Sunday, December 27, 2015

YoctoAzEl - Running on a PIPO X9 (micro win10 pc)

So a few weeks ago I discovered these nifty little Kiosk type Micro PC's made by PIPO.  I found one on for about $180 it has Windows 10 (Home) preinstalled no additional licensing required.  It runs just like a normal Windows 10 PC would on a small scale.  

It has more than enough system resources to be a perfect little TOUCH SCREEN desktop device to replace my old Rotor Controller.  And it can run 24/7 without requiring all the power hungry-ness of a normal computer.

It arrived today (Sunday!  what? ok cool).  I unboxed, plugged in power and a network cable on the same private network my desktop was plugged into which runs to the Yocto-Ethernet up on the tower, and then connected to the Yocto-3D.  (see other posts on this blog for details on that stuff).  I setup the WiFi also to get Windows updates and what-not.

I then downloaded my YoctoAzEl app from github, and ran it.  And...wha lah, it just works!  Wow!  Coolness.

I have some application changes to make to accomodate my app on a TOUCH SCREEN a little better, but for the most part it works right out of the box.

Here's a little demo first view of the PIPO X9 running YoctoAzEl.

Monday, December 7, 2015

YoctoAzEl - "RFI be gone"

As I've mentioned in some previous posts I had two forms of RFI from placing my Yocto-3D sensor mounted on my large 50 Mhz Yagi.  One was RFI from the Ethernet via a CAT6 line run up the tower (yeah that didn't seem like a good idea at the time either, but I resolved that, easily).  This RFI was effecting my Receiver.  The fix for that was posted earlier this last week on this blog.

The other was from RFI when I transmitted QRO 1.5Kw at 50 Mhz.  This sometimes caused intermittent drop out of the down link signal from the sensor to it's base located next to the Yocto-Ethernet.

This was going to be a little tricky I thought, but I found that the down link was just fine from the Yocto-Ethernet (the RFI problem I already resolved).

I bought a little Aluminum box from Bud industries that is a NEMA 4 box.  If you don't know what that is google it.  This box is 6"x3"x2.5".  I also bought some Belden 9842 which is two twisted pair in a 90% braided shield, and a 100% tin foil shield.  Not cheap and not easy to find.  The price was $1.65 USD per foot.  But this stuff is practically bullet proof.  With an EXCELLENT jacket on it.  Perfect for rotating around my tower on COLD days/nights. 

Next I attached the shield to the inside of the new Aluminum box with a small screw.  Just inside the box where the Water Tight Cable Grip is mounted (with a 9/16" hole through the box).  

Then Epoxied two plastic stands to the inside of the alum. box and attached the sensor head to those and soldered the 4 wires to the Yocto-3D.

15 feet of cable is what I used.  The other end runs into the Steel NEMA 4 box I've talked about on this blog before related to this project.  on the outside of the box I added a Toriod doughnut of mix 43 about 2" wide or so and ran the cable through that 4 times and then on into the NEMA 4 box where I had another Toriod of the same mix/size and numbers of wraps.  I grounded the shield of that end at the entrance of the box as well.  And ran the 4 wires to the Yocto-3D base.  I added two snap-on mix 43 ferrites just before where they go to the base.

Now I'm running 1.5kw again and there's no down link interuption on the sensor data anymore.

SOOOO I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will resolve the last of the RFI.  In all it really wasn't that big of a deal to resolve.  The hardest part was finding the parts I wanted to use, and getting them shipped here in a timely fashion without spending too much.

All in all I think it was worth the effort and 4 extra trips up/down the tower to resolve it. :-)

Here's a few pix of the work I did.

YoctoAzEl - Controlled by DX Labs "DXView" Software

As I mentioned in my last post,( ) I wanted to be able to control my own Rotor Controller software from a 3rd-party application (for example: DX Labs - DXView).  One of the nice things about having this functional is that from DX Labs Spot Collector as spots are flowing in I can now right-click on a spot and choose "Rotate to short path for <callsign>" and the DX Labs Suite will be able to tell my own software ("YoctoAzEl") to turn the rotor for my antenna to the correct position.

This morning I accomplished this VERY easily.  Since the other I had tested remote access using Telnet to a local comm port and was able to use the same commands ("DCU-1" style) from a telnet session 1000 miles away, I figured this would work just as well.  And it does :-)

What I used was Eltima's software "Virtual Serial Port" and I created a pair of linked Virtual Comm ports.

Since DXView can only go up to COM16, and since COM1-15 on my system are already all in use, I used COM16 for the DXView side, and COM40 for the YoctoAzEL side.

Above shows DXView's window, note the Antenna presets which are clickable to turn a connected rotor.

And because DXView is setup and connected to the virt comm port now when I right-click a call that was spotted I can then select "Rotate short path heading for <callsign>" and my antenna will now turn to that heading.

Here's a short video demo of this working.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

YoctoAzEl - Configure for Remote Control

First of all CLICK on any of these images to see larger versions zoomed in.

There is a Serial Command specification used to control Ham Radio Rotator Controllers from remote applications.  It's called "DCU-1" and I think was originally used in HyGain Controllers.  It's been around for years, and many 3rd party applications as well as rotor controller manufacturer's use this simple command structure to inter-communicate with hardware based Rotor Controllers.  DX Labs is one such software (for example), and an example of a rotor controller that exposes this functionality via it's serial port might be "Green Heron"s RT-21 or the HyGain DCU-1, among a raft of others.

