HDSDR trackerball VFO project

I have been working on a trackball based controller for my HDSDR SDR project lately. This is a small R&D project that is run on my spare time where the goal is to determine if it is possible to use a trackball as a VFO for software defined radio (SDR) in contests. The project started out based on a demand for a more ergonomic way to operate a mult receiver in a contest environment that is less fatiguing during 48hours duration of a major contest like CQWW or CQWPX. The goal is that it should be possible to operate all radio functions you need from one hand only: VFO, speed of vfo, band, mode, filter width, volume, gain. I have modified a Marconi trackball and the controller is a Trinket Pro controller (Arduino)

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Arduino Based CW keyer / FTDI based CAT interface

I recently needed a new CW keyer with Winkey compatibility for use with my N1MM logging setup. K3NG has written some nice keyer code that I compiled and uploaded to one of my Arduino UNO boards that I had laying in the shack (if you want to try it, you need the latest  – above 1 – version of the Arduino “IDE”). Below you can see some pictures from making the prototype thru to ready made keyer with USB interface and adjustable speed button. I did not install the memory buttons, as I control the CW keyer via USB from N1MM or Hamradio Deluxe. It works very well with my Yaesu FT-450D but instead of the UNO I will eventually use a Mini Pro board with the Atmel Atmega 328. You can see more info on K3NGs site http://radioartisan.wordpress.com/arduino-cw-keyer/#comment-3255

Below is the schematic (remark: full credit is given to to K3NG!). I have modded the design for my own needs. Instead of the 2N2222 I use a TTL tolerant FET of type IRLIZ44N to drive the keyer output. Then I don’t need the 100 ohm resistors in series. I also did connect a piezo tweeter directly to the CPU  without using the 2N222 transistor. It works OK. However, the sound of the piezo tweeter is not the best in the world. Finally, as mentioned above, I did not install all the buttons. I installed only the command button to save space.  There is a need to do a small mod on the UNO hardware due to some reset issues. For that I will have to add another button that needs to be pressed when I want to upload code.



I also needed a CAT interface. It is possible to use a FTDI chip for this task, however the signal levels need to be transformed to +/- 12V. This I solved with a MAX232 board that I had laying around in the shack. So now I have a CAT interface that is compatible with Win XP, NT, 2000, 98, Windows 7, Windows 8 etc since the FTDI chips are widely supported. It looks like … but works like …


Azores Island Hunt. Captioned pictures from CU2ARA

The teams are arriving at the airport in Ponta Delgada at Sao Miguel island. A lot of luggage was brought in. Here the
Danish and German teams are waiting for their taxis. The DARC journalist is checking his photos on the digital camera as well to the left.
A too small car for rigs, linears and antennas when 9  teams arrive at the same time…
A team photo was taken in the backyard of the CU2ARA club station before teams were departing to their individual islands
Antenna and rig discussions are taking place in the backyard. The short CU2ARA tower that we used can be seen in the middle of the picture
Our guide Mr. Rui is also a pro photographer. Just look at all the cameras!
Ghis ON5NT is busy adjusting the inverted vee antenna to resonance
Marius, LB3HC is using his DG8SAQ Vector Network Analyzer to check the multiband antennas before the event.The CU2ARA members CU2IF and CU2CN and are helping out
The organizing committee is formally opening the event!
IMG_1080 Since we had a city location with some noise, we wanted to do a remote hilltop station experiment to learn from that experience for future events. After first checking with the official organizers for  approval, we travelled to one of the points in the island where there is almost 360 degrees negative horizon and no broadcast installations.This would enable a good remote location. On the above picture you can see the takeoff towards Europe. Wow! We did have some technical challenges that were solved, but the main QSO amount by far was made with the main stations down at CU2ARA. The remote station was left operational so the CU2 ops could do more work on it after the event IMG_1127  Above:
CU2CN climbs the tower on the mountaintop to put up the highest point of our sloping antenna. The antenna was sloping towards west (US).
Here is the house where the experimental remote station was mounted. We had a 100mbit/sec WLAN connection down to CU2ARA.
Another picture of the takeoff to the east (against Europe). A pretty good QTH for the remote site.  (The Azores are full of beautiful views like this. Visit to see for youself!)
Our remote station is located inside the hilltop house. A Yaesu FT857 and HRD was used. More dedicated remote systems should be used in a future event it was decided.
Here is the HRD remote screen where we controlled the hilltop remote station. This was done down in the city where the CU2ARA shack is located. (As OH2BH encouraged, we did it the innovative Arcala way!). Notice the Norwegian flag by the way!
ON5NT is working pileup
LB3HC is working pileup
The CU2ARA residents are working pileup
Our antennas downtown at CU2ARA. We used a 3 el yagi for 20 meters and inverted vees for the other bands (17 and 40).


