Mike Zero Romeo Victor Bravo

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Tidying up the whole shack make life easier to reach stuff but did not completely cure one issue, that of RF flying about the place and getting into things where it was not wanted.

I tried 10m this morning and two things happened. First, it set off the house alarm. Second, wsjt-x would not hold a tx cycle or tuning. The autotune was happy but that acts quickly. Using wsjt-x's tuning for a few seconds, or transmitting a CQ and the FT450D would tx, then off, then try again etc. This has happened before.

First off, yes there is RF in the shack and it's due to the rather naff antenna wire in the loft. I need to live with that until I get some wire in the air outside. And yes, I've been saying that for ages! But before it was really down to the mass of cables all entwined and those have been completely tidied up now. So I was rather annoyed that the same issue has returned.

And then I discovered that my attempts to dust round the desk had moved the serial cable between the FT450D and the Signalink and it was now laid across the antenna cable. Moving it cured the issue. For some reason when I fitted ferrites to that cable I only put one at the Signalink end, not the rig end. Fixed that too.

Some leads are still too long though. No sense really in tidying the place up but leaving long leads, so some soldering is planned...

Recently the outside lights here decided to switch off at random intervals for no apparent reason. There are 5 different controllers, two being Zigbee bulbs and the others Zigbee switches. All use 2.4GHz. All had been running reliably for maybe a year. On/off cycles are controlled by scripts on the server as well as manually via an app.

In each case whichever set of lights had gone out did report as being off and would turn back on via the app. Some days there was no issue, on others at least one would go off at some point. The Zigbee bulbs never failed, just the switches.

There was no evidence of any commands being sent to turn the lights off, but there was the occasional error being reported. Rebooting the server made no difference. A power cycle of the server seems to have cured the issue so I am considering it likely to be the Zigbee transceiver itself.

This is now nagging at me to figure out what happened and presumably it will reoccur some time in the future. Too many other things to sort out though!

I found an issue with this free version of Writefreely in that one cannot add footer HTML. You can add code to go after each post, but really I want a footer and that is only available in the 'pro' version as far as I can see. That is something I did not research when I decided to move from Wordpress.

So, currently the domain m0rvb.uk is pushed to here and I think I need to split the domains once again so I can maintain things like the links to the webring. There are a couple of static pages there too which detail some of my longer (read, more lazy!) projects but as yet there is no design so it's just rather unattractive. https://m0rvb.uk/docs/qo100.htm is an example.

Design is something which eludes me. I can critique designs from a user perspective and indeed that was a part of my day job several years ago. But design my own? Nah. The best (pretty hopeless) design I managed was that of my valve website https://valvecollector.uk/ and that is pretty basic by any standard.

Update: so I fiddled with a bit of CSS... not finished yet.

It's surprising just how many things one gathers that need Ethernet. Having just made an NTP server out of a Raspberry Pi that took the last port in my 8+2 port PoE switch I needed more ports. The switch is a Netgear GS110TP, 8 Ethernet ports and up to two SFP modules for interlinking.

So I have added a second GS110TP linked to the original one via a short fibre lead and two SFP transceivers. The house now has 4 Ethernet switches, all Netgear, making 48 Ethernet ports in total but not all in use, plus 3 wifi access points, Netgear again and all PoE powered.

Actually I could have settled for a non-PoE switch as the additional one but this one came cheap, and new in box.

All the switches and access points do SNMP too, centrally monitored using MRTG. Why? Because they can!

I decided to make my own Stratum 1 NTP server for the home. No, I don’t need the accuracy, but localising stuff like that is always interesting. So, I recently purchased an Uputronics GPS HAT from Pi Hut which is marked Raspberry Pi GPS+RTC Rev 6.4. It arrived next day along with some other bits. I also got another PoE HAT and already had a Pi 4. Raspbian installed on an SD card – this time I remembered to first set it up to work via ssh – and the Pi booted ok with the GPS board flashing it’s ‘time pulse’ LED once per second.

