AE9RB please respond

General discussion and support for the Peaberry SDR V2.

AE9RB please respond

Postby Peter » Tue Jun 16, 2015 5:12 pm

I am recently licensed and want to purchase a QRP SDR. The Peaberry is at the top of my list but I am faced with the fact that it is sold out. There is no information to indicate when it will be back in stock. I can infer that it will be since it is not shown as EOL or discontinued. However, there are posts asking for some kind of status that have gone unanswered for too long. The silence from AE9RB on this question is disturbing!

As a prospective buyer, I am not looking for promises, simply a statement indicating what the future of the Peaberry is in terms of stock or if there is a V3 in development. If a V3 is in the works, I would like to have an idea when it might be available for purchase and what changes / improvements are planned- the active word is MIGHT - I understand, as I think most of us do, that plans don't always work out and schedules slip. Just give us an idea what your intentions are...

I (we) are not asking for extensive details but a thumbnail sketch to allow an informed decision - do I wait or do I select another product? Like it or not prologed silence in the face of the question "will there be more V2s any time soon" is an answer and not in favor of the PB!

Hopefully,

Peter
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Re: AE9RB please respond

Postby kz1x » Tue Jun 16, 2015 11:17 pm

Your post makes me curious.

What about the Peaberry V2 kit is most interesting and/or attractive to you?

How would you compare or contrast it to a kit such as this one:

http://www.sdr-cube.com/

or a ready-built, direct-ADC multiband 5W radio like this one:

http://shop.elad-usa.com/sdr-radio/fdm-duo-black/

?
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Re: AE9RB please respond

Postby Peter » Wed Jun 17, 2015 2:29 am

The Elad radio is clearly not in the same league as the PBv2 on many fronts. No manual available for download?!!! Moving on...
I am also watching https://hackaday.io/project/1538-portablesdr but this won't be ready enough anytime soon and is too costly. The Cube is, I believe based on similar type core but carries extra baggage (and fewer bands?) which adds cost, complexity, power demands and size. The simplicity of the PB board and the fact that it is a kit make small tweaks like direct wire for USB, tuner(?) and power easier. These changes allow for a more compact and rugged implementation in my view. The PB also appears to offer enough band options that it will suffice for my needs - not wants.

My objective is to find a SDR transceiver that is low consumed and emitted power (but enough power to achieve contact reliably) on several bands sufficiently separated that propagation can be accounted for. I will start with WSPR to assess the PB and antenna choices for suitability. I need to keep cost and complexity down as much as possible. Similar boards like the softrock use outboard sound cards which add more complexity, bulk, wiring (to emit and pick up noise and get wrong), consume (possibly) more power etc. so I was hoping to avoid them.

I would love to see the PB add more band capability on the board and have directional RF power sensing on board for VSWR etc. If I had to choose one it would be power sensing. This would allow use of a very simple manual tuner or trimming of antenna without external equipment along with other operating benefits (once the applications support it). There are other things on my wish list but everything adds cost. I am trying to be realistic...

My primary and initial interest is in digital modes including (later) digital voice. I want ultimately to have this rig able to use RMS Express (or an equivalent) in peer to peer and client mode. I am investigating the possibility of using windows 10 on a BeagleBoneBlack as the processing platform. I am also investigating the use of Ubuntu and Wine or similar to achieve the same objective. At the moment, I have no Idea what 'extras' might be needed to get RMS to run on Win10. I need to take time to get an image flashed and booting on my BBB and then I will have some Idea(if not before). Failing this there are a number of other lower power platforms that could be chosen. The focus is on having a messaging system that is more rather than less fire and forget that can operate on a modest solar array & battery with power to spare. Ideally it will also be functional for more user directed/interactive modes of operation. Front panel controls might be used for that but are probably redundant. I would rather put that redundancy investment somewhere more critical.

Sorry if this has been a bit disjointed and is a little more than what you asked for but I think it will give you some idea of what I am looking for and why I ended up here.

73,

Peter KC3FBB
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Re: AE9RB please respond

Postby kz1x » Wed Jun 17, 2015 10:43 am

Thanks for the thorough reply. It's exactly what I was looking for.