10, 12 and 15 meter openings? The secrets of solar data.


Many amateur radio websites show the Solar Terrestrial Data “ticker” from N0NBH. However, many HF radio enthusiasts just look at the SN (solar spot number) and perhaps the K index. The truth is that the SN does not necessary say too much about the current radio conditions. So what should you look at to check the current conditions (more realtime information)? solarvhf.php Here is the secret: I have personally found that the SFI and the 304A as well as the X-Ray values are very good realtime clues. One example is from 21.Oct.2012. This Saturday in October 2012, the 10 meter band was wide open from early morning even as far north as Oslo, Norway. The conditions on 12 and 15 meters was also fantastic. A screenshot of the N0BNH “ticker” shows SFI well above 120, 304A well above 140, K like zero and A like three as well as an X ray index of B9,9. Note that SN (sunspots) is not near abnormally high at around 112 (keep in mind we are closing in on sunspot maximum in cycle 24 so the SN will likely be around 100 all the time). One could expect average conditions by just looking at the SN. However the conditions was nothing like average. They were very very good. What was notable from that day is the following: SFI was well above 120 so there was a strong flux, K was zero so the mag field was still undisturbed, A was 3 so the mag field had been holding undisturbed for some time, X-Ray was B9,9 and this meant that there was quite strong X ray radiation coming in, 304A was 172,5 and this meant there was also quite strong UV radiation coming in, Aurora was 1 so there was practically no Aurora activity. The conditions was fantastic on this date on all bands above 7 Mhz. So again here is the secret: don’t just look at the SN for realtime information about the HF radio conditions.

Approx 31000 QSOs made in 24h during the Azores Island Hunt


We are back from the Azores Island Hunt expedition. Approx 31000 QSOs were made during 24 hours of operation from the 9 stations when a hardcore team of DX-ers and contesters visited the islands (unofficial ADIF numbers incl. eventual dupes). Nine stations running pileups on 40, 20 and 17m were on the air on CW/SSB simultaneously. The stations total run rate were in average approx 1300 QSOs / hour. Above I have posted some initial selected pictures from the event. We would like to thank OH2BH, OH8NC, CU2CE, CU2DX and all the local Azores hams that made this event possible. What a great memory for life we all got! What characterizes the Azores is great openings on HF. The reason the major contesters in the world choose to win from the Azores is the location almost in the middle between USA and South America. During daytime 10m, 12m, 15m and 20 meter openings are something else than experienced on more northerly latitudes (extremely good). Please check in later at http://azores-islands-hunt.com/ for official information. Below is the information about the teams and operators:


  • Juha Hulkko, OH8NC
  • Kimmo Rautio, OH9MDV
  • Sérgio Oliveira, CU1AAD

  • Marius Hauki. LB3HC
  • Ghis Penny, ON5NT
  • Guilherme Frias, CU2IF

  • George Tranos, N2GA
  • Diane Ortiz, K2DO (YL)
  • Domingos Cabral, CU3BS

  • Franz Langner, DJ9ZB
  • Richard Gottlieb, DF9TF
  • Guilherme Bento Frias, CU4AB

