Saturday, April 30, 2011


The last few days, I have been playing with the new DSPExplorer software. The software is intended to be used for exploring analog signal with digital processing.

But, it occurred to me that I should be able to use DSPExplorer for experimenting with simple digital circuits. I have to apologize to Ward - AE6TY, the author, for perverting his wonderful software to this trivial task.

As shown,
A SigGen sign wave is SUBed
with a (processed) Digital Clock train.

Click on the image to expand.

DSPExplorer is very interactive, and as you can see it is very flexible.

The software is a java app that runs on Window, Mac, and Linux. It can be downloaded from:

Check out the new forum site:

Thanks Ward, for your software contribution and all of your support efforts.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Micro FM Transmitter

Recently, Mark VandeWettering - K6HX of fame, posted his very interesting and success build of Tetsuo Kogawa’s Micro FM transmitter.

Following Mark's great inspiration, I decided to commit the circuit to a Micro PCB using small SMT components.

This project build was implemented using DipTrace PCB Software and the Homebrew Toner Transfer Method. Similar to my other Amateur Radio projects, my goal for this was to build the device as small as I my abilities allowed. The results, is a circuit board .5 x .8 inches, with about a third of that dedicated to the 1/8 inch audio connector. Some of the original circuit component values were change to accommodate the allotted PCB space and my junk box resources.

As Designed with DipTrace                   DipTrace 3D View

Printable Artwork

With a 9 Volt Battery and a twist of the Trimmer Cap, the circuit came alive on the FM Broadcast Band.

Initial testing indicates very good stability and it does not suffer from hand capacitance. It's DX has been tested to greater than 30 feet. I have not yet tested for expected battery life/usage, but so far one 9 Volt Battery has been running for greater that 4 hours (see UPDATE below), while listening to my phone tunes on the FM radio. I have not had to re-tune the receiver - it is very stable.

Mounted and Ready for Use

Click the images for expanded view.

The vertical component on the back edge is a 2.2p capacitor used as a short stub antenna, this simple small consistent load helps stabilize the frequency and provide a greater transmit range. The antenna length is just the original length of the component lead. Power (input or) output has not been measure (yet), but my similar constructed 30 meter beacons have typical measure 43nW into a 50 ohm load, but of course, this project is not terminated into a proper load and therefore the effective radiated power is unknown.

With a simple male-to-male stereo audio cable, the transmitter can be used with any PC or Phone style audio output.

The resulting circuit works very well, it is not stereo, but for now my Droid Phone has never sounded better on FM :-)

Thanks Mark for the build inspiration, and Tetsuo for the circuit design.

At about 24 hours mark the output frequency shifted up about 2kHz.

For the Die Hard Test; A single 9 Volt Battery has now been powering this transmitter continuously for more than 96 hours.

At 96 hours I stopped the Die Hard Test to experiment with other aspects of this Transmitter. I think it is safe to say this Transmitter is very gentle on its battery.

An interesting observation: My HTC Droid Phone has an FM Receiver APP that can be used to listen to FM radio. Which I inadvertently turned it on, the audio was redirected to the audio output jack which was connected to the Micro FM Transmitter. In effect transcribing the Phone received FM station to yet another FM Broadcast Band frequency - as received on another FM receiver (my the FT-817). I think this may be border line illegal.

The MFMT is now even smaller, and available see:

-- Home Page:

Ubuntu and the Brother HL-5370DW

A How To: Ubuntu setup for Brother HL-5370DW Laser Printer


I have been using an old Brother HL-5250DN CAT-5 Networked Laser Printer for a long time, for my Ubuntu Servers and Workstations. But I needed a new second network printer for my shop. To be consistent and compatible I wanted the second printer to be the same as the first. But alas, the HL-5250DN printer is no longer available for purchase. The suggested similar replacement printer is the HL-5370DW, which includes the same USB and LAN interfaces, plus it also contains a Wireless interface. Good, I can advantage of that.

