2014-11-28 Moving the lightning strike detector to the shed
I have noticed the lightning strike detection in Weather station Utrecht Overvecht goes completely mad when I transmit on the 20 meter amateur band. With the detector being quite close to the antenna I can understand this. The solution will be to find a place to mount the detector in the shed. It will be lower (less reception of the radio energy of the strikes) but it will also be further away from my interference. That also means the reading of the detector will have to be done using w1retap since that is what I use on the shed weatherstation computer. I was a bit confused whether w1retap supports this counter but I found out it's based on the DS2423 counter chip which is supported in w1retap, as part of a wind speed meter in a TAI8515 weather station, but w1retap will give the count on readout and the conversion is up to the user.
Interesting new problem: transmitting on 20 meter PSK31 causes the lightning strike detector of the Weather station Utrecht Overvecht to go slightly mad. If you look at the graphs it seems like there was a really heavy thunderstorm last Thursday but that's just the result of trying 20 meter PSK31 all day and making 11 QSOs (radio connections). Time to move the lightning detector to a better location: in the shed with the rest of the weather station. Update 2014-11-08: And another side-effect: I used a really cheap gimmick USB hub to hook up the radio to the workstation because I needed an extra USB port for something else. The next thing that happened was the USB chip in the serial cable to the radio (CAT interface) completely locking up on transmitting. I also hear buzzing on speakers when I transmit on 20 meters so this is a big hint I need to change some things. At least a balun for the attic dipole is on the way.
After testing the gps sky view it's now time to test with ntpd. First step was to recompile ntpd because the debian default package had no pps support. Recompiling on a 500 MHz AMD Geode takes a bit of time. Results look ok for a first test:root@ritchie:~# ntpq -p remote refid st t when poll reach delay offset jitter ============================================================================== +greenblatt.idef 184.108.40.206 2 u 17 64 377 1.177 101.732 63.403 *metronoom.dmz.c .PPS. 1 u 17 64 377 19.499 100.512 6.722 +auth1.xs4all.nl 220.127.116.11 2 u 11 64 377 18.403 104.008 3.669 oGPS_NMEA(0) .GPS. 0 l 6 8 377 0.000 114.073 7.364 root@ritchie:~# ntpdc -c loopi offset: 0.001986 s frequency: 94.434 ppm poll adjust: -30 watchdog timer: 342 s root@ritchie:~# ntpdc -c kerni pll offset: 3.3e-08 s pll frequency: 94.434 ppm maximum error: 0.175258 s estimated error: 2e-06 s status: 2007 pll ppsfreq ppstime nano pll time constant: 3 precision: 1e-09 s frequency tolerance: 500 ppm root@ritchie:~# ntpdc -c sysi system peer: GPS_NMEA(0) system peer mode: client leap indicator: 00 stratum: 1 precision: -19 root distance: 0.00000 s root dispersion: 0.00749 s reference ID: [GPS] reference time: d72cb010.dc91595e Sun, May 25 2014 20:08:16.861 system flags: auth monitor ntp kernel stats pps jitter: 0.006714 s stability: 0.000 ppm broadcastdelay: 0.000000 s authdelay: 0.000000 sIt will need some more calibration probably. Update: It keeps looking nice after some calibration. Stats gathered at NTP server ritchie.idefix.net stats. This does mean one of the old project sundial goals has been met: the weather station computer in the shed is now also a time server.
Free unscheduled UPS test this morning courtesy of the local electricity company this morning. As logged by the UPS:Wed May 07 08:47:09 CEST 2014 Power failure. Wed May 07 08:47:15 CEST 2014 Running on UPS batteries. Wed May 07 09:27:39 CEST 2014 Battery power exhausted. Wed May 07 09:27:39 CEST 2014 Initiating system shutdown!The weatherstation computer for Weather station Utrecht Overvecht doesn't power up automatically, so it's not available at the moment. It's annoying that my websites are unreachable and Internet access is down. But no money is lost, so there is no reason to invest in backup links and resilient hosting.
