What software do you put on a fresh PC?

I decided after 3 years and a few weird errors here and there it was time to refresh the copy of my Windows 10 on my main desktop PC in the ham shack. (I know, I have Linux and Mac here too!) After keeping a list for a few days, here’s what I use most.

Making a list and checking it twice

Google Chrome
I like Chrome for browsing and I use many of the other Google features like Sheets, Drive and Photos, so this all stays integrated. Since it keep my logins and history across all my different machines, this is the universal tool for me.

It’s a Ham Shack, So…
One of the reasons I chose this particular PC (ASUS ROG GR8 II) is that it was powerful enough to run my Flex 6500 graphically, and let me multitask. Here’s where I start from a ham perspective:

  • Smart SDR for Windows. I upgraded to the latest version, 3.1.11 which gave me a radio software upgrade as well.
  • N1MM Logger Plus Well integrated with the Flex, this is my go-to logging software for any contest I do, plus it puts the DX spots on my Flex spectrum to find-em fast.
  • Ham Radio Deluxe Why two loggers? Well HRD is more than my logger, it’s how I do digital and Logbook of the World (yes, I have TQSL as well.) It’s my non-contest, everyday QSO software.
  • Audacity I could have put this with other PC items, but mostly what I use it for is recording my radio items like strange Shortwave signals and it’s a great non linear audio editor.

As I go along I will add items like software for programming my ICOM and Kenwood radios, but not until I need them.

Graphics and Video
I’ve been enjoying making blogs and YouTube videos since I have been retired. I use at least one of the next 3 daily it seems.

  • GIMP – The Gnu Image Manipulation Program – Lousy name, great free and open source replacement for Photoshop or other graphical editors. It’s cross platform too, so I can use it on my Mac and Linux machines as well.
  • Blender – This one was controversial when I posted about it as a video editor. I learned non-linear video editing about 25 years ago, and this felt comfortable to my experience level. Plus if I want to learn more 3D rendering, it’s there. Again it’s free, open source, and multi-platform so I get to learn once and use anywhere.
  • Streamlabs OBS – When I want to do a YouTube live show, I use Streamlabs OBS. Look at that, free and open source and multi-platform again. There’s a theme here. It’s very easy to use and I was really please that it had saved my scenes across-installs so I could just click and go.

Raspberry Pi
I don’t need a lot of software for Pi because most of what I do is related to programming on the devices themselves. But I need something to handle writing images to MicroSD cards and creating backups. Win32DiskImager is my tool. While I primarily use it for the MicroSD, I have written ISO’s to a USB card with it in a pinch. Pick a drive, read or write from it. It is that simple. To clean those cards, the SD card association supplies a formatter.

So that’s it, the first 11 programs (don’t call them apps on a PC, just, no) on my clean desktop. I’m off to make some contacts!

Follow Friday – YouTube Edition – April 24

Time to share what I am watching, hope it inspires you to watch something new.

Simone Giertz
The queen of shitty robots is awesome. In her most recent video she makes a “proud parent” machine and uses a bunch of dirty words. Which is awesome in so many ways.



Fran Lab
Fran has a very similar taste in projects to me. I found a Heathkit GC1005 clock to refurbish at the Orlando Hamcation, back before we had to social distance. Come to find out Fran had recently refurbished one which really helped me. Mine is still in progress but check out Fran’s here.



Mythbusters Jr.
I didn’t really jump into this because I was put off by the non-Adam version that they tried to reboot through a reality show. Lots of fun builds here. I was really hyped to find a Breaking Bad episode.


Whose Line Is It Anyway Cocktail Hour
Every Monday the cast from Whose Line gets together to preview the show and basically talk s#!t. It’s fun to watch with your feet up. Here’s the video from Monday 4/20.


I have a YouTube Channel too
I talk about clocks, ham radio and other nerdy stuff. I just added a video of the Chronometer Raspberry Pi clock I built this week. As they say, please Like, Comment and Subscribe!

Chronometer – Quick Pi Project

I came across a Reddit post by u/rothman857 that made a Raspberry Pi Clock he calls Chronometer with a really unique view of time. They bring in a bunch of different formats like Solar Time and Metric Time. Since I like time and I’m interested in those views, I thought this would be a fun build.

As a net time to make this, it only took me a few hours to get going. I recommend using the screen he specified which is a quick Amazon order. I tried this with another screen I had and it just didn’t work out. Most of that time was learning two functions I haven’t explored before, changing the video settings and console fonts. A few notes on those items if you are building.