Raspberry Pi 4 NTP server encased

I followed instructions on the web, in particular from the two websites shown at the bottom of this post. Initial setting up of the Pi involves the use of raspi-config to stop the serial port login shell but leaving the port enabled, and disabling serial getty and bluetooth. At this point, doing cat /dev/ttyAMA0 should return data from the GPS receiver but all I got was garbled characters. More on that later.

The next step was to enable PPS support which involves modifications to /boot/config.txt and a module adding to /etc/modules, plus downloading pps-tools. Running sudo ppstest /dev/pps0 looked ok but again, more on that later.

Next was to install gpsd and modifying /etc/default/gpsd plus setting it up to run at boot time. After a reboot running sudo service gpsd status returned valid information.

The gpsd-clients package was installed which includes gpsmon. Running gpsmon showed that all was not well. It generated a few lines but nothing that meant any sense.

I then returned to sudo ppstest /dev/pps0 and noticed this time that all it was giving was timeouts. I may well have missed this in my haste earlier as it reports ok, but then gives timeouts. An, unfortunately not recorded web page suggested adding arm_64bit=0 to /boot/config.txt and after rebooting sudo ppstest /dev/pps0 now produced a valid line, once per second. Ok.

Retracing my steps I ran gpsmon again to take a closer look and noticed that in the few lines it managed to display was the entry ‘”bps”:9600’.

That was the lightbulb moment.

The GPS board defaults to 115200. Stopping gpsd and running minicom -b 115200 -o -D /dev/ttyAMA0 produced valid GPS data. Modifying /etc/default/gpsd to set the baud rate to 115200 (GPSD_OPTIONS=“-n -s 115200”) fixed the issue.

But, gpsmon still does not produce all the output that I had expected, in particular it does not populate the time and date fields. Running cgps does show valid information and suggests that all is well and there is something I am missing regarding gpsmon. At the end of the day it all appears to be working fine.

The next package installed was chrony. This all went to plan and running chronyc and its sources and sourcestats options showed valid data after the system had settled down for a couple of minutes after boot.

The final leg of this journey was to set up various systems to use the new NTP server. On the Pi systems this is typically done via /etc/systemd/timesyncd.conf and then restarting systemd-timesyncd; the Mac was done via System settings –> General –> Date & Time, and the various network switches and wi-fi APs each had their own way but each was obvious. Of course one thing to remember is these are all static systems that never leave the house. Setting a local IP into a mobile system would not be that great an idea.

The final thing that tripped me up was that in chronyc options such as clients would give an error. Running chronyc under sudo fixed those.

Raspberry Pi 4 NTP server encased

And there it is in a tall metal Pi case also from Pi Hut and rather unceremoniously chopped with some cutters to enable the SMA connector to fit. This case has plenty of vertical space for the Pi, the PoE HAT and the GPS HAT.

Sources: https://austinsnerdythings.com/2021/04/19/microsecond-accurate-ntp-with-a-raspberry-pi-and-pps-gps/ https://www.jacobdeane.com/iot/2020/building-a-gps-based-time-server/

I now have an RSPdx which arrived today and connected it in the loft to a discone which was already there. I changed the o/s on my Pi 4 that runs an ADS-B receiver to the 64-bit flavour, reinstalled FR24feeder and installed SDRconnect. Running it as a server it communicates very nicely with SDRconnect on the Mac Mini. It will be interesting to watch this software as it develops.

One this was clear… the discone is useless! While I realise it is little use at HF it is pretty deaf thereafter. So I have moved the RSPdx down to the shack so it can be plugged into ‘proper’ antennas. It is currently pulling in 20m. Of course, my HF antenna is on a tuner so I need to tune it via one of the HF rigs and then swap leads to plug the SDR in, but that is not much of an issue because it is all done via the BNC patch panel. I also had it looking at 2m via the white stick in the loft.

