A New Server

I am not a QSO monster and usually only add around 400 QSOs to my log each year. But with two new rigs and the sun helping out I already have 170 QSOs in the log for this year. And it is not even the end of March!

But I do notice that my desire to operate has diminished a bit and so it is time for some DIY again. The lightning sensor is progressing and once that is up and running it is time to tackle another problem: weather satellite reception. I have a dedicated NOAA 137 MHz receiver, which is controlled via serial port and feeds its audio to the excellent Wxtoimg program for decoding of the APT signals. Unfortunately my current server doesn’t like either Wxtoimg or the 137 MHz receiver, so the latter has been sitting idle in a corner for a while now.

Time for a new server. Even though I didn’t like the Raspberry Pi very much, I do like the concept of a small, low cost, low power consuming computer. Apart from the Raspberry Pi there are plenty of alternatives now that use an ARM CPU, e.g. the BeagleBone Black or the PandaBoard. They are more expensive, but also offer better performance and features. For us radio amateurs they usually lack an essential feature: analogue audio in. So when I read about the Cubieboard and discovered that their version 2 board has both audio-in and out I had to try it out. I ordered one from our Taiwanese version of Ebay and for US$ 71.50 it was delivered home. Twice as expensive as a Raspberry Pi, but the package was very complete, with all the cables necessary and a power supply too. Nice detail on the package: Made in China, Designed in China.

The very complete Cubiboard Package

The very complete Cubiboard Package

Getting it running was a bit of a struggle, though. Finding an suitable image was difficult because I only had a 2 GB microSD card. Once I had found one it wouldn’t boot and apparently it also killed the Android OS that was installed on the NAND memory. The Cubieboard has 1 GB of RAM and 2 GB of internal storage (NAND), much better than the Raspberry Pi.

The Cubieboard. Twice as large as the Raspberry Pi.

The Cubieboard. Twice as large as the Raspberry Pi. The audio input-output is on the left.

So I flashed the NAND with a new version of Android and now it was running fine. After buying a new 8GB microSD card and flashing it I was able to boot into a fresh Cubian LXDE install. It looks great on our Panasonic HD TV. So far, so good. I hope this is a winner, because I already have lots of ideas for it: remote rig, APRS digipeater, second weather station, web cam server. Let’s just wait and see.

Android running from the build in 2G NAND memory.

Android running from the build in 2G NAND memory.

Hans "Fong" van den Boogert, BX2ABT, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Taiwan. Contact him at [email protected].

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