Use VLF to detect lightning

Yesterday, my friend Ed, KD8OQG tweeeted:

vielmetti's avatarEdward Vielmetti @vielmetti
a lightning detector, picking up lightning signals on VLF (!) blitzortung.org/Documents/TOA_… @kb6nu @hoopycat #hamr

Ed is a bit of a severe weather geek, and is often Tweeting when severe weather rolls through the Ann Arbor area. So, it’s only natural that he would be interested in the Blitzortung project. The Blitzortung website describes the project this way:

Blitzortung.org is a lightning detection network for the location of electromagnetic discharges in the atmosphere (lightning discharges) based on the time of arrival (TOA) and time of group arrival (TOGA) method. It consists of several lightning receivers and one central processing server. The stations transmit their data in short time intervals over the Internet to our server. Every data sentence contains the precise time of arrival of the received lightning discharge impulse (“sferic”) and the exact geographic position of the receiver. With this information from all stations the exact positions of the discharges are computed. The aim of the project is to establish a low budget lightning location network with a high number of stations. The price for the hardware used is less than 200 Euro. The sferic positions are free accessible in raw format to all stations that transmit their data to our server. The station owner can use the raw data for all non-commercial purposes. The lightning activity of the last two hours is additionally displayed on several public maps recomputed every minute.

Blitzortung.org is a community of station operators who transmit their data to the central server, programmers who develop and/or implement algorithms for the location or visualization of sferic positions, and people who assist anyway to keep the system running. There is no restriction on membership. All people who keep the network in operation are volunteers. There is no fee and no contract. If a station stops pooling its data, the server stops providing the access to the archive of sferics positions for the user of that station. A detailed description about how to participate to the network and how to setup an own receiver can be found in the following document.

The website doesn’t say how much a setup costs, but does says, “If you are interested to setup an own station then you can get the latest printed circuit boards and the programmed micro controller from us. If you are not from Germany, Austria, or Switzerland you can even get a complete controller kit, a complete amplifier kit, ferrite rod antennas, and a GPS module for cost price, if desired.”

The Cloud is an interactive lamp and speaker system, designed to mimic a thundercloud in both appearance and entertainment. Using motion sensors the cloud detects a user's presence and creates a unique lightning and thunder show dictated by their movement.

The Cloud is an interactive lamp and speaker system, designed to mimic a thundercloud in both appearance and entertainment. Using motion sensors the cloud detects a user’s presence and creates a unique lightning and thunder show dictated by their movement.

Ryan Burns, one of Ed’s followers and head of A2 Geeks, suggested that he get a Cloud and hook it to the detector. According to the Cloud’s website, “The Cloud is an interactive lamp and speaker system, designed to mimic a thundercloud in both appearance and entertainment. Using motion sensors the cloud detects a user’s presence and creates a unique lightning and thunder show dictated by their movement.” We would, of course, have to get a version without the motion sensors so that we could interface our lightning detector.

I volunteered that we could mount the detector’s antenna to the tower at the Hands-On Museum. Ironically, I think that we’d have to use a lightning arrestor on the feedline should we actually mount it outside.

From my Twitter feed: club resources

arrl's avatarARRL @arrl
ARRL Atlantic Division Adds Resources to Aid Amateur Radio Clubs: The ARRL Atlantic Division leadership has cr… bit.ly/1gB2ptw

Atlantic Division director Bill Edgar, N3LLR, is truly one of the directors that knows what he’s doing.

 

qrparci's avatarQRP ARCI @qrparci
The Rockmite is back ! A HF transceiver with built in keyer for $40 – qrpme.com/pages/RM%20][.… #hamr #hamradio #qrp

The Rockmite is a classic. If you haven’t built any kits lately, consider picking up one of these and doing so.

 

AlanAtTek's avatar

Alan Wolke W2AEW @AlanAtTek
Lots of folks liked my “how to test BJTs” video, and asked for a similar one on MOSFETs. Here it is: youtube.com/watch?v=gloikp…Another great W2AEW video. I don’t know how he has time to do these, but they’re certainly worth watching.

