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HOWTO: Configure Hamlib for Linux Hams - Part 2
radio : by Tommy - December 3rd 2013, 06:48PM
This is a continuation of a two part series about how to configure hamlib for Linux ham radio users.
To get started, be sure to read through Part 1.

In the last post, I pointed out that hamlib was create to simplify the once fragmented world of computer control for amateur radio. With hamlib in place, developers can interact with hamlib which serves as an abstraction layer of sorts for software development. Developers don't need to worry that you're running a particular model of radio, so long as you get your radio working with hamlib, your radio is supported.
I'm going to assume you have /dev/radio and /dev/rotator already configured (since we did that in the previous post). Now, we're going to configure the daemons (servers) that allow a myriad of radio related applications to interact with your amateur radio equipment.

Hamlib centers around two core daemons: rigctld and rotctld. The daemons receive commands from applications via TCP. It is possible to have these daemons controlled via the network if you so wish. That functionality is a bit beyond the scope of this article, but the concepts below are exactly the same and just requires the correct ports be opened. Speaking of ports, rigctld and rotctld use ports 4532 and 4533, respectively. Also note that there is no security built into these devices. Should you need external connectivity, you should create an SSH tunnel.

Find your equipment
The first step in configuring rigctld is to find if your particular radio (and rotator for rotctld) is supported. Here is a list of all supported radios for rigctld (chances are, if it's a modern radio with computer interface, it's supported). For rotctld, things get a little more difficult. In order to see if your rotator controller is supported, you need to identify which protocol is supported.

Continue reading...

tags: ham radio hamlib linux satellite

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HOWTO: Configure Hamlib for Linux Hams - Part 1
radio : by Tommy - December 2nd 2013, 8:11PM
Linux and ham radio, where two of the geek worlds collide. Fortunately, with so many geeks involved in both pursuits, a lot of great tools have emerged. Unfortunately, documentation on how to configure some of it was hard to come by. (At least, it seemed that way to me.) Here, I hope to layout as quickly and easily as possible the steps required for other hams to configure hamlib on their linux computers. I'm going to assume you're running a modern version of linux and have a USB connection to your radio and/or rotator.

What is Hamlib?
First of all, Hamlib is a set of ham radio control libraries that allows amateur radio operators to control their radio and antenna rotators via their computer. Hamlib abstracts many device-specific control issues from application developers, allowing for a more robust user experience across several programs. Prior to hamlib, there were several different tools and libraries. None of these tools provided a common API for programmers to interface. As a result, the application landscape was fragmented and functionality suffered. Now, with hamlib, programmers can utilize hamlib to interact with a whole range of devices.

To use hamlib, you must first have a computer interface cable from your radio to your computer. Without this, everything else here is pretty useless. If you don't have a cable yet, look on eBay for cables tailored to your radio. (It's where I found mine.)
My radio is a Yaesu FT-847 which has a DB9 serial port for CAT computer control. To interface with my computer, I use a cheap USB-to-serial adapter - nothing special. My antenna rotator is a Yaesu FT-5500 with the brilliantly simple WA8SME Satellite Tracker Interface from the ARRL.

USB, Linux and udev
Most modern distributions of Linux include a subsystem to handle when USB devices are inserted.

Continue reading...

tags: ham radio hamlib linux satellite

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HOWTO: NOAA Weather Satellites
radio : by Tommy - August 7th 2013, 11:31AM
Most people are aware that every day weather satellites pass overhead to get a glimpse of the nation's weather patterns. Many people, especially those outside the ham radio community, are unaware that the signals these NOAA weather satellites transmit are readily accessible with a minimum amount of equipment. These satellites use a technology known as APT, or Automatic Picture Transmission. NOAA-19 is perhaps the easiest APT satellite to receive because it provides the best, strongest signal for visual satellite imagery. Because of this, we'll focus on NOAA-19 for this post.

All you really need to receive the satellite's signal is a radio receiver like an old police scanner (found at thrift stores) or a simple 2m ham radio handitalkie (like the Baofeng UV5R). An external antenna is usually better, but not a requirement for casual reception of the image. Other than the radio, the only other pieces are a computer with sound input and an audio cable (to get the audio out from the radio to the input on the computer).
If you would like to get the best images possible from every pass of the satellite, use an outdoor antenna connected to your radio. Discone antennas for scanners work well, as will any 2m amateur radio antenna. These antennas do suffer from "fades" where the gain of the antenna is weakest. To minimize these anomalies, eggbeater antennas or the very common quadrifilar helical antenna are used by serious hobbyists and weather professionals.

Once you have the required hardware, download the free WxToImg software which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. There are other features and enhancements to the software if you upgrade, but it's still not a requirement.
Once the program installs, the first time you start the program you will be prompted to enter your Latitude and Longitude.

Continue reading...

tags: radio noaa-19 wx satellite howto

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

HOWTO: ISS Viewing
outdoors : by Tommy - October 5th 2011, 09:08PM
The fact that there's a space station orbiting above the globe right now has become somewhat passe in pop culture. Not many people are truly wowed at the news of it. Within seconds, a few clicks of a mouse will take you to hundreds of pictures and videos of the International Space Station; but did you know you can see the space station yourself? No binoculars or telescopes needed! I figured I would write up a HOWTO for the uninitiated. It isn't hard, it just takes a little know how.