Setting Pi Screen Resolution
The display uses a unique setting of 480×320 which I couldn’t seem to drive with a default setup. So using the Raspberry Pi Documentation, I made a custom configuration.

sudo nano /boot/config.txt

I commented out all the existing video settings and added these to the end, which worked for me:

#custom for Chronometer
hdmi_force_mode=1
hdmi_group=2
hdmi_mode=87
hdmi_cvt=480 320 60 1 0 0 0
hdmi_drive=2

Setting a fixed console font
My first try was to use this article at stevencombs.com which in hindsight may have worked if I had specified the Latin and VGA font I wanted, but when I went with the instructions as written it didn’t take the way I wanted. As a follow-up I experimented with several of the suggestions in this StackExchange thread. The “.profile” change didn’t work for me, so I tried Eric Woodward’s suggestion of changing in console-setup.

sudo nano /etc/default/console-setup

#custom for Chronometer
CODESET="Lat15"
FONTFACE="VGA"
FONTSIZE="8x14"

That’s it. Install and run the chronometer.py program and run it. You’re good to go.

Final thoughts. I like this kind of project because I learn more about the inner workings of Pi and I feel like it’s something I can go in and tweak later. For instance, I would like to make one of the time displays be similar to the Union Square Metronome. I will share progress if I get there on my project list. Obligatory video below.

Raspberry Pi with Chrony

I’ve been a fan of having a Stratum 1 time server on my LAN ever since I first read GM8ARV’s page. One of my first ones can be seen in the background on my YouTube video about Leap Second tracking.

I found an article last week where Facebook has been doing analysis on time server software and has come to the recommendation that the Chrony software is better than NTP for performance. I’ve actually been using NTPSEC for a couple of years now, but I am open to change so I’m setting up a Chrony server.

Rebuilding Woz

Before

When I originally designed my ham shack / tech center, it had 3 ham radio operating stations to allow for some contest operating. I named them after favorite scientists, Tesla, Edison and Woz. Tesla is my main station, Edison is where I do experiments and have guest ops. Woz was used a few times for contests, but we found my small lot wasn’t really conducive for multi-multi operations.

A couple of the radios recently went out of the shack so the Woz station has been used for burning DVD’s and other odd stuff. As you can see from the top it became a junk spot. So I decided to collect up some of my Metrology equipment into the space.

Woz Refreshed

Here’s the updated version. On the left, you’ll see the “Harrison” display (as in John Harrison, the father of the portable clock) which tracks my GPS clocks. Below it is my HP 5328A which includes a super accurate 10 Mhz crystal oscillator and a 100-1200 Mhz element which allows for VHF/UHF testing as well. I use this to calibrate my HF radio.

Skipping over the scope for a second, there is a small box on the glass shelf with three connectors. This is a GPS disciplined oscillator that also puts out a 10 MHz standard signal.

Next over is a Techtronix oscilloscope which allows for a bunch of cool measurements. In this case, I set up both the HP and the GPSDO standards to compare their output.

Screen Capture

Here are the 2 traces. The top shows the output of the HP and the bottom is the output of the GPSDO. Since both are not up to temp yet, I was not worried about how they compare, but I will try again in a few hours.

Use the social links to contact me with thoughts or tips and enjoy!

Follow Friday

I have been heavily into the YouTube thing over the last few months, and I have some old and new favorites. Enjoy this week’s nerd-heavy list of things to watch.

SpaceX

Want to watch cool rocket stuff regularly? SpaceX is about to become the first American company to send american Astronauts to the ISS in over 10 years. Plus their launching an internet satellite constellation and working on this little “trip to Mars” thing.

The Modern Rogue

This has a “Mythbusters meets Magic and other Scams” vibe as two “Professional Idiots” do things like making homemade thermite to cook steaks, play with RFID, discuss everyday carry items and even a little ham radio.

The Lockpicking Lawyer

The Lockpicking Lawyer has an artists touch. His videos are super basic, pretty much a camera and a lock, but he gives you a lot of different insights on build quality and how some things are safer than others (avoid TSA locks). Great way to get under the mechanics of how these things work in our daily lives.

Techmoan

I think he’s most well known for his camera reviews, but I really get into all the retro-tech items that he covers. This particular video shows a German 8-track style record player, but he’s covered old computers, hi-fi and phones as well.

