Saturday, 2 April 2016

The Connected Beacon

I've put my new esp8266 module to use - in a multi-mode beacon which is connected to the internet...


Here you see the module on its programming board (as previously described), hooked up to an old faithful AD9850 DDS module, the output of which is running through a prototype of the Kanga / m0xpd Tx Shield (and through a 30m filter, which is out-of-shot).

Some simple code, derived from the Occam's Beacon software, previously published, is running a multi-mode beacon on 30m, putting out WSPR, QRSS and vanilla CW on a 10 minute cycle. The novelty (for today, at least) is the fact that the system derives accurate timing information (critically important for WSPR) from the internet, which it accesses through my home WiFi.

No more messing around with pressing a reset button just at the right moment. No messing with those chocolate teapots called 'real time clocks'. No messing with GPS modules (which are fine - but not so easy to use from the north-facing window of my shack).

Just power up and go - the system looks up the time from the NIST Time Servers, using code hacked from this example. Then the system checks every once in a while to ensure it is still on track with 'internet time'. Works a treat!

Whenever you play with a new beacon, there's always a childish thrill as the very first spots are returned...


and - as I said - this is a multi-mode system, so there was also a first QRSS sighting. In this case, a partial grab (of just the '0xpd' part of my call) by Mikael, SA6BSS, over in Slutarp...


followed, ten minutes later (and when the crystal module in the AD9850 had reached better thermal equilibrium) by a complete grab...


The spots and grabs keep coming - even as I write, I see I've just crossed the pond to GĂ©rard, VE3GF...


Now - of course - the ability to get the time from the internet isn't my motive for setting up this beacon. It is just the first step in a development process. But I've made that first step and done something new and useful.

Talking of new things, I see that Bill and Pete have big plans for SolderSmoke, making a 'major change in direction'. It all has something to do with Wire Wrapping (remember that??!??). Well - ironically, and quite by chance, my little programming board for the esp8266 was made with some old wire wrapping materials I found in the junk box...


Here you see the back side of the board and a couple of the reels of wire wrap cable I used to wire the whole shooting match up - along with the old wire-wrap tool I used to strip the insulation off the end of the scraps of wire before SOLDERING (no actual wire was wrapped in the making of this blog post).

Hopefully, the heavy involvement of wire wrapping materials (not to mention the 'on trend' nature of hooking radio beacons up to the internet) will make this material acceptable to my good friends at the WireWrapRap...

Good Luck with the new venture, guys!

...-.- de m0xpd

Update:

I left things running overnight and had a pretty good bag at 09:00 UTC...



Special thanks to John, vk5ev and Andrew, vk5mr, for copying the new connected beacon down under. Now it's time for some engineering work... 

 

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