Sunday, June 16, 2024

Perseus22 - Some Observations

 It's far too early to pass any judgement on the Perseus22 on my side. For instance I have had no opportunity to evaluate one of its core features: Correlation/decorrelation. Still, here's what I've learned from a few hours of use.

The SDR itself is stunning. And heavy! 1723 grams on my digital kitchen weight!! The manual says 1680 g. Whose weight is wrong? Almost as heavy as the Elad FDM-S3. But then, who would have considered a 2 kg communications receiver heavy 20 years ago.

A few observations:

Sensitivity is slightly better than the original Perseus, 2-3 dB better on MW, equalling -106 to -107 dBm (AM, 6 kHz bw, 30 % modulation of a 400 Hz signal for 10 dB S+N/N).

Four DDC sampling rates: 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2 MHz. Alias-free bandwidth appears to be 0.2, 0.4, 0.8 and 1.6 MHz as with the original Perseus. The 2 MHz bandwidth also applies for FM. The bandwidth should allow reception of one DAB MUX (1536 kHz).

The hardware has an on-off button. Why on earth etc. A PC restart did not require a physical "on", but moving the hardware from one PC to another did. And alas... so does a real power outage. This might seriously limit remote control - on the other hand I had the same problem initially with the FDM-S3 so maybe it resolves.

Direct frequency entry is a lot easier than with the original Perseus. Just tap the numbers in the active window and press Enter.

You can have several "radio windows" open, probably one for every antenna. A clever twist is that only the window in focus submits audio - the others are automatically muted. No need to turn off and on audio.

HF2 (9525 kHz) is muted, while HF1 (1557 kHz) submits audio

IQ recording: The resulting IQ file is proprietary with the extension "p22". I tried to change the extension to "wav" and open the file in HDSDR and SDR Console, but no cigar. So, what you record with the Perseus22, you need to play back with the Perseus22. You're not required to have the receiver physically connected to the PC though. It loops playback automatically - which is good because at this stage there are no other commands available to the playback mode except "Open File".

When running in 2 MHz mode, my power supply says current is around 1A. A 9VDC power supply is required. Unfortunately the submitted Mean Well switching PSU is not quiet, at least not on the MF and LF range. And why 9 VDC? The FDM-S3 can take anything from 8 to 15 VDC. The manual warns strongly against using anything else than the power supply provided with the receiver (section 4), and doing so actually voids the warranty (section 1.1). There is no indication in the manual that the SDR is protected from higher voltage input. An omission that fried many legacy Perseus SDRs.

Correlation/decorrelation: I haven't tested properly yet, I need to put up a couple of decent antennas. And currently the MW band is dead as a dodo here. Other users report good results nulling local noise and groundwave stations. To do this, you obviously need two antennas, where one should serve as a "noise" antenna. It would be wonderful to have decorrelation of skywave signals, but I don't expect to see that.

So far, tuning is available only with mouse control - apart from the excellent direct frequency option. Up/down/left/right arrow keys do not work..

Tuning options (frequency step, snapping) brings you all over the place. It snaps ok, but not at the assigned frequencies. 

I understand there is no API or SDK available. Will there be?

It's pricey.

I am sure (or at least I hope) that the software will improve over time. However, there are some GUI design and cost issues that do not quite appeal to my usage. Thank dog for the legacy Perseus.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Perseus 22 !! First Looks

 So! It's here! Not mine though, OJ Sagdahl ordered it and handed it over to me while we were at Smøla HQ last weekend. Now it's at the KONG HQ, ready to be tested. 

(Edit:) Apparently drawing around 1000 mA at 2 MHz sampling, the DC in is 9 V.

The station is TWR Eswatini, closing down at 16:20Z. Captured on the 250-metre coax feedline from the 80-degrees beverage antenna (disconnected).

Next on the list: Sensitivity! More as it happens.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

SDRPlay RSPdx-R2 SDR Released

SDRPlay yesterday announced an improved version of the RSPdx, the RSPdx-R2, with further design improvements for use below 2 MHz.

I measured sensitivity levels (as I usually do), and I can confirm that sensitivity is improved quite a bit especially in the LF ranges. On 1000 kHz the difference is only a dB vs. the RSPdx, but when I measured on 500 kHz the difference was a full 6 dB, measuring -104 dBm (10 dB S/N for a 400 Hz signal modulated 30 % at 6 kHz bandwidth). HDR mode was used during measurements.

On 1000 and 1500 kHz, sensitivity levels were -102 and -101 dBm respectively. On 200 kHz I measured -101 dBm which is a lot better than for instance the RSP1A.