I notice you are newly licensed, and you were able to pass your Extra right away.
May I ask if you had been licensed before, or, if you have a close friend or family member who is also a ham?

I built two of the PBv2 radios and had two of the previous version. I sold all but one of the original units recently.
So, I have a good bit of experience with them and that is why I am always curious to see what brings others to try them out.

I am also a fairly experienced ham operator, not any guru but overall have some miles covered.
I have been licensed since 1979, got my Extra in about 1984, hold 7B DXCC, and about 275 confirmed, including P5.
I build a lot of my own gear, have a large antenna farm with a 80' Rohn 55G tower, operate QRP to QRO, own a well equipped lab,
have built an HF data network using Pactor 3, co-founded the local radio club, teach Morse classes, etc.

I offer this as a bit of background to allow you to determine if I might offer some advice as you embark on your project.
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Re: AE9RB please respond

Postby Peter » Wed Jun 17, 2015 2:29 pm

Thank you for your offer of 'support'. I would like to hear your thoughts on the PB platform in this context. At the moment, my distance requirement is New Jersey and South Carolina from PA but that could change. I am hoping to find an inexpensive antenna that is easy to put up like this one http://www.kn9b.us/spiral-dipole. If memory serves It can be relatively broad band and clearly is compact. I have some ideas and material choices in mind for this type of antenna that would make it ideal for our application. More research and testing is necessary to determine if this antenna will actually be suitable and where I may be able to tweak the entire system to achieve simplest configuration.

My family is getting more spread out and I am increasingly interested in having ability to stay in touch independent of any infrastructure. It remains to be seen how this will go but we have agreed what I have proposed would be worthwhile. If they get licensed, I intend to set up several identical systems - one for each family to use. I also hope it can be an entry point for my grandchildren in a few years. My role is to lead and show them (and prove to myself) that what I propose can be done, will work well, and at a cost that is sensible and manageable.

If I end up going it alone, my approach will be quite different since the HF connection is primarily to connect with family. In that case I would want to invest in more advanced equipment for HF like the SDR I referenced which ultimately will be more capable. In any event I also intend to get some inexpensive VHF/UHF equipment for local as well.

As to the newly licensed, I have been interested for 40+ years but couldn't get over the code hump. Chalk that one up to ADD (no H). I had an uncle on each side of the family that were hams but I never had significant interaction with them in this regard. I even inherited a Kenwood HF rig from one after he passed but at the time, the code hump was an issue as was time. The rig was donated to a missionary that needed one. I have had a life long interest in electronics, technology, etc. and have worked my entire career maintaining telecommunications and other electronic systems - I started formally in the USAF as a ground electronics tech working on air traffic control radio systems and HF systems. I drew heavily on that for the tests and would have had an extra back then (more easily) were it not for the code. By the time 2007 rolled around, I didn't have the time or funds (mostly time) to invest. I was laid off recently and that gave me more time to think. I decided to give this a go and try to lead other family members into the fraternity. I took 4 weeks to study in my spare time to get general (my baseline requirement) and took the extra as well. I missed by 1 Q. So I decided to study a little more and took the extra again 4 days later. The rest as they say is history.

73,

Peter KC3FBB
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Re: AE9RB please respond

Postby kz1x » Wed Jun 17, 2015 3:01 pm

Peter

OK, this is most helpful.

You want reliable (text? voice? you did not say) communications between family members in NJ and SC, and I assume some points sort-of in between (where you are in east central Penna?).

You want to do this with the lowest possible cost and antenna footprint. The goal is to try and have some alternative to conventional communications technologies, should those become compromised in some way.

And you want it to work well enough so that your family members will be "satisfied" enough, after some demonstration, for them to put out the effort to join your effort.

Do I have this summarized correctly?

Steve
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Re: AE9RB please respond

Postby Peter » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:23 pm

Steve,

Your summary is correct. There are a few other items on the list that bear mentioning.

My baseline requirement is text. My goal is to achieve message delivery within 24 hours - with automatic confirmation of delivery. The assumption is that the station(s) will be operating 24/7 on solar power/battery when infrastructure fails. Transmit schedules may be modified based on power budget. As to the digital voice, if memory serves, there is presently some difficulty with getting captured station transmit audio from the sound card routed to the PB for transmit etc. I hope this will be resolved but I do not require it to consider this configuration a success. Also, I do recognize that there are some solar related events that can cause havoc measured in terms of at least days on the HF bands. For these, my philosophy is "this too shall pass".

