Last year saw my rather nifty Ulitmate3 WSPR beacon giving up the ghost after having been placed in it’s long awaited custom made housing. As to why it decided it didn’t want to work any more is anyone’s guess but my money is on a broken cable somewhere.
With that in mind it had been sat on my desk for the best part of 6 months until I had the time and the inclination to get it working again. Part of the problem may have been trying to cram too much inside the case. I had diligently designed and built a PSU to provide a dual voltage to supply the beacon and the SKM52 GPS module but in hindsight, when I get the relay-switched LPF board built I was going to be making life harder for myself by trying to pack everything into the diminutive case.
I invested in a regulated 5V external PSU and the new recommended SKM61 GPS module from QRPLabs.com
The advantage of the SKM61 is it runs off of 5V, directly from the beacon – a few less wires to worry about. So, duly armed with a soldering iron I set about rebuilding the various interconnects and redesigning my case layout.
Ok, not very exciting I must admit but a bit more secure and screened than my last jury rigged setup.
The SKM61 fiited nicely onto a tiny off cut of veroboard and I added a set of connectors to allow easy changing or boxing up (if I get to it!)
Now with the moment of truth upon us, it was time to power everything up
Unfortunately the photo isn’t brilliant, as this time after a 5 minute wait, I was receiving a very nice heart beat sync pulse from the GPS showing that we had a GPS lock and location and time were being provided by the GPS satellites. A quick fumble through the menu system to change my callsign to my new one and we were off!
Well, sort of. I was in the middle of the Solent! Now this caused a degree of head scratching as I sure as hell wasn’t maritime mobile and the flood defences around Portsea Island hadn’t sprung a leak as far as I was aware! After revisiting the settings in the beacon my only conclusion was that the latitude and longitude being provided by the GPS were off. My old friend Google didn’t provide any clues on this one so I posted a call for help on the QRPLabs forum.
Thankfully, someone who knows a lot more about this than me (aka the all round nice guy, Mr Hans “QRPLabs” Summers) came to the rescue. To quote the man verbatim
“WSPRnet is a bit strange.
So, in short because my last WSPRnet reports were under my old call sign 2E0DFU, M0XXF has no entries in the database. As such, until it does the 4-character locator will be used, placing me in the middle of the brine.
I had a rummage around for the ALL_MEPT.txt file inside the WSPR software installed on my laptop and couldn’t find it until I discovered that versions of WSPR over 2.0 name it ALL_WSPR.txt
Now Hans had offered me a solution to my problem, but my old Stellar Labs receiver kit was sat on the desk making a forlorn face at me as it hadn’t been used since the end of last summer. With that in mind it took all of 3 minutes to plumb it into my laptop and fire it up. By changing my callsign details within WSPR to M0XXF, in under 4 minutes I had current database report entries listed under my new callsign and my location was safely back on dry land!
Everything is working nicely and my beacon has a nice metal enclosure to keep it safe. The next step will be to sort out a D-plug connector for the GPS antenna, an enclosure for the GPS module and build the relay switched LPF kit, but in the meantime I’ll just let it sit there happily doing its thing.