All roads leading to Software Defined Radio (SDR)

Before I tell you about the weekend and SDR – I want to do a shameless plug. My lovely wife, Julie is very talented in many dimensions. She’s just set up an online shop on ETSY where you can see some of the beautiful craft items that she makes and perhaps buy them too! Do have a look there – with Christmas coming up, you might find a nice gift for someone special.

Anyway. Back to Software Defined Radio. It’s funny how sometimes you can’t escape a particular topic! On Saturday, the latest Practical Wireless dropped through the door. Naturally I checked the VHF column had come out ok (it had, thanks Rob and the team!) and then started to look through the other examples. I was particularly interested in the review of the FlexRadio 1500 QRP SDR transceiver by Phil, G3XBZ.

What a fascinating looking little box that you plug an aerial and a morse key into, connect the USB to your computer and control the rig and all the filtering from within the computer. Phil had obviously had a good time with the rig and had made some nice CW and SSB QSOs with it. Ideal too, I should think for data modes. Very tempting. I don’t need another rig or anything like that. But if I did….

The next ‘nudge’ towards SDR came from an interesting posting via the Southgate club’s blog about the AMSAT-UK FuncubeDongle. This is a dongle, which takes antenna input via an SMA adapter and plugs into your USB port. It forms a VHF/UHF/SHF receiver, obviously aimed at the satellite market which operates between around 64 to 1700MHz. You can use it with any of the current raft of SDR control programs and thus decode all sorts of modes.

Interestingly, there will be two versions of the dongle – a basic one aimed at the educational/schools market – to allow them to listen / decode transmissions from the Funcube satellite and a ‘Pro’ one with a little more flexibility. The feature set of the basic and Pro models isn’t entirely clear at the moment. This looks a brilliant project. Pricing for the ‘Pro’ model looks to be around £100. A 64-1700MHz receiver for £100. That sounds worth keeping an eye on, doesn’t it!

See the FuncubeDongle site here. But before you do, go and see Julie’s ETSY shop and tell her I sent you 🙂

Tim Kirby, G4VXE, is a regular contributor to and writes from Oxfordshire, England. Contact him at [email protected].

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