Posts Tagged ‘rpi’

Slimming down

This post builds on the RPi Zero W Cloudlog installation that I did in December with a RPi 3 that was destined to be used in the shack for something. I have long used a laptop to do most of the heavy lifting but have moved most of the clever stuff on to individual machines. The line up is growing but is a bit all over the place. I have….

  • A RPi3 as a VHF SatNOGS station that runs nicely but needs a proper home (antenna ia indoors and a lash up)
  • A RPi3 as a UHF SatNOGS station that is subject to loads of noise at the moment which needs a cure. It also needs a better home
  • A RPi2 as a Flight Radar receiver

A spare RPi3 that was used as a media player in the lounge. Now redundant really as tech has moved on. This needed a new function. So I thought I would bring it into service as a shack server. Trouble is I have no expereince of servers and even the word makes me quiver. I tend to smile, nod politely (It’s a British thing) then retreat carefully to avoid uncomfortable conversation. Anyway it’s time to take the plunge a bit further. I have after all mastered the Cloudlog thing.

What distribution?

Normally I would run straight to Rasbian, but this time I made a detour through to DietPi. It’s a lightweight distribution that supports a few bits of software that are simple to install and configure. Perfect for the lazy, like me. The game is pretty much the same s every Raspberry Pi installation. Find a suitable SD card, burn the image to it and start the machine up. For this the recommendation is to hook up a screen and keyboard for the first bit until it’s all running then you can use SSH or whichever is your preferred method for getting into the machine once it is up and running.


What software?

Well Cloudlog for a start. That needed the webserver reinstalling. Guess what? DietPi had one. check the box and that gets installed. Then it was a simple fact of getting Cloudlog reinstalled. Job done and it took a lot less time this go. (need to find a log for this).

Next up was Pi-hole. I’m ok with a bit of advertising, people have got to make a living I suppose but I feel like I’m swimming in a sea of bollocks (figuratively of course, I couldn’t really visualise this literally and don’t want too). Pi-hole claims to reduce the adverts to a more normal level and stops my browser looking like a version of the $1m dollar website (if you can remember that). Something has got to change. Installation was again more simple that you might imagine. Check the box and let the installer do its thing. As I had no idea what I was doing I used the default installation but made the error of not pointing my DNS server to the installation in my router settings. Don’t forget to do that otherwise it won’t do a thing.

There is a nice dashboard that gets filled with clever stuff. Bottom line is that there are already fewer ads on all my devices. Ace!

Stats window

So what happens now?

Not much really. If you would like to have a go with a really lightweight distro for your raspberry pi (or other sbc – they support all sorts) then give it a go. The easy installation of software make a big difference for dullards like me and avoids time wasting.

I have thought about plugin in a RTL-SDR as a server but don’t really have a need at the moment. Perhaps something for the PiKon telescope now that I have got the lens. We’ll see how the thing goes. One thing I would like is a really simlpe website that does one thing on a button press, but that is a whole new game and perhaps another post.

I’m going to start planning my SOTA activations now 😉

Cloudlog on a RPi zero w

As many will testify. I’m not that bright when it comes to clever computer stuff. I can follow instructions quite well and normally this gets me by. So I thought for December I would set myself a challenge of setting up Cloudlog (A really nice looking logging application from Peter 2M0SQL). Only I would be putting it on a Raspberry Pi zero w, without a safety net…or any knowledge of sql, php or any other such acronyms. Here’s what happened.

First things first – You need a LAMP server.

A LAMP server (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) is the thing that will run Cloudlog. We’ll have the Linux part because we’re going to use the normal Raspbian Lite image for our RPI zero w. Apache is installed, as is MySQL and PHP. So first things first. This post is like a nice meal, you’ll not be having bread first, just the starter. Just don’t rush it.


Do you have a RPi zero w? – If you struggle to find one then use a nice search engine that doesn’t follow you round with a notepad checking on what you’re up to. Perhaps buy from an independent retailer or support your local Pi shop, it might cost a couple of quid extra but you can feel smug about it.