My sensitivity measurements document has been updated and listed under "Some DX-related Stuff...." on the right-hand column, and downloadable here.

Physically, the RSPdx-R2 doesn't differ from the original RSPdx. It's listed at USD 235, less than 10 % over the RSPdx price.

Saturday, March 09, 2024

SDRconnect Preview Look - The Server

As I mentioned in my first post about the SDRconnect Preview, I hadn't looked much at SDRconnect's server function. Today I have. Now, SDRplay are very good at making tutorial videos. How to set your RSP up as a server is described in detail here so I'll focus mainly on what I regard as strengths and weaknesses from a user's point of view. A few key points are worth mentioning.

  • The server can be configured for use in your internal LAN, or across the Internet (WAN). Say you have multiple PCs connected to a LAN in your radio room, then any PC can connect to the server as long as SDRconnect is installed. 
  • A LAN or WAN server will be set up either in IQ mode (corresponding to the IQ bandwidth of the RSP) or in Audio mode. IQ mode is obviously more useful in a LAN than in a WAN environment as it would require an extremely fast internet connection to sample say 10 MHz over the WAN.
  • Up to 8 simultaneous users are allowed, so you may ask: Can't I replace my KiwiSDR with this one? Take care though, because only the first connected user has full control of the RSP. Users 2-8 can tune around within user one's selected bandwidth, change modes, bandwidth etc but are at the mercy of user no. 1 not changing the frequency band.
  • Beware the dreaded CGNAT! No, I hadn't heard about it before either. Carrier-Grade NAT is a workaround for ISPs since the pool of IPv4 addresses is exhausted. When you set up your server, you have to look for the necessary public IP address. If you see something like the port numbers in section 2 in the image below, you are in trouble.

        There are workarounds, but they may be expensive. I won't delve more into this now, but the                   Internet  is at your disposal should you want to learn more.

  • After setting up the server and testing if connectivity is ok, it's time to get running. It is well described in the video I linked to above. My personal opinion is that it is unnecessarily tedious to start the server. Maybe it's a compromise because SDRconnect is multi-OS, I don't know. Anyway, after keying ".\sdrconnect --server", this window shows up on the PC hosting the server: 

  • There are loads of parameters one can use to set up the server, but you need to use the Terminal window for all this. It could be that you only need to set up this only once, in which case it may not be too much of a hassle. The last frequency range is remembered upon restarting the server, so you don't have to start on 100 MHz every time.
My own setup (which is temporary) is from a relatively cheap and modest speed fibre connection via a TP-Link router. The public IP address from my ISP is dynamic and will change over time, so I chose to use a dynamic dns provider. Everything on my setup is cabled.

Is the server stable? I haven't tested it long enough to tell. What I do know, is that if the router reboots, the server will disconnect. I have set the TP-Link to reboot every night, because I'm 170 km away from it, and consumer-grade routers are not 100 % fail-safe. It tends to "freeze" once every several weeks. A nightly reboot has proven to be a very good solution for 24/7 operation. It would indeed be nice if there was a workaround to provide server to restart and restore connectivity.

I have also had one instance of the terminal window not responding, resulting in a loss of connection and having to restart the terminal window. At this instance, both the local and remote PCs reported OK on the connectivity test, but returned an error message when actually trying to connect.

To end this post, here is a "panorama" of two displays showing two types of configurations at two different locations at the same time. To the left is the LAN (local, although it is labelled "remote") IQ client at the KONG HQ; to the right the WAN (labelled "internet") client at home, also running IQ mode.

Sunday, March 03, 2024

SDRconnect Preview Software - A Primary Look

SDRPlay's current proprietory software for their SDRs is SDRUno - a program consisting of many more or less independent windows that can be moved around, and possibly tied together - in any case it always looks like a mess on my PC desktop and the lettering is hopelessly small for a modern PC monitor, hence I never use it for my RSPdx. Nice then, to have HDSDR and SDR Console to do the job. Others may feel differently about this - I'm not the judge.

The past few months though, another software has begun to emerge from SDRPlay: SDRconnect is their multi-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux) 64-bit software with built-in server capacity. So, while at the KONG HQ this early March weekend, I took some time to play with it.

First off, the full display (click on image for a larger version)

The layout consists of three sections: Primary SP, Aux SP and Recording, in addition to a Control panel that can be toggled on and off. The sections can be resized relative to each other. SDRUno users will recognize the "Bands" control which has been supplemented with a keypad. An IQ or audio recorder is now easily available to the lower right - at the moment the functions are very rudimentary but at least it's there and not hidden in "Scheduler". And as you can see, it works.