The problem is; the supplied printer documentation is for MS Windows and/or the Mac, nothing for generic use or for Linux style of computers.

I use the current laser printer for general use, and for Hi Resolution Toner Transfer prints which are use for making my Homebrew PCBs.

The Task

I wanted to set up my new Brother HL-5370DW Laser Printer on my Ubuntu network environment via the Wireless interface. Internet searches did not provide much help. But, I know that I need to set up the printer with a "static" network address, so that it's hard-coded address can be used with the Ubuntu Printer Spooler.

But, how do I start? What interface or address should be used for the initial configuration?

With little information available in the supplied documentation, it might suggest using the factory default IP address and/or the USB Interface to connect to the printer, details were very sketchy.

After much Internet searching and spending a lot of time trying many things, the task was actually quit simple, assuming a Wireless Router with DHCP is available.

This post is intended to provide others with an Internet Search result that should be helpful.

  • Ensure that DHCP is available from the Wireless Router (details depend on your router)
  • Turn on the HL-5370DW Laser Printer
  • Press the Network Init Button (via a small hole in the interface face plate on the back of the printer), this may not be needed, but it does not hurt.
  • Wait about 30 seconds, for DHCP and the Router to establish a network connection with the printer
  • Access your Wireless Router configuration, to list the DHCP assigned address for the printer (details depend on your Wireless Router)
  • Access the Printers Web Configuration using the DHCP assigned IP address
  • Use the available screens to configure the Wireless SSID and a desired static address
  • When the configuration is "saved", the printer will reboot and your browser will be redirected the the new static address, save and exit.
  • Now use the normal Linux (Ubuntu) "Printer Config" admin utilities to complete the set up using the static address of the printer

Note: as with all Linux print spoolers, a second cloned printer definition can be very useful. I use a clone (with only slight modification) that allows easy access to pre-configured Hi Resolution Option (1200 x 1200 dpi), as needed for use with the Toner Transfer (TT) Method of PCB creation. I use a third clone to provide Hi Resolution and Mirror of the print, again very useful with TT.

I hope this helpful for someone, or me the next time I attempt this again.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Forgotten Useful Tool

I have recently been made aware of a great Smith Chart Program and Tutorials, thanks to Dennis Eckert - KB7ST and his post on the pQRP list reflector.

I have used a hand Smith Chart many years ago, and since forgot most of what I knew.

Program by 

The six tutorials are a good overview of the program, and a very good refresher of why I should be using it more often with my Homebrew projects. The Smith Chart Program is now going to be a constant companion, on the bench, for use in all projects.

Click the tutorials, see if you do not agree. Be sure to read the Primmer and the QRP Quarterly (pdf).

The Yahoo Group SimSmith Forum is at:

Thanks - Dennis for the pointer, and Thanks, Ward, for the Program and your Efforts!


Monday, April 18, 2011

Boards Received from China

I am an avid Homebrew PCB builder using the Toner Transfer Method, I can build a single sided board (similar as shown below) in about 20 minutes, and a double sided board in about one hour. I can also apply a green UV Curable Epoxy Solder Mask on either or both sides. A solder mask takes about 2 hours to apply.

As an experiment, I wanted to try the services of a commercial PCB production shop, the following is the initial results.

My 30m Beacon circuit boards was sent out for processing, it just arrived back from the PCB manufacture in China.

发件人: IteadStudio
发送时间: 2011-04-15 23:44:47
收件人: order
主题: Fw: Re: Order Update #1550
After receipt and close inspection, I am very pleased with the results.

The schematic and board was designed with DipTrace Software and then six Exported Gerber Files and one Drill file were sent via e-mail to in China for manufacture.

To access the PCB service at; click on the tab on the site's top; "iStore -> OpenPCB -> PCB Prototyping Service".