  1. Have you got the latest Raspibian lite image? If not download it here
  2. Is is burnt to a suitable micro SD card? I use Sandisk class 10 ones as they seem to be quickest and reliable enough. Try your high street. If not try and support you local Pi shop. This will be the OS ready to go.
  3. Have you connected to the internet using the command line? it’s pretty easy really, just use this guide.
  4. Have you enabled SSH on your RPI zero w? RPi headquarters can help again.
  5. Do you know the ip address of your RPi zero w? in the command line just type. hostname -I. It will spit out your ip address. For example mine is Make a note of this you’ll need it
  6. Have you logged into your RPi zero w using SSH? Section 4 will help you here


Main Course

So I was really comfortable with the starter. It wasn’t too heavy and just got me feeling a bit peckish for some more. This is where I was a bit uncomfortable and thought that I may have bitten off a bit more than I could chew. But it all worked out nicely in the end.

Installing the server

I followed this guide. I believe that it is de rigueur to caveat this part with some statement that ‘your mileage may vary’ or some such waffle. It might, but if this guide is wrong please shout up and I will correct it. It worked for me but it would be a lot easier if it worked for everyone. You’ll do some straightforward and not so straightforward stuff.

  1. Make sure everything is up to date
  2. Install Apache & do a bit of tidying up
  3. Install PHP
  4. Install MySQL & do a bit of detective work
  5. Setup FTP

Everything seems to go well until you hit part 4 where something goes a bit wonky with permissions. I spent quite a bit of time on this and found out that the permissions on the default myphpadmin account weren’t up to scratch and there is a bit of jiggery pokey to do. This should sort it.

Get yourself into MySQL and change the users

From what I could gather the default user does not have enough privileges to do anything, nor does it have access to the users tab in myphpadmin to create a new one. We have to go into MySQL and create

mysqladmin -u root password 'password'

Log in to MySQL

mysql u root

Then do the following. I think I understand, you create a new user using the GRANT command

GRANT ALL to 'username' @ 'localhost' identified by 'password';

where believe it or not the ‘username’ and ‘password’ are exactly that, but for a new user. We’ll use this later

Install Cloudlog

This bit is dead easy. The Cloudlog wiki is exactly what you need. I won’t repeat it here. So for me I downloaded the files from the GitHub page, unzipped them and then uploaded them with an FTP program (Filezilla is popular) to the /var/www folder in the RPi.

Go to your web browser and type in the url you got earlier when you did the hostname -I (Something like only add /install at the end, so for completeness is should be

Up pops a dialogue. Fill in your details and you are away.

Note: I mucked about a few times when I was sorting out privileges and ended up forgetting the username and password, but the dialogue was good enough to me and I just re-entered everything and it went the second time.

You can now log in as the guest account m0abc which is notes at the bottom of the dialogue.


There are a few things to do to get everything ship shape. Firstly delete the demo account and put in your own. Then upload an adif of your existing log (should you have one)

Delete account and create your own

Really easy Admin > Users

Create yourself and give yourself the admin rights

Delete m0abc


Upload adif

So, it turns out that not all adifs are the same. The header in the example below is not to the right format


Whilst this is


Note the ‘#’ at the beginning of every line in the header. If you are going to upload an adif this needs to be checked

Sitting in a comfortable chair and snoozing

I didn’t find this nearly as daunting as it first looks. There is plenty of information on the Cloudlog wiki and to be honest the only hard bit was sorting out the permissions. You don’t need to be an expert in computering. I now have a log I can access on my Linux laptop, Tablet and phone. If I was really down with the kids it wouldn’t be hard to have it web based (I think that can be done for you by MagicBug).

I would say that you’ll probably need a couple of hours to do it but the reward is a good looking, simple to use log that is agnostic to OS.

Give it a go, if any of the instructions are wrong, can be made better or are glaringly stupid because they’ll steal your soul (or sole if you’re not looking) then let me know and we can make this post really handy.

Diversity in the shack

When I get asked ‘what is ham radio?’ I generally get a bit tongue tied and waffle on a bit. There is nothing harder as a ham than actually defining the hobby. This is really down to how diverse the hobby is. Fundamentally at the core is a like of RF. Other than that it sort of sprays out a heap of sub genre’s that have a variety of different followers. Amateur TV, DX chasing, GHz…. the list goes on and on. Perhaps one day a map will be available that shows the full spectrum and a few of the relationships, but for now here is another one. I’m going to call it ham radio services as a working title, it is defined as the ham who uses his knowledge and equipment to provide a service based on RF. APRS igates are an example of this.