My reference to fire and forget is that the the family deprived of normal infrastructure for communication can set up station in under an hour, enter a brief message, put it in the transmit queue and move on to other priorities checking when convenient for response. It is my understanding that this is well within the bounds of our operating rules.

There is a greater probability that I will be operating my station continuously but ultimately I want each station to be capable of contacting any other peer to peer which appears to be at least possible with RMS Express. Also, the spiral antenna in NVIS mode is omni so as long as that gives us the performance we need P to P will be no problem. Having the nulls also allows us to try to place interfering stations in them if needed and at the same time possibly increase the radiated power in the desired direction.

The rest of the family will be 'operators' at first. They are busy professionals so I don't want this system to place technical demands on them that they won't have time to properly develop. They are smart responsible people but piling on is not a recipe for success. Over time I will work with them to increase their capability and competence.

As far as satisfaction goes, this is as much for me as anyone. The family trusts my technical competence. I need to count the actual cost. They are in principle agreed but we all need clarity on what level of performance we can achieve for how much coin.

Peter
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Re: AE9RB please respond

Postby kz1x » Sat Jun 20, 2015 5:40 pm

Terrific and detailed responses here, thanks!

If the delivery is non-real-time text, you will probably want a multiband ARQ system.

Do-able, but, the free software available now is really challenging. Are you a programmer of any type?
I can tell you this is in the top-three problems you are going to encounter.

Next is ERP. Your tak-tenna and similar designs are SO far below a dipole it's not funny.

Anecdotal reports of "gee I made contacts galore on this thing" have no scientific basis.
You need ERP to overcome path loss, matter of physics, and the dynamic range of your typical desired path is on the order of 80 dB.

As N6BT says: "everything works!" You need to read this article:
http://www.ok1rr.com/index.php/antennas/94-everything-works

I am thinking of a good way to phrase this next part, I know you have some HF background but your comments are showing an exuberance / expectation set that may not be reflected in a reduction to practice ... my goal is to help you not make newbie mistakes that will cost you $$ ... I haven't come up with one yet, so, bluntly, here's what you should do first...

Get a conventional used 100W rig for $400 and put up two antennas, a 40 meter dipole flat-top at 30 feet oriented east-west, and, one other compromise antenna like the tak-tenna or similar you suggested. Get a switch to flip between the two, and then spend a couple days a week for 6 weeks (preferably over a change in seasons) sitting on the SouthCARS and/or eCARS nets. Just that and only that. Doing so will give you the hands-on, on-air experience to determine what really will get the job done versus what might be aesthetically acceptable but not functional.

The bands you're interested in will primarily be 60-40-30. The antenna you need for this will be a remotely-auto-tuned doublet fed with open wire line, but, I will let you arrive at this conclusion by yourself.

Back to the radio. Most software now available doesn't have the needed rig control integrated with the AxSK mode control on the PB, so, the fiddling you have to do with com port sharing and virtual audio channels is a huge pain in the neck, not to mention the gross lack of robustness. That's one big reason the Peaberry won't really catch on, besides the fact it's no longer available anyway. Until the software out there gets real, it's a big problem. Also, unless you are a real builder, the PB is not a real choice, even if it was available. Since a built and tested unit sells for $250 or so (I know, since I just sold two at that price), you can do way better than that for not much more.

The Elad solves part of the software problem by exposing each radio component (control plane and signal plane) separately. It also is 100% digital, which is good for what you're doing, and has a far more robust RF architecture than the PB. And then you need an amplifier (all this ain't working well unless you can crank up to 50W or so). Yes, I know, the cost is prohibitive. Instead, you can also do what you want with some old IC735 or IC728 or similar at a fraction of the Elad price, using an embedded Linux/windows controller and some programming on your part.

Steve KZ1X
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Re: acrylic case

Postby BRIANV » Mon Jun 22, 2015 11:05 pm

I bought acrylic case on june 8th, I noticed in stock, bought it, and then noticed out of stock.....
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