By the way, at the time of testing the software I was on 6185 kHz for a reason: Young Finnish radio enthusiast Joakim Wickström was granted permission to set up a temporary SW station from Raasepori on Finland's southwest coast, 1230 km away from me. His 15-watt transmitter was heard with a weak, but stable signal and was also heard in Austria. RealMix Radio is the ID to look out for.

A brief test on the MW band was next:

There is a "Toggle Assymetric Filter" function  (top red circle) which allows full flexibility on both sides of the bandwidth settings, in both AM, SAM, USB and LSB mode (those I tested). With it enabled, I was able to keep a wide bandwidth for a readable signal from CJWI Montréal 1410 while keeping the stronger signal on 1413 out. I was actually quite pleased with the result. You can't move the passband itself (yet?) though, like you can with the Perseus software. There is also a Notch Filter function which I haven't tested.

Another MW view here, WWKB Buffalo NY 1520 with signals on 1510 and 1530 as well, this time with "Toggle Preview Filter" on (red "circle") and Control Panel toggled off. At this time of the morning, almost all European stations are gone.

Both visually and operationally SDRconnect is a huge improvement over SDRUno. What potential users should note is that only 64-bit systems are supported, and Windows users should note that there is no support for pre-Windows 10 systems. Hence, I suppose that SDRConnect is an alternative to and not a replacement for SDRUno. At least for now.

Server functionality has not been tested yet.

But remember: It's a preview for dog's sake! Now is the time for SDRPlay users to report inconsistencies and omissions.

More info from the manufacturer here.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Radio, Radio!

Not much to report from a storm-ridden area. Storm-ridden in two meanings - solar storms and wind storms! Since earth weather doesn't encourage any outdoor activities like jogging, I decided to sit down with my Spotify and see if I could set up a playlist with radio related music.

There was a lot to choose from! I compiled 50 tracks spanning different genres as far apart as Donna Summer and Frank Zappa, including two versions of Bob Seger's "Rosalie", celebrating CKLW broadcast legend Rosalie Trombley. Here is Radio Radio! if you're a Spotify user. Enjoy three and a half hours of (mostly!) great music!

Saturday, October 28, 2023

KONG47 - Day Nine

This is going to be a short one, friends.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, we arranged breakfast for ourselves and our friends from Finland at 09 local today. They then headed back to their basecamp in Aihikiniemi whiile we carried on with searching for interesting stations. Conditions weren't the best, but from the previous night's recordings we did find KCSP Kansas City MO 610, KTSM El Paso TX 690, KMHI Mountain Home ID 1240, KCSF Colorado Springs CO 1300, KENN Farmington NM 1390 and KMIC Houston TX 1590. More to follow. 

Another visit to the sauna today, to make sure we are clean and representative when we travel home on Sunday evening and Monday morning. While at the sauna I wanted to catch the full moon, and I think I succeeded quite well with this unedited shot from my mobile phone.

Photo taken from the Kongsfjord Guesthouse sauna

Afterwards, we ate dinner, a lamb's thigh baked in the oven for 7 hours, with root veggies paste. Nice one! For dessert, my own apple pie with cream. We had one (or actually two) bottles of L'Ancien Le Buissy Beaujolais with the meat, and the rest of the Castelnau de Suduiraut with the dessert.

Weather: Calm, -2 Celsius and dry. Another nice day! Tomorrow will the last full day for the KONG crew, and I will be leaving as early as around 18 local. Before that, we have to dismantle the beverage antenna and equipment at the Mount Loran site.

KONG47 - Day Eight

A bit late this time, but yesterday was busy.
Propogation continues to be variable, and the North America Yaslog from the previous night on Mount Loran illustrates this. Not the most exciting conditions, but there are always surprises once you dig around on the recordings. "Noted in passing" include KBOW Butte MT 580, KSJK Talent OR 1230, KCCR Pierre SD and KFBC Cheyenne WY 1240, KTRC Santa Fe NM 1260, KPRK Livingston MT 1340.

Mount Loran Yaslog from 20:00 to 13:00.

So, why were we busy? We had guests for dinner! And it wasn't just any dinner, but King Crab dinner! And it wasn't just any guests, but Mika Mäkeläinen and Jim Solatie! They arrieved at 17:00 local after a 4-hour drive from their Aihkiniemi DX-pediton site in Finland. Just to visit us! Or maybe it was the prospect of an epic dinner. And epic it became - maybe not for the world but certainly for us five. Below are the gang of five as we prepare for the starter, a home made (by OJ) Västerbotten Pie with salmon roe, red onion and sour cream. Delightful wines were brought in from Finland - with the pie we enjoyed the Alsace Grand Cru Riesling 2019.

