The uRAT Has Landed!


The uRAT now works very nicely – exactly as I had envisioned it working:

The “secret sauce” included:

  • Elecraft sharing a KPOD utility that is part of their development and QA suite (thanks Paul, N6HZ and Eric, WA6HHQ!)
  • WiringPi – Gordon Henderson of Devon, UK, who created a C library that makes it as easy to work with RaspberryPi GPIO as it is to wire up gadgets and code on Arduino. The GPIO utility was critical too – since Gordon uses Arduino pin mapping – which could confuse easily. His utility (which I wrote about a few blog posts ago) saves you from becoming really confused
  • Haydn Huntley – in Hawaii, who had the BEST TB6600 and Stepper wiring diagram and test code – so that I knew that I had the electrical wiring and dip switches correct
  • I know both C and Python, and at the right level for this project. Its 100% C – but I used Python to ensure my wiring was right and since I was learning WiringPi – it was most expedient to use Python to hack through part of the project. My C skills are a bit better than I thought – must have been those 6 months at Travana – where I did code a pretty intense C# program. But I have never gotten into the hardware stuff before, so this is just too cool

So, why is this a big deal?

  1. My Mod Bob antenna project will now be complete
  2. Its worthy of a QST Article
  3. I learned RaspberryPi and Arduino – and people at work are extremely interested – and even in ham radio now
  4. Elecraft can potentially market the KPOD to the “Maker” market. I have suggested that they maybe discuss with “Lady Ada” at Adafruit – AC2SN. This is just too perfect for the ham and maker markets and crowd
  5. Anyone can take “venerable” old analog antenna tuners and breathe new life into them. Or even build your own and get it right out at the antenna feed, and out of the shack (freeing up space and being more efficient in the process)
  6. I didn’t sit around bored whining about how conditions are crummy
  7. I put it on my LinkedIn and resume because it jives with my career, and “Internet of Things” and “Robotics” are becoming all the rage. Think about it – robots work because of Stepper motors – and this is about as simple a robot you can build
  8. I am having more fun than I think ever in ham radio and electronics. My wife said I look like I transported back to when I was 11 and build my first Heathkit – and yeah, even younger – when my parents had bought me this:

Of course, I have some code cleanup, and I am trying to decide how to share this with the world. I’d personally much rather have Elecraft distribute the code from their site since this is a KPOD-centric project, and maybe see if someone else would want to maintain a Git Repository and Open Source it. I am too busy to do that kind of administration stuff – plus I did that kind of work as an Oracle DBA for 22 years, so that was enough. At Credit Karma I created the companies first Data Dictionary in the first quarter I was there – and as a Staff Software Engineer, handed all my code over to younger people in our team and am teaching 8 people how to code in Python. This quarter I am teaching and also managing the “socialization” of the Data Dictionary and bringing in other departments as an internal sort of “Open Source” project. So – one of these kinds of projects is enough. At home – I just want to play! But the parallels behind designing and creating the uRAT and the CK Data Dictionary is a very cool and fun thing. Life is good!

Adafruit has this groovy little LCD Shield, and yes, I’m already thinking how cool would it be to enumerate the “ticks” from the KPOD and display on an LCD built into my control box. Maybe Version 1.1 – I think just getting the RaspberryPi wired up in my control box, getting the steppers out at the tuner, cleaning up the code, seeing where this project goes as far as getting it out in the world, writing a QST Article possibly, etc.

The potential for this project to become a spring board for so many fun things is what this is all about, and dreaming up product ideas is just way too much fun.

This is even more fun than last years Low Band Receiving Antenna work – and that was a blast!



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