With the panda board server currently on the shelf and working fairly well, I started to move into the phase of my project. I’m building a SoftRock Ensemble RXTX SDR QRP radio.
Software Defined Radio is such an exciting intersection between radio and computers. In an ideal form, an antenna is passed directly to a analog to digital converter and that digital signal is passed to a PC for selection, demodulation, and audio dsp, all done in software. In reality, hardware is used to mix the RF signal down, and amplify it to use a standard PC soundcard as a ADC. Still, your instantaneous bandwidth is limited only by the sample rate of your sound card. With a good pro or gamer grade card, you can sample almost an entire HF band. Even a very reasonable PC can handle than much bandwidth, giving a waterfall view of all of it.
It’s a big project though. I’ve never really did an electronics project of this scope before. My previous largest project was a small robot platform, consisting strictly of DC through hole construction, and about 30 electrical parts total. This guy has much more than 100, including some absolutely tiny surface mount parts and some home wound inductors and transformers. It’s all new to me.
In honesty though, this has been a great kit to build thus far, and I’ve been having lots of fun. My first surface mount component was also the hardest in the kit, and I lost the part when I inadvertently flung it across the room and lost it. DigiKey happily and quickly sent me a new one, and work progressed. Surface mount components are getting to be second nature, and the toroids are easy enough. Stripping the leads on them was the hardest part, but I now have a system for that.
To get through the first 3 steps took me nearly a 6 weeks of hobby time, but summer always seems to have distractions. My wife went of a vacation when her friends, so I’ve been home alone all week end and will be for the next week. So far, I’ve completed up to step 5 of ten, but the last 5 are much smaller than the first, so I expect them to go quickly. I hope to receive my first signals this evening, but we’ll see.