From my Twitter feed: Santa, kits, PCB design

HamHijinks's avatarHam Hijinks @HamHijinks
Trying a new mode tonight: Santa Scatter! #hamr #hamradio

 

RigolTechUSA's avatar

Chris Armstrong @RigolTechUSA
The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Electronics Kits | @IEEESpectrum #IEEE goo.gl/wzTuv1

ke9v's avatar
Jeff Davis @ke9v
Design it. Order it. Build it. Very cool. fplus.me/p/4wc8

CQ’s “ham shop”

I like to look through the ads and classified ads in the back of ham radio magazines and find items that I haven’t seen before. Since I just re-subscribed to CQ Magazine, I thought I’d scan the ads there. They call their classified ad section “ham shop.”

Breadboard Radio. Breadboard Radio sells a couple of small kits including the Splinter QRPp Receiver/Transmitter ($55), the Toothpick Audio CW Filter/Amp ($25), and the Sawdust Regen Receiver ($25). One cool thing about these kits is that you get a base onto which the PC board mounts. The audio filter or the regen receiver might make a good first kit.

MaineStore.Com. Name tags, belt buckles, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, and more, all personalized with your callsign are available from MaineStore.Com.

w8die_50QSL Cards From the Past. W8JYZ has built a collection of more than 43,000 QSL cards dating back to the 1920s, and he’s scanned many of them and put them online. As far as I can tell, he’s doing this just to preserve our ham radio history. This is a great website. There are a lot of QSLs from stations whose callsigns spell words, like the one at right.

One thing that I found kind of odd is that a couple of the ads there contained links that no longer worked, including www.hamradioprints.com and www.vintagehamshack.com. I guess the proprietors of these websites paid for their ads in advance, but have since gone out of business.

How to build a WWVB receiver?

A recent news story about the 50th anniversary of WWVB got me to thinking about building my own WWVB receiver. I Googled “wwvb kits” and came up with the following:

Unfortunately, all of these kits use a little PC board made by a company called C-MAX, and the company has either discontinued making the IC that powers this module or simply quit selling this module in the U.S. As recently as a couple of years ago, Digikey actually sold this module for about seven bucks.

There are several Web pages that show how to interface the CMMR-6 module to an Arduino or a PIC processor. Here are two:

A couple of companies in the UK seem to still have the modules in stock. The price from a company called Earthshine is only six pounds, but that doesn’t include shipping, of course.

There are some plans that don’t  use the C-MAX chip, but, of course, they’re much more complex. One guy designed his own receiver, but it’s quite a bit more complex than simply using a single chip. There are also several commercial receivers available, but the cheapest one I found is $220.

There are several Web pages that describe how to use the WWVB receiver modules from “atomic clocks.” One of the projects scavenges the WWVB module from a Sony clock. The second uses the module from an Atomix 13131. The Atomix 13131 costs as little as $13.

So, I’m still unsure which way I’m going to go here, but it looks as though hacking an existing clock might be the way to go, especially if I can find one at a thrift shop or garage sale.

More on the new Heathkit

Heathkit_TM-logo_smallThere’s now a FAQ page on the new Heathkit site. Whoever they are, the new owners sure know how to build up the hype.

Here are a few interesting excerpts:

Big changes, big plans

Q. Is Heathkit back?
A. Yes. We’re back.
Q. So are you really going to make Heathkit® kits?
A. Yes.
Q. Wow! That simple? “Yes?”
A. Yes.
Q. Will Heathkit products include entirely new designs?
A. Yes.
Q. Will you revive any old kit designs?
A. Very likely. Tell us what you’d like – take our survey.
Q. When can I start ordering Heathkit® kits?
A. They’re coming. But it’s a long road, and we need every product we offer to be Heathkit® quality. We will communicate with you, here and elsewhere, as we make progress. Thanks for being patient while we rebuild this great company.
Q. I have great ideas—about products I wish you’d make, and past kits I’d buy if Heathkit brings them back. What should I do?
A. You are our favorite customer. We want to hear from you. Of course, don’t tell us anything proprietary unless you have a non-disclosure agreement signed with us. But if you want to tell us about yourself, your favorite past or future Heathkit product, and what you most hope to see and buy from us: Please—take our survey.