So for example in DX Labs Suite "Spot Collector" application allows you to right click on a callsign that's been spotted, and select to turn your rotor 'short path' or 'long path' to the radio station that was spotted. ( Here's a functional DEMO of this working NOW )

I've used this feature over the years and found it to be VERY useful.  It allows the realization that a station I'm interested in has been heard by someone recently, and provides the functionality to simply right-click and select that path I want my antenna to be turned, and it just does it for me.  Freeing me up to prepare for attempting to make the contact as soon as my antenna is turned to the correct path.

Since I've used this quite frequently and found it to be a very nice feature, and since I'll be replacing my RT-21 with my own controller and using of my own software "YoctoAzEl", I thought I would try to implement a similar functionality within YoctoAzEl.

This is my first attempt at doing something like this.  And so far it's not exactly what I've described above.  BUT it's VERY COOL all the same.  And I don't think it'll require much to implement this exactly as the functionality I've noted above works now that I've completed this phase.

What I've done is this.  

First I use a FREEWARE app which creates a Virtual Serial Port "Eltima".  The software is called VSP.  It can be downloaded here:

Once that's installed start it up and configure it like this (for example):

Once this is saved it creates a virtual serial port using Eltima Drivers - It will even show up in your Device Manager as the Comm Port you named it.  (In this case COM40).

Then in my own software I configure it to connect to that COM40 at start up like this:

Now we have an open Virtual Comm Port, and YoctoAzEl is connected to it, waiting for incoming commands.

I tested this on my local PC, but then I was thinking wouldn't it be cool to control my software/rotor from a really remote location?  So I accessed a remote server located on the other side of the country which I have access to, and used TELNET to connect to port 3040 (as configured in VSP) [by the way I had to add a path through my router to allow this].

Then I started to issue commands...and WAH FRIGGIN LAH!  The damned thing works!  LOL it wouldn't right?

Now here is a short video demo of this in operation from start to finish.

The next phase for this will be a lot less impressive, and I'll simply use VSP to create a virtual comm port that is used solely on the local PC that will allow inter-application access directly to YoctoAzEl via a Virtual Comm Port and this effectively replicates what I described as the goal near the top of this blog post.

More on that once I've added it, tested and demo'd it.

UPDATE: I added it :-) ( Here's a functional DEMO of this working NOW )

Friday, December 4, 2015

YoctoAzEl - RFI Reduction

After I put the Yocto-Ethernet and Yocto-3D sensor up on the tower I noticed I had RFI coming in on my Receiver.  This is what it looked like.

(10mbps - click to zoom)

(100mbps - click to zoom)
Tons of little birdies in this shot.

The Yocto-Ethernet is being fed using CAT6 from a FS108PNA (PoE Switch) which provided ethernet as well as power to the Yocto-Ethernet all in the same CAT6.

After seeing this, I decided to add a toriod (ferrite doughnut) made of Mix 43 up in the NEMA box just where the CAT6 line enter it.  And add a short ground lead to the CAT6's shield.  

(shows ground strap & toriod on CAT6)

(shows ground Strap - kinda - it's there behind the cat)

This solved the RFI getting into my Receiver. 100%.

The next issue which still exists but hopefully not for much longer.  Is that when I transmit I sometimes loose data downlink from the Yocto-3D sensor to the Yocto-Ethernet.  It's not affecting the Yocto-Ethernet down-link to the FS108PNA switch, as I can continuously ping both to and from this device while Transmitting.  

So the issue is likely RF getting into the down-link line from the sensor to the ethernet hub.

Presently I've just been using CAT6 line from the Sensor Head to the Sensor Base located in the NEMA box.  The CAT6 shield is grounded inside the box.

I'm going to replace the CAT6 from the sensor head to the base with Beldon 9842 90% braid shielding plus 100% tin shield.  I'll ground the braid in the NEMA box, and add a similar toriod to the cable in the box.  This is RS-485 cable.  Two twisted Pairs.

Here's what the cable looks like, it just arrived today, I'm still waiting for a NEMA 4 Aluminum box which will replace the PVC housing I'm using for the sensor.  I'm also still waiting for the New Toriod and some ferrite snap on's as well. Here's where I bought this.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

YoctoAzEl Materials List (so far)

3D Sensor (Azimuth / Tilt (Elevation)

Data Transmission from 3D Sensor to PC

Tower Mounted NEMA (4) Box (weather-tight)

  • Bud Industries Model # SNB3731 Mouser ($55 USD, I got mine new on Ebay for ($20 USD)

Rotor Controller (USB) ($90 USD)
  • CAT6 for Ethernet and Splitting between Sensor (head/base)
  • NEMA (4) Box (to mount things outside)
  • PVC (if you so choose) Aluminum NEMA 4 enclosure would be better!
  • If you use the Yocto-Ethernet you will likely also want to use a PoE type Network Switch.  This provides Power to the Yocto-Ethernet (and) Yocto-3D via same.  I'm using a Netgear FS108PNA like this one.
  • Belden 9842 (rs-485, 90% shielded braid, tin foil (dbl shield, twisted pair) $1.64 USD / Foot. Can be found here: Used to shield sensor "head" data from RF on it's way to the base.
  • Toriods