The Original Layout as Designed in DipTrace PCB Software

As shown via the DipTrace 3D Preview Software

This is a photo of the resulting PCB as Received from

The results are amazing. This is a; 1x2 inch board, with 8 and 6 mil Traces, 10 mil Clearance, the Ground Grid is 8 mils on 24 mil centers, and the Plated-through VIA's are 40 mils with 15 mil holes.

As shown in the magnified view below, there are multiple ground grid traces between the 1/10 inch on center Header holes. The square SMD pads are for 0603 LEDs and their 0603 limit resistors.

As Designed                                                    As Shipped

I received 10 boards for $12.00 plus $4.00 Shipping, that is $1.60 per board - a very good value. To obtain this low price, boards must be equal or less than 5x5 cm. Larger boards are available, but at higher price.

The only down side is the shipping time from China, it was 15 days after manufacture, 22 days total. But the results for this hobbyist was well worth it!

 Five of the 10 Boards are Marked as  being Tested

Chris and Dave of the put me onto this great available service - Thanks Guys.

Note: I did not experience the Ground Plane Dropout as Dave Blogged, but then maybe I did not use similar geometry.

I am very pleased with the quality and results, and plan to use the service again, where multiple copies are needed and turn-around delay is acceptable. But, for my "one off" projects, I will continue to use the Homebrew Toner Transfer Method.

OK, one nagging question, what am I going to do with ten of these circuits, when I really only needed one or two? Well, this was just a test or exercise of the process, for later and more sophisticated circuits, and where copies will be sold.

Soon, I will post the results after loading a board.

I found a similar priced and faster service, based in Portland, OR. See: my follow-on post.

-- Home Page:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A full Amateur Radio Day

My Saturday was a very full day of Amateur Radio, it started early at about 5:30AM, with it being wet, rainy, foggy and cold, it was not exactly a very good day for what was planed

The first thing on the schedule was attending the monthly Sky Vally Ham Radio Club Breakfast. In the past the breakfast meeting were held only about 3 minutes from my home, but with the old restaurant closing and my recent move, the travel time is now a little over an hour to the new location at the Mountain View Diner in Gold Bar, WA. The formal meeting starts a 8AM, but I try to get there about an hour before, as several members show up early just to chat.

Later, my friend Jeff - KO7M and I planned to take down a 40 foot tower with a vertical on top.

The drive from the restaurant to the the tower site was yet another hour. We planned to be on site about 11:00AM and planned to be finished around 3pm. The weather cleared and was only threatening rain.

Jeff was prepared with the required climbing and safety gear, and the Gin Pole was at the ready.

The home owner and I were the ground crew, attending ropes and providing verbal support.

The top section and the vertical were to be taken down together, thinking that the antenna would weigh much less than the top section of the tower. Wrong!  They were about the same weight or at least the center of gravity of each was about same distance from the rope tie point. It was a good thing we had a handling rope attached to the bottom of the top tower section. The two wanted to quickly rotate to the horizontal, but we were prepared. The antenna and top tower section were lowered together without further difficulty.

The three lower tower sections were taken down, uneventful,  as planned.

Due to one thing and then another, we did not finish until 6:30pm, and then there was yet another 1.5 hour drive back to home. By the time I got home it was late and I was exhausted (I hate getting old) - but it was a very good day of Amateur Radio.


Sunday, April 10, 2011


For several years I have been wanting to print a copy of my complete blog with photos, in the natural chronological order (oldest post first).

When first investigating the possibility, it seemed difficult and/or expensive. Some available services will format and print a hard cover book if requested (eg, Blog2Print). Maybe someday I will use their services.

But, for now, I just need a simple hard copy.

Today I found "BlogBooker", which does the task online for Free (the service is supported by user donations). The results are good, even though some useful text formating was lost. For example, some blanks lines between paragraphs were lost. But, the results are very acceptable for my current use.

The output is a saved PDF.

This info is archived here for later use.

It appears Blog2Print can be used to print anyone's blog, while BlogBooker can only be used by the author.