———————————————

Questions about the company

Q. So who are you guys?

A. More on this later. Notwithstanding this FAQ, we’re presently in stealth. But here’s what we want you to know right now: We have enormous respect for the Heathkit® name, and we know you do too. We consider ourselves this decade’s caretakers of the most respected name in do-it-yourself and educational electronics and related products over the past century. It’s a terrific opportunity and a historical responsibility we take seriously, and we want to preserve and grow this opportunity, together with you. We know we need to earn and keep your trust every day. Meanwhile, to whet your appetite: Our new CEO/President, and every member of Heath Company’s Board of Directors, are avid kit-builders and DIYers.  We own and use Heathkit® products ourselves. For those with this interest, it happens we all are licensed amateur radio operators. (Also happy with our team will be: car buffs, pilots, musicians & artists, sports/outdoors enthusiasts, parents, educators, and people who value community service.) Our management team have substantial experience as high-tech executives, in startups and public companies, and in technology and finance. We are carefully growing a team of highly experienced industry advisors. Most importantly, we want you to help and advise us too. Ultimately, it is you, with your excitement and enthusiasm and interest in doing great things with great products, who will make Heathkit a success.

What to do about SDR?

For quite a while now, I’ve been thinking about what I should do about software-defined radio (SDR). For one thing, I’d like to write about it here on KB6NU.Com. For another, I’d like to learn more about it – how it works, what’s available, etc.

I”ve decided that short of writing a book about the topic, I’m not going to try to write something comprehensive, but instead just little bits about SDR as I come across them. So, with that in mind, here’s some SDR stuff that I’ve come across recently.

  • DVB-T Mini DongleDVB-T Mini Digital TV USB Stick Dongle. Based on an exchange of e-mails on the AMRAD mailing list, I recently purchased one of these little dongles. Apparently, a bunch of AMRAD members purchased this unit at a recent hamfest, and they’ve all been having fun with them.Unfortunately, it looks like I purchased the wrong one. This design is not supported by the commonly available SDR software. The dongles that are supported use the Realtek RTL2832U chip, so look for that before purchasing.

    Coincidentally, one of the guys here in Ann Arbor, purchased a FunCube Pro dongle at Dayton and brought it down to the museum Saturday. It costs significantly more ($150), but it will tune 150 kHz to 1.9 GHz. It will be fun to compare the two.

  • SoftRock, Peaberry. A couple of months ago, I purchased a SoftRock Lite II kit from someone who hadn’t gotten around to building it and decided that he was probably never going to get around to it. Well, of course, I haven’t gotten around to building it yet, either, but I do hope to get to it sooner rather than later.I have since come across the Peaberry line of kits. The Peaberry SDR V2 kit looks interesting. For $150, you get a multi-band SDR transceiver.
  • RTL-SDR.Com. This blog covers a wide range of topics including how to receive all kinds of different transmissions with DVB-T dongles that use the RTL chips. One recent article compares SDR using the RTL dongles and the FunCube Pro dongle.

Yet another Heathkit?

heathkit-screenshot-20130521

 

Twitter is abuzz with news that someone is trying once again to revive Heathkit. The image above was taken right off the Heathkit home page.

Even more amusing is the online customer survery. It’s quite an extensive survey and very heavy on the amateur radio questions. GB Hoyt (KB4GVL, @kb4gvl on Twitter) has an interesting take on what it will take for them to succeed on his blog.

Take the survey and tell me what you think. Can Heathkit be resurrected?

 

 

From my Twitter feed: kits, cool transmitter, new CW book

MW0IAN
Tim Walford G3PCJ does a nice bunch of radio kits and accessories http://t.co/ZgIdxUc2aj

 

This brings new meaning to “having a cool one.”

kc5fm
“A new “Cool Transmitter” from W5IG.”http://t.co/vtxAwfsWar #ARRL #hamradio

 

The ARRL stole my idea! (just kidding)

ke9v
NEW book from the @ARRL – Morse Code Operating for Amateur Radio ~ Don’t Just Learn Morse Code, Master It!http://t.co/kzlgAQJSUN #hamr

 

From my Twitter feed: old book, HAMcurmudgeon, mountain topper radio

ke9v
Really? Everything? I somehow doubt it.http://t.co/3CKO04H3pO

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at Sat, Mar 30 - 10.06AM 1

What Jeff is referring to is the book above, All About RADIO and Television. I love books like this and tweeted Jeff about that. Being the great guy that he is, he actually bought the book and sent it to me. THANKS, Jeff! If I see you at Dayton this year, I owe you a beer….Dan

HAMcurmudgeon
U might be a HAM if when U tell your wife that 20 meters is dead she sighs & asks, “How much will that cost to fix?” #hamradio

W2MDW
First blog post in a while. My MTR arrives!http://t.co/ABZCKSU9oH