time?
    Better to have web site (Node-RED dashboard) control right?
    I mean the decoded data (the ACARS message) is displayed there anyway, so putting a button there just makes sense.
    We spent hours trying to figure out how to make it work, and minutes getting it working once we turned the problem around.

    So, long intro long.
    The key is to remove control from SDRuno and put it in the hands of the website / user / Node-RED.
    Press a button on the dashboard in one location and have it change the VFO frequency in another. Here is how we do that do.

    SDRuno can use a serial protocol called CAT. The software emulates a small subset of those CAT commands for a Kenwood TS-480 transceiver.
    What we need to do is setup a serial connection to SDRuno to send those CAT commands as needed.
    Start with a virtual serial cable. I downloaded and used http://com0com.sourceforge.net/ Simple and free. Hard to beat.
    Set up something like com3 and com4 in that program.
    Go into SDRuno and set up com3 as the CAT serial port. I just accepted the default baud, it does not really matter as even 300 baud will be overkill for changing a few frequencies. It should connect straight away.
    Now, in Node-RED running on the same computer as SDRuno add a serial node that is configured to com4.
    To prove it works, put down 2 debug nodes if you like and use them to change the frequencies back and forth.
    In short, what ever CAT commands you pump into com4 via Node-RED will come out of com3 and thus into SDRuno and the VFO will change frequency.

    Now with that working, add an MQTT node configured to your broker and connect it to your serial node.
    So now, when ever a payload is published to that topic it will be sent to com4.
    On the instance of Node-RED that is running the dashboard then, you add a button that publishes its value to the broker on that topic.
    You now have control of the SDRuno VFO A frequency from your web page.

  • SatNOGS

    I have picked up a side hobby of tracking small cube satellites and decoding their data.
    Sounds tricky, but honestly, its all been made super simple by the SatNOGS guys…. Satellite Network of Ground Stations….. Just load their Raspberry Pi image, hook up an antenna and receiver and you are up and running.
    They do all the hard work of tracking the sats, triggering your station and handling the decoding.
    (Its not that easy, but you get the idea).
    I started with a home made antenna, but got hooked on the concept so put my money where my time was and bought two antennas from a company in Florida. (Antennas.us)

    Main reason I went with these is because they look like pipes. I am still mindful of being in a pretty strict HOA and did not want to draw any more attention that necessary.
    I have two, a VHF and a UHF. Both then run into amplifiers and then to my Raspberry Pis. So yeah, I run two stations. 702 and 908. Why two? One for VHF and one for UHF.
    Where all this becomes really fun is that you have to manually (at the moment – the guys are working on some machine learning stuff) ‘vet’ your signals that your station picks up. So every few days I check in with my stations and look at the data they have received and vet it as good, bad or failed.

    Here is a short video of one of my decodes. It gives you an idea of the signal, the graphics and the audio from the satellite in orbit.
    Its really quite addictive (for a geek).
    The plan is, after 10,000 vets of signals on my UHF station, to continue with the upgrades of both the amplifier and the receiver. The better you can make your station, the less vetting you need to do and the more data you kick back to the community.

    As for coverage, for the longest time Victoria was not on the map… I was almost at the point of sending you guys something to get us up and running!
    But thankfully VK3XN has stepped up and is running a station out Ringwood East way…. Anyway, the more global coverage, the better.

    So yeah, its been soaking up my hobby time in the most delightful way.

  • Home Solar – Take 5

    Well, for the 5th time we had a guy come into our house and run the numbers for a solar system.
    Long story short, we use enough power to require a 8kw system, which fills most of the roof (honestly, its so scattered all over the roof that even I said it was an eye sore).
    The big issue with such a big system is the cost.
    We are looking at a 25 year loan to cover it. So I would be paying it off till I am 78 years old. Yikes.
    If we chose to sell the house in the mean time, we have to find someone that is willing to take on the payments. Some $150 bucks a month.
    On top of all that, if we run our AC, we will still get a power bill.
    The panels that we were quoted on were pretty much bottom of the tier made in China stuff. (And we all know what my experience with them has been like!)

    So, after all that, it should come as zero surprise that we decided, once again, to not go with the system.

    We have looked at leasing, owning, financing and tax credit and one other option I cant remember.
    I badly want solar, but just cant afford 40 grand.
    The difference in cost of systems here in the States vs in Australia is just astonishing.

  • Different side fence blew down.

    California has been having some crazy winds and fire season of late.
    Even Temecula got the winds. Normally being in the valley we are protected from that sort of thing, but not this time.
    So yeah, this time the front part of the side fence blew down…. The good part is that the bit we fixed last time survived (as I would expect).
    So we have torn the whole thing down, jacked out the rotted posts, re cemented them and are starting to put it all back together.

    The oceanographic aircraft tracking will be down while we do this as the big dish was nestled up against the fence. It is now currently sitting under our patio cover.

  • Empty Nest

    Been a busy few weeks helping Terry and Krysta move into their new rental house.
    They are only about 20 minutes away in Murrieta, so its not like they are in Idaho or anything, we can still drive around and see them.
    It sure is a lot quieter at home with just the two of us.
    We have turned Terry’s room into a home gym. Amy’s room is still the guest room with the bed, so we are still set for visitors etc.
    The workshop and garage are still a bit of a mess, but Freddy has cleaned up the rest of the place pretty good.
    Turns out we have used our little truck a ton. So much for my plan to sell it since we ‘never use it’. Hah! Fat chance of that.
    Freddy is on the look out for a washer/dryer for them and any book shelfs, I’m sure the truck has more work to do yet.