(From the left) Mika, Bjarne, OJ, Ole, Jim

The main course was King Crab Carbonara, and after baking the crab looked like this:

How can you not love this...

For the main course our visitors had brought one Crémant D'Alsace Muré and the Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru. Another great choice!

For dessert, another home-made-by-OJ course, Crème brûlée with which we enjoyed a Malmsey Madeira and the Castelnau de Suduiraut 2016.

But actually, the meal started a bit earlier, with the host (me) given the task (or forced to) do something he's not very good at... watch this:

That bottle was a Taittinger Champagne. Another excellent find from our friends. The rest of the evening was spent discussing DX-ing, geopolitics, listening to recordings and telling awkward Norwegian jokes about the Finns.

And we're not done yet! We'll meet again in a short while for a prober breakfast with sourdough bread (OJ-style), eggs & bacon, tea & coffee, cheeses and jam.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

KONG47 - Day Seven

A lot more variable propagation overnight - which means that the ionosphere is unstable. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? We shall find out! But first:

Digging Gold From Previous Days Dept: KFRE Lubbock TX 580 (probably never heard in Europe before) and KGNC Amarillo TX 710. Never heard in Norway before.

From today: Not too much so far; KXSP-NE 590, KHOW-CO 630, WHKM-MI 970, KORT-ID 1240, KTMM-CO 1340. So, today an unstable ionosphere wasn't the best choice. But who knows what will show up when we go through recordings more thoroughly!

After collecting the hard drive from Mount Loran, we took a detour to Berlevåg to supplement some food, anticipating Friday's arrival of the Special Guest Stars, or should we say Special Star Guests!

Today's dinner then! For starters, Salmon Tartare, with Kim Crawford white wine from New Zealand.. The main course is a KONG signature dish, tender loins from reindeer calves, with a paste from root veggies, red wine sauce with mushrooms and lingonberry jam. And a magificent 2020 Rosso de Montalcino. For dessert... well we decided to postpone dessert. A man can only eat so much. So, below are the reindeer tenderloins before and after:

Reindeer loins before...

And after (90 seconds on each side):

Reindeer loins after

Some are/may be interested in our selection of beer. This one may be of interest for DX-ers, since Yakima is home of 1460 KUTI, a station often heard here but now apparently silent. Amundsen Brewery on the other hand is very Norwegian.

And that's all we have for now, except another pre-sunrise photo from this area. By the way, weather was calm, cloudy but dry, and temperatures a tiny bit on the lower side of the zero mark. Possibly a little cooler tomorrow, but very light winds. Our guests will enjoy their drive.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

KONG47 - Day Six

First off, a photo from a the living room, around 45 minutes after sunset. Those familiar with northern latitudes will know that the twilight periods are much longer than further south.

I had a very nice 6-km run just as the sun was setting - chilly at -4 and some wind but with proper clothing you can run in almost any temperature.

Excellent signal levels from North America overnight, and amazingly the highest levels were noted 4 hours after sunrise! Now, high signal levels and lots of stations aren't the same as logging new ones. Propagation was spread wide, from the north-east to Alaska, and with conditions like that the dominant stations tend to... well, dominate. A few nice ones noted though, such as KDRO Sedalia MO 1490, KFH Witchita KS 1240, KLIK Jefferson City MO 1240, KCKM Monahans TX 1330 and KPUR Amarillo TX 1440, KHTS Canyon Country CA 1220.

Good signals from the Pacific early in the day, but the NHK-1 local ID at 10:00 left us with nothing of interest. More so the NHK-2 sign-off at 14:40, notably 1125 Tottori, 1377 Yamaguchi, 1386 Okayama, 1475 Iida and 1539 Masuda (Matsue relay).

After a few days in the wild, nothing feels better than a proper sauna! Great service from Kongsfjord Guesthouse who offered us their excellent facilities off-season.

Proper sauna...

So, what did we have to eat today? Starters: An old aquaintence: Roasted sourdoug bread rubbed with garlic, generous amounts of hummus and fried artichokes on top. And some fresh parsley.

And then, a new one!  Fried cod loins with mashed root veggies (potatoes, sweet potatos, celeriac, turnip), carrot sticks fried in honey, and a red wine sauce! And of course a red wine, a Langhe Rosso 2020. Excellent stuff! It may be a keeper!

Weather: -4 to -5 Celsius, various wind but sunny. Looks like tomorrow will be same, same.

Early Wednesday morning (before sunrise, very similar to the first picture)