Blog2Print only requires the Blog URL, and some optional formatting, binding, and time span parameters, to produce the output. Hardbound books are available, and for a much lesser price soft copy PDF are available.

BlogBooker requires access to an exported XML file of the Blog. I assuming only the author of the Blog has access to the required exported file.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Another Hamfest, in Yakima

Today Tess (my dog) and I got up at 5:00AM to drive 150 miles to Yakima Washington for the W7AQ Hamfest.

After spending a lot of time in my shop, I need a change of scenery and the drive would be fun (maybe). The local weather was threatening rain, which may mean snow on I-90 Snoqualmie Pass (at about 3K feet). I planned to drive as far as possible (with my light van) without tempting destruction on slippery roads. Off we went, with foul weather gear, Cell Phone and the FT-817.

The big shock was at the Fuel Pump - $3.96 per gallon.

My Droid Cell Phone was set to simultaneously run; the GPS Navigator Program, Monitor the On Board Diagnostic (OBD) via bluetooth, and run the APRS reporting program.

Interesting; the Navigator Program reported that we were going to "Yeah Kee' Ma", which was good for a chuckle. It is obvious the "text to speech" program is not familiar with the Pacific Northwest Indian names.

It will be fun to see the OBD engine information showing; engine load, fuel usage, input air temperature, and air mass, while driving over the passes.

As it turns out, all of the roads were clear and dry, traffic was rolling along about 75 mph over the I-90 pass. The snow was stacked about 12 feet on the sides of the road near the Ski Lodge at the summit.

The one-way trip, with a few stops, took about 3.5 hours, arriving 45 minutes after the doors opened. I understand from a few attending friends that the "good stuff" was sold within the first 20 minutes - Oh well, I was there for the trip.

The place was crowed, with lots of conversation and hot deals. It seems the major volume of the crowd arrived about 10:00AM.

As usual, I found the Air Variable Caps for sale, with some good prices, but again, I resisted temptation for the need for more. From previous posts, you might know, I have a fetish for Air Variable Caps.

There were several interesting Fixed Air Caps, the like I have never seen before, very large with plate gaps of about 1/4 inch (see center right of photo). They look like Variables, but the are Fixed. I would loved to have them, but I do not know where I would ever use them.

For a treasure, I purchased some small 5K POTs (with switches) for use in my small projects, 20 for a buck. I am not sure of the taper, but should be good for tuning via varistor or a simple volume control.

On the way home I decide to go north toward Wenatchee and the tourist destination town of Leavenworth (the GPS Navigator also had fun with those two names) and then crossing the Cascades at Stevens Pass (US Route 2) . This route is less traveled in the winter because it is mostly a two lane road, and at much higher elevation (4K feet), but it is normally plowed and well traveled by the skiing crowd. At the top of Stevens Pass, the Snow was stacked about 25 feet, the road was clear and dry.

Note: While researching the included links in this post, I learned something new, "US Route 2" should have been named "US Route 0", assuming the naming convention was strictly upheld. The Highway Department did not want a "0" name route, and therefore picked the next even number for this road. It is also the only US Named Route that was planned, from the beginning, to contain two disconnected segments. Guess where the missing segment can (not) be found.

At home, while reviewing the APRS data it appears that my Cell Phone APRS reporting program was not always running on the return trip, or it had trouble accessing reporting stations. Maybe I forgot to restart it after a fuel stop, and/or I know the cell data connection was lost in the tight turns of the narrow river canyon.

Along the way, I listen to 2m and scanned the bands. I still do not have the FT-817 programed well enough for interactive use while driving.

It was a great trip, and it only cost me; $8.00 for admission, $1.00 for POTs, plus some for Fuel and Food (which works out to be about $6.00 per purchased part!).


Sunday, April 3, 2011

HB PCB 3D Models

With time and work, I have created a few missing 3D components (see previous post) for my current project as shown via DipTrace (Beta) 3D PCB Layout program. The difficult task was finding a 3D modeling program that was easy to use and that can write the correct file format that DipTrace uses for it 3D Display.

