8 September 2016

First release!

The wait (if indeed there was such a thing) is over! I have today uploaded version 0.002.00 of the controller code and supporting libraries to the Mk1 downloads page. There is other useful information on the other pages that should help you get the code running.

This source code is made available completely free of charge as a service to the amateur radio community and is released under the terms of the CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/.

Please note most carefully that this is an alpha trial version. There are almost certainly bugs yet to find and just because it works in my development/station environment doesn't mean it'll work for you. But as I think the likely audience will be computer literate Arduino fans who can do their own software development and maintenance, I am hoping this will not be a problem.

There are certain hardware and software dependencies that I have tried to document as I have gone along but I may have missed something along the way. What I hope for now is that you will be able, if you so choose, to compile the software and upload it to your Arduino Due. As you'll have quite a lot of hardware to build as well, that's probably about the best I can do for now.

My real hope is that this project and the release of all its code serves as a stimulus for others to take up the challenge and write more - and almost certainly better - code. I make no claims to being a C programmer, in fact I rather dislike the language, but it is the Arduino language of choice and needs must. I'm sure someone with better C credentials will be able to make something far better.

One final request:

Maintaining this Blog and writing the software in such a way that it can be let out on its own has been a considerable undertaking. I am happy to do this as a service to the amateur radio community.

If you do download the code and, in the fullness of time, start using it, please do let me know how you get on. Even if you don't plan to use the software but you find the Blog interesting and informative, please tell me. I always appreciate comments to my Blog posts, so please don't just take and give nothing back in return!

3 September 2016


A few titbits whilst I think of them...

RSGB HF Convention
My presentation, "SDR with knobs on!" is provisionally scheduled for Saturday 8th October at 11:45 in Lecture Room 5. Of course that might change, but that's the plan for now. See you there?

I'm particularly pleased to discover that the CEO of Flex Radio will also be presenting at the convention. I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say!

Mk1 information
You'll note that I have started a new page with some details about the Mk1 controller. There's not much there just yet but I plan that this will develop over time, with the intention that it should contain helphul information for anyone who would like to build their own controller.

Nothing there just yet but I will eventually put the controller code up there for you all to take a look at. Please try not to be too disparaging about my C programming skills:)

Is there anyone there?
Not getting much in the way of engagement from you Blog followers! Perhaps you've all gone away and I'm talking to myself. It would be nice to know if anyone is still QRV.

Improving the UI

With the 6500 back in service I have been able to add some further functionality to the Mk1 controller. In particular, I was keen to improve the user interface following on from early experiences before the radio went on vacation.

What's the control doing?
Each rotary encoder can have up to four discrete functions and it's useful to a) be able to see what exactly it is doing and b) what the current value is. I quite like the way in which the Maestro has done this with a pop-up that says what the control is and what the current value has been set to. So I've implemented a similar pop-up on my controller. A yellow bar pops up whenever a control is changed, as you can see in the picture.

In this case I have just tweaked the VFO-A width control. As you can see, the pop up shows the value and also, rather neatly, units (Hz in this case). The pop up stays there for one second, which is, I think, long enough but that is very easy to change.

Which control set am I using?
I referred earlier to the problem with switching between the main and secondary set of encoder functions. I decided to try my idea of having the secondary set "time out" and return to the primary set. This really seems to work. I've not had any difficulty with tweaking the wrong control since I did that. I think that it's here to stay, although I might make it a user option.

What button do I want?
Since any button can be configured to perform any function, it is a good idea to be able to easily find out which button is which. So I now have a screen display that shows this

It remains to be seen how useful this is. In discussions with a few others I'm coming to the conclusion that it might not be too much of an issue - people learn where the controls are quite quickly.

More hands-on testing required. It's a pity that conditions are so poor today!

1 September 2016

The radio returns

My Flex 6500 has returned from its second vacation in Germany this year. This wireless is getting to be better travelled than I am in recent times!

I also have a new (to me) laptop with a 240GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and a quad core I7 processor. It's able to drive multiple screens and my plan is to make this my new station logging/control machine. I already have it running SSDR and it seems to work just fine. I just need to do a bit more work to get all the other stuff I use loaded and working. A job for the weekend I think.

While the Flex was on vacation, I added a lot of new code to my Delphi-based Flex API. This now should, in principle, support all the events and control functions that the Flex Radio API offers. Inevitably there were some minor bugs to iron out but this new version is now working well with my logging software.

The plan now is to get my station back up and running with the new PC and the Flex 6500, so I can continue evaluation and development work. It's probably getting close to time for me to start thinking about my talk at the RSGB Convention and before long I'll need to decide how to make the code and hardware design available to others who may want to make something similar.

Plenty to be getting on with!