I almost started to digres in my last post getting an APRS report out using an android device, aprsdroid and a wouxun radio about the privacy implications but decided to separate that issue. It works, and I am not going to invest in it. APRS is nice, but for me it has privacy implications: it reports my position in real-time which is more than I want to share with the world, even as an amateur radio experiment. I know there are people who will post their bicycling tours or runs on-line as they happen but I don't like publishing my wereabouts, especially not in (near) real-time. Enough people can browse the mobile telecom location registers as it is. So I think I'll leave the APRS location experiments at this and I'll go look at other amateur radio stuff. There is enough to play with! I know APRS is bigger than just reporting location. Getting my weatherstation in Utrecht Overvecht to report weather to the APRS citizen weather observer program is on my wishlist.
In searching for information about the Alix 1.c bios upgrade I'd like to do I came across mention of flashrom, a command line utility which can do firmware flashing for a lot of systems right from the commandline. No more long downtimes due to being busy with bootable floppies, cd's, usb sticks or slow update programs. Initially the program gave a warning on ritchie, but with one "I am sure what I am doing" option:root@ritchie:~# flashrom --programmer=internal:laptop=this_is_not_a_laptop -r oldbios.bin flashrom v0.9.6.1-r1563 on Linux 3.12-1-486 (i586) flashrom is free software, get the source code at http://www.flashrom.org Calibrating delay loop... OK. ======================================================================== WARNING! You may be running flashrom on an unsupported laptop. We could not detect this for sure because your vendor has not setup the SMBIOS tables correctly. You can enforce execution by adding '-p internal:laptop=this_is_not_a_laptop' to the command line, but please read the following warning if you are not sure. Laptops, notebooks and netbooks are difficult to support and we recommend to use the vendor flashing utility. The embedded controller (EC) in these machines often interacts badly with flashing. See http://www.flashrom.org/Laptops for details. If flash is shared with the EC, erase is guaranteed to brick your laptop and write may brick your laptop. Read and probe may irritate your EC and cause fan failure, backlight failure and sudden poweroff. You have been warned. ======================================================================== Proceeding anyway because user forced us to. Found chipset "AMD CS5536". Enabling flash write... OK. WARNING: unexpected second chipset match: "AMD CS5536" ignoring, please report lspci and board URL to firstname.lastname@example.org with 'CHIPSET: your board name' in the subject line. Found SST flash chip "SST49LF040B" (512 kB, LPC) at physical address 0xfff80000. Reading flash... done.Checksums for the saved bios file match with the bios image I have from the last upgrade.
I had a closer look at the available PC Engines alix 1.c bios updates and noticed alix0.bin and alix2.bin images in the .zip file. A bit of searching found 3D3 BIOS-Upgrade: Which one is the right file? - PC Engines support forum which lists alix0.bin for alix.1 systems and alix2.bin for alix.3 systems. Should work with the provided sb.com.
The change to the new weatherstation computer also means the powerline network is now gone. And I mean gone, not just disconnected "just in case". The adapters are back in a crate. And this should mean the HF spectrum should look nicer than in my earlier measurements. Future measurements may confirm this. The weatherstation computer now uses Wi-Fi to talk to the rest of the network. Since the access-point is on the same ground level the signal quality is good and speed is high enough.
Today there was time to change the computer in the shed to ritchie, the alix 1.c based system. The system decided this was a great moment to run into the "system won't boot without monitor present" issue. I found a funny workaround: I disabled the video memory. This does mean the display doesn't work at all, but at least it boots. I'll do a bios reset and upgrade sometime in the future. The PC Engines alix1c product page lists possible problems with a vga boot hang as fixed in a newer bios. After that the system started working nice, talks to the weather station hardware and Weatherstation Utrecht Overvecht is back up. This system with a standard power usage of about 5W will be 'greener' than the replaced older PC. There is a free serial port for a gps, but since the gpskit gps was showing strange problems in the ntp server test I decided to take that gps back inside to have a look whether that can be used or I want to search for some other gps unit to have my own home time server. Maybe the wardriving gps unit. Some sort of plastic container to keep all the electronics together and shielded is also a good idea.
2014-01-06 (#)Items with tag weatherstation before 2014-01-06
Searching for the print header - COM port cable in the PC parts junk box for the new weatherstation on the alix.1c board gave 5 of them, 2 with db9 connectors and 3 with db25 connectors. I tested them all with a real telephone modem. In total 3 worked, 2 didn't but that may be because there are two different standards for it.