  • Yuri Onipko, VE3DZ
  • Ed Kulchenko, VE3FWA
  • José Silveira, CU5AM

  • Alex Hansen,OZ7AM
  • Kenneth Hemstedt, OZ1IKY
  • Jorge Dutra, CU6AB

  • Michael Corey, KI1U
  • Richard Boyd, KE3Q
  • Manuel Bettencourt, CU7CA

  • Carine Ramon, ON7LX (YL)
  • Claude van Pottelsberghe de la Potterie, ON7TK
  • Frederic Fournier, CU8AAE

  • Nigel Cawthorne, G3TXF
  • Michael Wells, G7VJR
  • João Camara, CU9AC
Azores 9 Islands Hunt Organizing Commitee

  • Fernando Tavares, CU2BV, Chairman
  • Francisco Gil, CU2DX, ATA Representative
  • Jose Melo, CU2CE, Islands coordination
  • Martti Laine, CU2KG, Radio operations



Are You Ready to Fly to Azores for Free by Making Nine QSOs with CU stations?

Those of you willing to spend 24 hours or less on the radio are eligible to participate in an Azores lottery for two all-paid packages to the beautiful Azores Islands in the Atlantic, completely free of charge.

The project is organized by the Azores-Finland Friendship Consortium in partnership with the Amateur Radio Associations of the Azores Islands and supported by the Azores Promotion Agency (ATA) and Azorean Airlines (SATA). Just look at <www.visitazores.com> and make up your mind. Not many people know that the Azores consist of nine populated islands, stretching over a distance of 602 km (305mi) from East to West, next to USA and Europe. And it is not widely known that the Azores have their own airline (SATA) flying to each island, in addition to many destinations in Europe and North America. Each island has its own characteristics and its own blend and alone qualifies for your visit there. While these islands count for a single DXCC entity, they offer three (3) IOTA groupings.

With this unique AZORES 9 ISLANDS HUNT, an invited international group of amateur radio operators together with resident Azores amateurs will be activating the nine islands, offering an opportunity to the world to contact these islands all at once over one weekend.

Activity Weekend

Saturday, September 29, 1200 UTC to September 30, 1200 UTC (24 hours). These stations will be active starting Friday, September 28 as soon as they become operational.

Frequency Windows

CW:  7000-7015, 18080-18090 and 14050-14065 kHz

SSB:  7175-7195, 18120-18135 and 14250-14275 kHz

Nine Islands and their Stations

Santa Maria, CU1ARM;  San Miguel, CU2ARA; Terceira, CU3URA;  Graciosa, CU4ARG; Sao Jorge, CU5AM; Pico, CU6GRP;  Faial, CU7CRA; Flores, CU8ARF; Corvo, CU9AC.

Operators and Island Hosts

Sergio, CU1AAD; Jose, CU2CE; Francisco, CU2DX; Guilherme, CU2IF; Domingois, CU3CS; Guilherme, CU4AB; Jose, CU5AM; Jorge, CU6AB; Manuel, CU7CA; Claudio, CU8AAE; Joao, CU9AC; Franz, DJ9ZB; Richard, DF9TF; Nigel, G3TXF; Michael, G7VJR; Diane, K2DO; Rich, KE3Q; Mike, KI1U; Marius, LB3HC; George, N2GA; Martti, OH2BH; Juha, OH8NC; Ghis, ON5NT; Carine, ON7LX; Claude, ON7TK; Alex, OZ7AM; Kenneth, OZ1IKY; Yuri, VE3DZ and  Ed, VE3FWA.

Two Hunt Awards

Those making a QSO with at least 5 different islands will have a corresponding number of tickets placed into a lottery for a free trip to the Azores (e.g. if you have QSOs with 7 islands, you will get 7 lottery tickets). Additionally, the first 25 operators making QSOs with all 9 islands will be eligible for a second lottery. The free trips are from the closest airport served by SATA; including flight, accommodation and transfers..

During or immediately after the weekend, the logs will be posted on Club Log to display your band/mode slots. The lottery will be drawn on October 15, 2012.

QSL Cards

All QSOs will be confirmed through the bureau network with special full-color cards.  Direct QSL requests via Jose Melo, CU2CE.