Propeller takes to the air
Today I have been playing around with MEPT beacon code on my Gadget Gangster Parallax Propeller board. First I wandered over to Jeff, KO7M’s blog and borrowed his WSPR beacon code.
|Gadget Gangster in use as a 25mW WSPR/Opera beacon|
WSPR was the thing I originally wanted to try when I decided to get the Gadget Gangster: I hadn’t even heard of OPERA at that time. But I was unsure whether I would be able to generate the FSK frequencies WSPR uses: four tones separated by about 1.48Hz. Jeff decided to shoot as near as he could and programmed for a 2Hz separation of tones, and found that the signal was decoded by K1JT’s WSPR program. So no problem!
I measured the RF output from the Propeller board and it was somewhere in the region of 25 to 40mW, depending on which measurement method you believe. I also looked at the output using my oscilloscope.
|Output waveform from Parallax Propeller on 80m|
It wasn’t a pure sine wave, there’s obviously some harmonic content there, but it was not as bad as I feared it might be. As I would be using my MFJ magnetic loop on 30m, which has a very narrow bandwidth, I decided not to bother with a low pass filter for the sake of these initial trials. I watched the seconds tick over on my shack radio-controlled clock, started the beacon and was soon rewarded by several WSPR spots!
|WSPR spots for 25mW Propeller beacon|
Because WSPR is a time-synchronous mode I had to start the beacon when the seconds ticked over to 00. This brought to light a problem Jeff had already observed: the Propeller drifts. The drift seems to be worst during the first few minutes of operation, so leaving the beacon running so it can reach a stable temperature would appear to be the solution. However that is not so easy when you have to power it on at an exact time. I will need to look in to implementing a real-time clock for WSPR, unless I want to interface a GPS receiver to the Propeller – which is certainly possible and something else I hope to try as I’d like to have a go at making an APRS tracker.
An advantage of the OPERA mode is that it is not time synchronous so I can leave the beacon running in that mode with an arbitrary delay between transmissions. My first OPERA transmission also produced several spots, including reports from fellow bloggers PC4T and G4NKX.
|OPERA spots for 25mW Propeller beacon|
I can also generate Morse and QRSS beacons using the Propeller chip. There is still a lot to do to reach my goal of a multimode, frequency-agile beacon, including adding a PA and some switchable bandpass filters. But so far this project has turned out to be easier than I thought it would.
you can get RTC chips that use i2c/SPI and they have their own battery, i’ve used them numerous times, and the best thing is, you can get a couple for free from maxim 🙂