Summer 2018: No DX Doldrums Here!

Adafruit Ultimate GPS Logger

Yesterday, while the bands were acting like its the bottom of Cycle 24, I started playing with a couple new WiFi development boards, and wrote some C code on the Arduino platform. The goal is to see if I can create a remote wireless Field Strength Meter. The answer is Yes, so now the follow up question is “Exactly How?”.

What is the most fun part about these Maker – Ham projects (Ham Radio 2.0) is that there is a journey involved – its never a perfect straight line because quite a few options and parameters pop up along the way to challenge and excite you while you are tinkering, playing and learning. Its like Lego Blocks for Adults. . .

At first I thought about building several of these and putting them around an antenna, but then figured if this could be made lightweight enough – it could end up being the “payload” of a drone. (Don’t worry Kat – I’m not buying a drone!). The area around my antennas is covered with high grass and ticks – and so you won’t find me going after downed drones anytime soon. I also have way too many trees and a couple weird neighbors who would not be very “helpful” if I had to go after a downed drone.

But maybe just building a couple would be a good job – one for a forward direction and one off the back of the UrbanBeam or DX Engineering 2 element DV-40-P vertical array. With just two – I can check F/B and F/S.  I could even check “altitude” – like what happens with the UrbanBeam when its all over ground, half over the deck, and 1/3 over the roof. Maybe I can finally measure what Tom, N6BT has documented in his book “Array of Light” – where he discusses the effect of a house on your antenna(s).

Since I have both Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards, and the Raspberry Pi’s have WiFi built in – I might just get a GPS shield for it and also then program using Python (or Adafruit’s version of MicroPython) and be more productive than with C.

I’ll have to look at all of my options – I have all of the development boards, I will be ordering a GPS board when I figure it out. Because I will be wanting to poll the data off of an antenna when there is RF – I’ll have to create a logging routine that starts when there is micro voltage coming off a germanium diode and have a date timestamp and a voltage reading. Since the Pi can communicate with my laptop, it would be cool to name each one of these files something and completely control the field strength meter from my laptop as the field strength meter is in the near field of each antenna.

One thing that really helps a lot is Adafruit’s support. I find it worth paying a few extra bucks when they support every product every step of the way – especially on the software side. I’ve purchased less expensive Chinese products – but you are on your own support wise. I spent hours finally just going to Git yesterday and finding code that would work with the Chinese unit that I was playing with. Its a far cry from what you get from Adafruit – where I will know exactly what I am getting into even before I order the board(s). Their GPS doc on their site walks you through everything – and this means I can make a much better informed decision about Pi vs. Arduino and C vs. Python. Since the Pi is built on Linux – its more of a real OS than Arduino is – so I will almost always gravitate to it – but I need to keep an open mind too. This project is a dedicated loop that is triggered by voltage, and the data will need to be written to a MicroSD card – that much I am sure.

I’d rather use Python than C if I can get away with it – just because I want to move faster than my rusty C abilities. But Python is built from C – and you can see the lineage very clearly – its not a stretch at all to go back and forth between the two.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Summer DX Doldrums? What Summer DX Doldrums?

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