TWIT

I feel like Leo Laporte is my older “brother from another mother.” He’s successfully put together a podcast network, TWIT, that covers tech news, photography, internet security, Apple, Android and more every week. I greatly enjoy his Tech Guy radio show podcasts every Saturday and Sunday.

And a plug for me

Part photography, part ham radio and Raspberry Pi tech, part cat videos, Space stuff, just what interests me that day. I’m having fun sharing and making new stuff, so please subscribe just to see what the hell I am going to do next.

More next week!

Metro Atlanta Ham Radio and Covid-19

As of 02-Apr-20 19:55 EDT

I thought I would capture some of the major notes related to Amateur Radio and the Corona Virus in one place for Metro-Atlanta. Amateur Radio Newsline has a international list on their Facebook page.

Ongoing

  • GA ARES will have nightly nets at 1900 Local, 2300 UTC.
    • D-Star net on Reflector 30B Monday, Wednesday and Friday
    • HF Net on 3.971 MHz with 3.923 MHz alternate – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday

Upcoming

  • Georgia QSO Party CHANGES
    • Saturday 4/11 only 1600-0400Z (Noon-Midnight Local)
    • No Rovers
    • Multi-Op only for Virtual Radios or Multi-Ham Homes
  • Weekly Georgia DMR net Wednesdays at 8 PM on TG 3113
  • 2020 SVHFS Conference Postponed (was April in Gainesville)
  • Dayton Hamvention (May) is cancelled for 2020
  • Atlanta Hamfest is tentatively on for June 6 – Cobb County is currently using the location for drive-through COVID-19 testing.

Historical

  • Atlanta Radio Club meeting for Thursday 4/2 Cancelled but special net at 7 PM
  • North Fulton held virtual meeting 3/17
  • GARS Workshop on 3/17 was postponed.
  • Atlanta Radio Club Friday lunch cancelled 3/13
  • North Fulton 3/14 VE Session Cancelled
  • North GA QRP (NOGA) Meeting cancelled

If I missed anything or if there are any updates, email me at (mycall) @ arrl.net.

Polishing on the FrankenPi

FrankenPi Version 1.1

Two weeks ago I published a blog post detailing the creation of a Raspberry Pi based APRS tracker and Pi-Star hot spot. I’ve made a couple of enhancements since then and I thought I would share an update.

Going with a dedicated 4G connection

I had planned on using my mobile phone as my WiFi connection for getting packets into and out of the unit. During my testing, getting in and out of the car and having the Pi reconnect to the Wifi hotspot was not as seamless as I would like. So I added a 4G connection with a Netgear LB2120 4G Modem.

“Jim, why didn’t you get a Wifi modem?”

– Me to myself.

Why didn’t I? Well, I did want something I could directly connect to, and I though the device I purchased had wifi. But it didn’t so I made the most of it. I knew I wanted something with Ethernet so in the future this could go on my LAN so all is not lost.

Pi as a Wifi Hotspot

Another part of having a 4G connection was to have diversity of networks as I travel. I had a breakdown on the Blue Ridge Parkway last year and my Verizon phone had marginal coverage when I really needed it. I put this on the TMobile network, so I could make a quick Wifi call if I had to in a pinch.

Since the Netgear does not have Wifi, I added Wifi Hotspot functionality to the Raspberry Pi. It’s not what I would use every day for a Wireless Router, but it will work to do some configuration or make a quick call. I bounced around to different instructions as I customized this, so I don’t have one clear place to point to for a “how to” but you can start at RaspberryPi.org.

Which Digital? Why not D-Star and DMR?

I did a lot of programming of my radios to get the ready with the latest D-Star reflectors, and believe me http://www.dstarinfo.com/ is my go-to site. While that is ready to rock, I thought I might want some DMR along as well. Instead of turning them both on at the same time, I configured 2 SD cards. One will boot up with D-Star configured on the Pi-Star, the other with DMR.

I am hopeful that this will make it easy to switch on the fly at the next stop I make without too many hassles.

And a Big Battery

While I was wandering around the half-empty shelves of my local Fry’s Electronics I found a nice deal on a 20K mAh battery. I also dug in to Amazon to find a 5V to 12V upconverter for the Netgear device.

Big battery!

The two devices combined draw less than 1 amp, so I’ve had this running for >12 hours with battery to spare. I intentionally did not mount the battery on the board to make it hot -ish- swap-able if needed.

I don’t expect to polish much more on this before I depart in 10 days but always open to suggestions on changes. Connect with me at the links via the site.