So what else is there? The Raspberry Pi has certainly opened up the opportunity to provide low cost services. I have one the is an APRS igate, one that runs my SatNOGS ground station and that was it until last week when I put an unused older Pi2 to good use as an ADSB receiver using a system called PiAware. Essentially a way of melding together an RPi, rtl-sdr dongle and an ADSB antenna. All so that it can listen out for the aircraft beacons and report positional information to the Flightaware website.

The ‘project’ took no more than a couple of hours, mainly because my Micro-SD card died and I had to scrabble around for another one. It is very simple to do and will put your Raspberry Pi to good use. Steps are summarised as

  1. Sign up with the Flight Aware website and read through the docs on the PiAware page
  2. Download the image
  3. Burn the image to a (non corrupt) micro SD card. Plonk it in the pi
  4. Plug in an Rtl-sdr (or you could splash out on a Flight Aware Prostick)
  5. Power on
  6. Find IP address of RPi on network (look in the router settings)
  7. Go to site (mine is You should have a screen that looks a bit like this

  1. Claim you receiver (Instructions are on the screen). There will be a link in the place where it says ‘View your site statistics online’
  2. Sit back and watch the packets come in. When you’re ready go to the FlightAware website and see how well you are doing.

Looking west is best as always from my QTH. Where’s the fun in that? I hear you say?

Its good to experiment, after all there is DX to be had, just not in the conventional sense. Lets take a comparison between WSPR and ADSB. A bit off beat but here goes, WSPR will tell you the distance and signal to noise of your station as heard by another, DX, station. You do the transmitting and someone else does the receiving. With the PiAware setup someone else does the transmitting and you do the receiving. Is this not the same thing? A different band ok but actually the same thing.

Beats attempting to get in contact with some short lived station in a rarely activated location by shouting into a microphone for hours on end. Say I. Wouldn’t it be boring if we all liked the same thing.

One final note. There are lots of RTL-SDR dongles to choose from. The cheap £3 ones from eBay work, they are reliable enough and coupled with the (normally) supplied antenna give me a range around 150-200 nautical miles. the Pro Stick mentioned earlier will extend that range by using a broadband low noise amp (LNA). If you live in an urban environment you can use the Pro Stick Plus that comes with a band pass filter or add in your own. you may also need to adjust gain settings and have a play. I am only using a wire antenna, I will find a reasonable supplier for a colinear or similar and report back.

Onwards and upwards

Raspberry Pi APRS iGate

Further to my previous post(s) on APRS and Specifically Direwolf, here’s something with a bit more meat.

APRS has always been a bit of a thing for me. I like to go for a ride or a walk on the Lakeland fells and whilst I don’t get to go on as many SOTA trips as I’d like I do nearly always carry a hand held when I’m on the mountain bike. I know that there are a few local hams who like a bit of APRS and you never know when you’ll need a way of communicating when you’ve gone over the handbars and smashed your phone….

So what?

Well I also have an early Raspberry Pi model B and an RTL-SDR dongle. I live quite close to a digipeater and also have a terrible QTH for an iGate. So, I thought I’d combine the two with my liking f APRS. I’m glad to say the process was really easy and very robust. Want to have a go yourself? Ok…

So lets start

  1. Get you SD card and load it with the OS (I used the Raspian image from the Raspberry Pi site)
  2. Get a copy of the Direwolf software from WB2OSZ (and simply excellent documentation) from GitHub
  3. Have a look in the Direwolf docs folder. Follow the Raspberry-Pi-SDR-IGate instuctions and the Raspberry-Pi-APRS. I’m definitely not going to try and replicate of better these docs as they are perfect
  4. Get an APRS passcode from Magicbug
  5. Off you go, simple as that. Any issues then the Direwolf Yahoo Group should sort you out


That’s it really. There are a few little odds and sods like beaconing your iGate. This can be achieved by adding a line into the sdr.conf file so it looks a little like this:

# # Sample configuration for SDR read-only IGate.
# We might not have an audio output device so set to null.
# We will override the input half on the command line.

ADEVICE null null

# First you need to specify the name of a Tier 2 server.
# The current preferred way is to use one of these
# regional rotate addresses:
# - for North America
# - for South America
# - for Europe and Africa
# - for Asia
# - for Oceania


You also need to specify your login name and passcode.
# Contact the author if you can't figure out how to generate # the passcode.

IGLOGIN MX0WRC 12345 (your passcode)
PBEACON sendto=IG delay=0:30 every=10:00 symbol="igate" overlay=R lat=54^38.5611N long=3^3$

# That's all you need for a receive only IGate which relays
# messages from the local radio channel to the global servers.