I have now created the missing; Headers, Binocular Core, Trimmer Caps, and Trimmer Resistors 3D models to complete my current PCB project.

I used the AC3D Modeling Program to create the components. Unfortunately, AC3D can not read the resulting saved files. AC3D can Export VRML-2 file formats (which I need for the DipTrace PCB program), but it can not read the resulting VRML-2 file.

It would be nice if AC3D could also Import VRML-2, so that the Standard DipTrace 3D components could be used as reference or updated. Currently, I have been also saving all of my new components in the native AC3D format for later updates.

I have used AC3D for many previous mechanical projects, but to be more productive here, I need to continue to my search for a easy to use 3D Modeling program, that can natively Read and Write VRML-2 file formats.

It is interesting how productive the new DipTrace 3D View has become. Because of the 3D view, I have been able to modified the layout, by moving components closer and therefore saving space.

Waiting the 6-10 days for my PCB to return from the Chinese Manufacture has been a little frustrating, compared to building my own HB PCB. But, building the 3D components to complete my 3D model has been enjoyable.

I just received e-mail notice that my Chinese Manufactured PCBs are complete, and now in the mail, Woohoo!


Friday, April 1, 2011

DipTrace Beta

Several of the available PCB layout tools provide 3D Previewing as a standard function. The PCB software that I follow are:
From my perspective, each have their advantages and aggravations.

AuoTRAX has some really interesting features that I would like to use, but alas, AutoTRAX does not currently run on Linux or Ubuntu with Wine, which is my OS of choice and available in my shop and office (I am hopeful).

Most of my aggravations with DipTrace have be noted within my previous blogs and/or sent to DipTrace Developers where they were added to a long list of user requested enhancements.

Even with DipTrace's aggravations, I keep returning to DipTrace because of it's unique crosshatch copper pour ability, and because the support group has recently created some very instructive verbal video tutorials.

Crosshatch copper pour are well suited to the Toner Transfer Method of creating PCB's, as large blocks of Black Toner do not print, transfer or etch very well.

The New Beta Release of DipTrace (Mar 2011) now has a 3D Previewer feature.

In the past, I could only publish the PCB layout art for my projects.

With this new 3D function, I can now publish or document 3D views of the proposed results.

For Diptrace, 3D is still in Beta, and therefore some of the expected tools are not well developed. For example; an easy to use "Model Browser" for the library of 3D models does not exist. Currently all of the 2580 models are jammed into a single directory, where finding a particular model is problematic, especially if it's name is unknown. Even if you know the part family, it is a long iterative process to find the exact model that you are looking for. I know this is Beta, but the current aggravating usage part of this is;  the model viewer/selector process continually "opens" and then "closes" the model directory when used,  and each time it re-lists all of the 2580 models from the beginning.

Also, some simple standard models are not available, for example I could not find simple 3-pin fan headers, or anything like it. Note: the lack of headers, switches, coils, toroids, and trimmers in the above 3D view.

Hopefully more models and a better model Browser tools is being planned.

To make my use of the 3D Model Library easier, I spent about 4 hours sorting and dividing the 2580 Beta models into Family Directories. Now once within a Family Directory with only a few models, exploring different styles or revision of a part is much easier. A Viewer or Browser "Back/Next" button on the current viewer would be very useful, because the current method of opening the directory and scanning to a model file is very laborious.

Unfortunately, the supplied DipTrace 3D Library Model Viewer is like most MS products that are stuck with the authors vision of what display size should be used. The window is not scalable to take advantage of a large screen. Therefore, a large display user, must unnecessarily look at small window.

I am hopeful that the current DipTrace Beta with the new 3D Preview function is just the beginning of good things to come.

Note: I have recently sent the above board out to a Chinese PCB Fabrication Shop, this is a first for me. It will be interesting to see the results.