My old RSP2 is destined to go into the garage with a couple of VLF antennas as it is far too electrically noisy in the house for that. More on that if I ever get round to it…

I have, more or less finished the shack reorganisation which took 4 days! There are still some audio leads to sort out and I plan to do some woodwork to mount the two HF transceivers together. But here it is...

Shack layout

It does surprise me how I created space out of the previous mess of wires. Now the radios and PCs are all in reach of each other, test gear is all in one place, and the Creed 75 teleprinter has joined the shack (pity it is not yet working...)

Of the 4 screens, the top two are on a Linux PC, the bottom left is Windows 10 and the bottom right is on a Mac mini. A bit of very useful software called 'barrier' allows theMac keyboard, mouse and trackpad to control all three systems. All audio is connected through a mixer (or will be once I add a couple more leads) which also provides inputs to the computers.

Now to mess it all up again... how long do you think?

I have stopped updating my previous blog at m0rvb.uk and will continue now at this WriteFreely installation. Several of the old blog posts have been copied across to here and I will work my way back through any older posts which are more than just irrelevant waffle (!)

The old blog was Wordpress and although there is nothing wrong in that Wordpress is rather bloated by the fact it can be modified in so many ways with themes and plugins. All I want is something really simple but not so simple that I need to create static HTML by hand. WriteFreely is just that, minimalist, no added extra weight. Let's see where it goes.

Any relevant posts from the old blog have been copied to this new one and the old blog has now been removed. Some of the threads are being made into separate documents.

This new blog can be followed via @jeremy@m0rvb.radio

Still sorting the shack out today, hopefully two more days and it’s done. Today’s task was to fit PoE HATs to the two Raspberry Pi systems that run things like Pi-Star, the ADSB grabber and HamClock. These were both Pi 3B’s which do not have the pins for PoE – the 3B+ or the 4 does.

So, first off, strip the cards out of the box. Not too bad. The first Pi 4 and its HAT was easy but the Pi Star one has the RF board. Installing the PoE HAT does not leave any of the Pi 4’s pins protruding. Fortunately I had a small stock of extenders, in fact, just enough. Not the neatest of constructions but it works.

Two Pi4B cards, PoE hats and RF board

One thing caught me out though. The Pi Star Pi gets a static IP address via DHCP. When it booted up it would not let me connect or get to the web interface. A scan of the network found it and only then did I remember that, of course changing the card means a new MAC address! Anyway, both cards now have their MAC addresses in pi-hole (even though the IP is static doing it that way makes pi-hole record their activity against the names) and the Pi Star one has been reconfigured with a static IP rather than DHCP.

Some years ago when I found myself with some spare time I decided, finally after forever to get licensed. Heading to the RSGB I tried to contact all the clubs within a 20 mile radius. I got no replies. None. I checked each website to find them horribly out of date with events several years, in one case 10 years old, and news pages equally old. Some had failing email addresses as contact.

So I contacted the RSGB to ask if they could put me in touch with a club that was going to hold the foundation exam. I just wanted to do the practicals and the exam as I really did not need the actual course. No reply.

Annoyed, I wrote a rather blunt email and sent it to the Radcom team for the Last Word column. To their credit rather than just publish my letter they put me in touch with a local club that was just outside my search area, and the rest is history. I revised my email to Radcom to make it less blunt and it was duly published.

Now several years on I find myself revisiting some of those clubs that never replied and/or had outdated websites. Guess what? No change! A very quick check on a few local and national clubs shows one with a calendar of events which ended in 2021, one which advertises the 2023 National Hamfest as being somewhere they will have a stand even though that event was cancelled, and some with essentially illegal uses of cookies with no opt out.

Yes, there are many that are right up to date, and all credit to them. I know how hard it is to keep a website fresh. It’s hard enough with a worthless little toy blog like this one. But if you are going to have a website and cannot keep to fresh then don’t put on anything that will stagnate, and at least have valid contact information. And if you publish an email address as a contact then make sure you answer. This is not rocket science. You are communicators after all.