For starters, you need to know a few terms used when talking about satellites (the ISS is a satellite of the planet Earth).

The first term when dealing with satellites is azimuth. Azimuth is a technical term that means the same thing as heading, bearing or direction. Most people are comfortable with the cardinal directions North, South, East and West. The cardinal directions are fine for general directions, but to know exactly where something is we need to be more specific. When dealing with an azimuth, a number of degrees is stated. 0 is North, 90 is East, 180 is South, 270 is West, and on around to North again. Kinda get the picture? It's a full circle divided into 360 degrees. (Also note, there's technically no such thing as 360 when dealing with Azimuth, because 360 would be the same as North, but that's already 0.)

It's not entirely what you think. Sure altitude means height, but we're not talking in feet or meters here. Remember, we're dealing with observational angles here, so knowing how high something is is of little consequence to us. Altitude in astronomy means "angle above the horizon". Altitude is expressed in degrees, just like azimuth. 0 is at the horizon, 90 is straight up. 45, you guessed it, is right in the middle.

Continue reading...

tags: iss space astronomy satellite howto

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HOWTO: Working FM Ham Satellites
radio : by Tommy - January 22nd 2011, 03:37PM
A local ham recently asked me the best way to talk on ham radio satellites using what he already has on hand. It doesn't take much, although some more specialized equipment does make it much easier, but the point is - you don't need much beyond what you may already own if you have a basic VHF/UHF station. The following is my email to him:

Which birds to target and how to track them
"The best satellites to start with are AO-27, AO-Echo and SaudiSat-1C. (Satellites go by different names depending on where you're getting your info.)

I usually direct people to Heavens-Above to get the latest pass information. The exact time and angle of each pass varies from day to day, so you either need tracking software or a website to tell you when the next pass is over your location. With Heavens Above, you need to enter your longitude and latitude, so it can figure out the information for you.

I've put in the longitude and latitude in for my QTH here in Longview on this link:
(change the location by editing the link or click on the link under Configuration at the top of the page)

When you go to the website, you'll be shown a lot of different links. For our purposes, we're interested in "Radio Amateur Satellites". Click on that link.

Now you'll be presented a table of all the various satellites that Heavens Above is tracking. I usually find the satellites I'm interested in working, then look over at the "maximum elevation" - this is how high in the sky the "bird" will get. Generally the higher the pass, the better chance of hitting the satellite you'll have. If all you're using is a vertical, 45-degree passes will give you a good shot. But anything greater than 30-degrees should be doable.

Continue reading...

tags: satellite ham radio intro howto

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Worked All States - Satellite
radio : by Tommy - May 2nd 2007, 03:37PM
Since I got my Arrow Antenna, I've been trying to contact all 50 states by satellite (aka Worked All States). I know a few states are going to be tough (if they're even possible). I know Alaska and Hawaii will probably have to be a scheduled contact. Since the pass that will allow us to contact each other will be very low on the horizon. I have been getting about 2 passes a day from the satellite AO-27, one usually to the east then the second passing more to the west. I've been steadily adding states as I hear them. I'm also making contacts via Echo (AO-51) which is very busy on it's nightly passes.

If it weren't for the listing on Heavens Above, I'd prob be lost as to when to listen for a satellite. For those stations that have sent me a QSL card, I will send out a batch as soon as my new ones arrive. The map above is a listing of those states which I've contacted (yellow) and those that I've received a QSL card from (green).

tags: ham_radio satellites awards

( Comments : 2 | Full article )

Arrow Antenna
radio : by Tommy - April 13th 2007, 11:31PM
This past Thursday afternoon I received my new Arrow Antenna. It's a dual-band (2m/70cm) handheld yagi antenna made from aluminum arrow shafts for making contacts with amateur radio satellites. What? You didn't know there were ham radio satellites? Yep, and there's more than one.

Using Heavens-Above, I can find when each satellite will be making a pass over my location as well as the angle and direction of the approach and apex. About an hour after I got the antenna, AO-27 was making one of its daily passes over me. I made sure everything was in order, set my radio to the right frequencies and walked to the field across from my house. Right off the bat I heard guys in New England talking with guys in Florida. Most everyone on the air was using a handheld with relatively low power (under 5W, which normally isn't enough to even get you across town). After just a few minutes I heard my chance to throw out my call. Right away I had two stations come back to me. First time to ever hear the satellite and I was making a contact on one. Unfortunately I didn't have a free hand to write down his callsign and I forgot it! Oops!

How does it work? Essentially the little satellite takes my signal and rebroadcasts it like a ground-based repeater does, only it's up - way up. Because it's up so high, it can rebroadcast my signal to most of North America. To hear me all the other station has to do is listen on the "downlink" frequency.
Really it doesn't take any special antenna to allow this, it's just this antenna is very efficient and easy to aim at just the right spot.

Continue reading...

tags: ham_radio antenna satellites

( Comments : 0 | Full article )


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