I’ve not managed to get it to start up automatically if it falls over with the script but that is a work in progress. Here we are on


Ok, thats all very well but mine is remote. There are a few suggestions from the RPi people but I plumped for Weaved and tightVNC as a solution. Here are the instructions I followed for Weaved, and for TightVNC . If you don’t fancy a link then try this:

Install Weaved and run the installer

sudo apt-get install weavedconnectd
sudo weavedinstaller

Then TightVNC

sudo apt-get install tightvncserver

Run it once to do the password thing, then to run at boot

sudo su
sudo nano

Enter this into nano

#! /bin/sh
# /etc/init.d/vncboot

# Provides: vncboot
# Required-Start: $remote_fs $syslog
# Required-Stop: $remote_fs $syslog
# Default-Start: 2 3 4 5
# Default-Stop: 0 1 6
# Short-Description: Start VNC Server at boot time
# Description: Start VNC Server at boot time.


export USER HOME

case "$1" in
  echo "Starting VNC Server"
  #Insert your favoured settings for a VNC session
  su - $USER -c "/usr/bin/vncserver :1 -geometry 1280x800 -depth 16 -pixelformat rgb565"

  echo "Stopping VNC Server"
  /usr/bin/vncserver -kill :1

  echo "Usage: /etc/init.d/vncboot {start|stop}"
  exit 1

exit 0

Then chmod

chmod 755 vncboot


update-rc.d -f lightdm remove
update-rc.d vncboot defaults

I can’t tell you how useful to follow the steps enough. I found that one RTL dongle isn’t quite the same as another so there can be issues. So much so that I wiped the SD card a few times so as to get right and simple. If you didn’t want to run Jessie, Jessie lite will do but you’ll need to find an alternative way to remotely access the RPi, with something like SSH as VNC doesn’t work (easily) without the X server.

As always, comments, suggestions and alternative approaches are always welcome, after all this is a hobby and none of this hard work belongs to me, I just follow the instructions 😉

RPiGate again

For a few weeks I have been attempting to use an RTL-SDR and a raspberry Pi 2 as an APRS iGate. Dutifully following a number of tutorials I failed to ‘Kalibrate’ the dongle several times and so put it to one side. Today however I have managed to get the thing running. Not with the original tutorial but with a different application called ‘Direwolf’.

There are quite a few clever sods kicking about and the guy who pulled this together is no exception. John Langer,WB2OSZ has not only produced a cracking application but also one of the most straightforward and detailed installation documents as well. What I particularly liked was the way that there was a step followed by an explanation of what the step was meant to achieve. I’m no great linux fan, partly because I don’t understand what the hell is going on and more importantly for me, why its not doing what I thought it should do and why. This small success may point me more in that direction though.

More to the point see. I told you it was working!


LHS Episode #098: Feudal Exercise

rackSometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t. Luckily, Richard’s miraculous recovery from the Creeping Death outweighed Russ’s totally miserable Ides of January, resulting in a listenable episode with a bunch of content–mostly thanks to elcaset, a listener of the show, via IRC. There’s also a bit about svxlink using a Raspberry Pi (yes, it is possible and completely functional) and lots of information about upcoming events. We’d like to thank everyone you who submitted feedback, including The Radio Gangsta, who we also hope will get some much-needed psychological attention soon.

If you think about it, make sure to download the Black Sparrow Media app for your iPhone, iPad or Android device. And please tell your friends about the show. Have them sign up for the mailing list, episodes via RSS, the Google+ community and all the other ways they can keep up with what’s going on in LHS Land.

73 de The LHS Guys

LHS Episode #097: Sheer Hamshackedness

shack-03Welcome once again to the Wonderful World of Linux in the Ham Shack. As indicated in the title, this episode is full of Sheer Hamshackedness. If you’re unsure what that is, we encourage you to pour yourself a nice glass of dark beer or a 100-proof spirit of your choice, put on your headphones and immerse yourself in the pure hedonism that is LHS. And if you believe any of that, we have a large vehicular conveyance over the East River in New York City up for sale as well. Anyway, we talk a little bit about Raspberry Pi computing, APRS, WSPR, Echolink, svxlink, Qtel and a bunch of other stuff in this episode. Hope you enjoy, as always.

73 de The LHS Guys

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