TV upgrade

The restack of TV channels, and then the allocation of spectrum immediately adjacent to a 4G mobile site that is 1km away and directly in line with Knights Hill (30km) caused me to rethink our TV source and switched to Mt Gibraltar (5km) to escape the 4G interference.

For whatever reason, the signal from Mt Gibraltar has dropped in level and is intermittently very inconsistent.

So, it is back to Knight’s Hill with a LTE filter to try to alleviate the interference from the in-line 4G site.


Above is the received channels at the TV set with a 6dB 75/50 pad inline. After the last restack, the five desired are now at least 90MHz lower than the edge of the 700MHz LTE (4G) allocation, and with an LTE filter in the masthead amplifier, it seems interference is not noticeable. Signal quality reported by the TVs is consistently 100%.

The spectrum analyser plot underestimates RF S/N due to the system noise floor.

The channels used are 35 (ABC),36 (WIN),37 (CTC),38 (CBN),39 (SBS), all 250kW. Ch 35 and 39 are on the BA tower, the others on the WIN tower.

If only there was something worth watching!

Small signal diode characteristics

We often use diode detectors at microamp currents, and the question arises as to the type of diode best suited to sensitive detectors.

Setting aside zero bias Schottky diodes which are a topic in themselves, the choice is typically between commonly available germanium, silicon and Schottky signal diodes.


Above is a plot of the I,V characteristic of four common signal diodes at currents up to 1mA. It can be seen that at currents below 600µA, the forward voltage drop of the humble 1N34A germanium diode is lower than the others. The 1N270 is an alternative if you really need its higher breakdown voltage. Both of these diodes are reasonably easy to obtain, and cheap at that.



AD9850 / AD9851 initialisation using PllLdr

A note on using PllLdr with AD9850/51 DDS chips.

PllLdr is a generic microcontroller to load a PLL chip’s configuration registers using SPI. SPI is used by many PLL and DDS chips, data format and content varies from chip to chip.


The AD9850 powers up in parallel load mode, and AD gives advice on how to get it into serial load mode (as you would use with PllLdr). A slightly briefer method seems to work reliably and is described here. Continue reading AD9850 / AD9851 initialisation using PllLdr

ADF4351 / PllLdr checkout

PllLdr is a generic microcontroller to load a PLL chip’s configuration registers using SPI. SPI is used by many PLL and DDS chips, data format and content varies from chip to chip.

This article documents checkout on an ADF4351 PLL chip. The ADF4351 is a wideband INT-N / FRAC-N synthesiser with integrated VCO, output covers 36-4400MHz (continuous).

The test was made on an inexpensive module purchased on eBay for about A$33 posted.


Above is the test frame. At the left is a PllLdr prototype running on 5V, then a 4 channel 5V/3.3V  level converter, the ADF4351 module and at the right a power supply board. The level converter is not needed if the PllLdr chip was run on 3.3V, it was used to test a ‘worst case’ scenario.


Above, a close up of the board.


As can be seen, the connectors are not designed for the 0.8mm PCB used, and the right hand connector has not been connected to the track. Chinese ‘quality’.

The onboard 25MHz crystal oscillator was used as the reference, but a 10MHz reference from a GPSDO could be used for high accuracy. Continue reading ADF4351 / PllLdr checkout

Toshiba alkaline AA leakage problems

I have used Toshiba alkaline cells in several sizes for many years (decades) and had not encountered one leaked cell… however in the last few months I have found 8 AA cells that have leaked in different devices.

The leakage has always had the same failure.

toshibaaa03Above is a view of the -ve end of the battery, ground through to expose the inner structure.

The failed batteries have leaked corrosive electrolyte, and they have all split around the circumference of the battery in the region indicated by the red arrow above. The split is common half way or more around the cell, the green seal and remnant of the rolled over case is  there, split away from the main case and covered in corrosive electrolyte residual.

This is not a failure of the green seal material, but rather the case fails.

It fails either due to internal corrosion, os weakness of the forming process. It is not clear that this area should be exposed to electrolyte anyway, so the corrosion might result from some other internal failure that releases electrolyte.

Enough reason to remove them from all devices and NEVER use these cells again.

Fan controlled by humidity sensor – pre implementation data gathering

This article documents measurements of temperature and relative humidity (RH) over 10 days prior to implementing the fan solution to provide a baseline for designing the Fan controlled by humidity sensor.

A RC-4HC datalogger was used to collect temperature and RH measurements over 10 days which included a range of late winter weather, some rain, some fine clear days. The logger was located at 1.5m above floor level in the shed in a relatively clear spot in the middle of the area..

Screenshot - 22_08_16 , 15_53_17

Above is a chart of temperature and RH. The daily RH peaks are typically between 08:00 and 09:30, and pretty much coincide with the minimum observed temperature. There is clearly a lag from outside temperature which would tend to be minimum a few hours earlier, and a lower minimum (there were plenty of frosty days in the sample set). Continue reading Fan controlled by humidity sensor – pre implementation data gathering

Time to get some experience with 32bit microcontrollers – some progress

At Time to get some experience with 32bit microcontrollers I wrote that after almost 50 years working with 8bit microcomputers and microcontrollers, I thought it about time to get my hands dirty on some 32bit microcontrollers.

This article reports some work in the STM stream.

I abondoned the ST Discovery board in favour of a low cost basic ST32F103 development board costing about $4 on eBay. The chip is a 32bit microcontroller clocked at 72MHz.

As a learning vehicle, I decided to implement the functionality contained in Arduino thermistor thermometer – a tutorial.

The development environment is Eclipse with the GNU ARM toolchain, a debugger probe, the basic development board, and a 1602 LCD display with I2C backpack and an inexpensive CP2102 USB RS232-TTL interface.


Above is the working trial. The GDB debugger allows On Chip Debugging (OCD).
Continue reading Time to get some experience with 32bit microcontrollers – some progress

Fan controlled by humidity sensor – design technique

This article gives an outline of the process used in designing the Fan controlled by humidity sensor to use my Generic heating / cooling controller design (hcctl).

Arduino thermistor thermometer – a tutorial gave a method for designing a thermometer based on a formula predicting the behaviour of the sensor. This article explains a different approach where that is not possible.


Above is a characteristic from the manufacturer’s data.

The curves to no lend themselves to simple curve fits, so a cubic spine interpolation will be made based on key points from the curve.

Four our purposes, the mean curve (green) is sufficient for design.

Screenshot - 24_07_16 , 08_16_07


Above, the mean curve was digitised to capture the shape of the curve, 17 points were used.
Continue reading Fan controlled by humidity sensor – design technique

Fan controlled by humidity sensor

I have a problem with machine tools getting condensation on them when conditions in the shed read dew point.

A possible solution being explored is to circulate air with a fan, possible inducting outside air, when humidity approaches condensing conditions.

A quick search reveals the HDS10 resistive humidity sensor for a dollar or so on eBay.

Above is the HDS10 humidity sensor.

Most low cost humidity sensors use a humidity dependent capacitive element, the HDS10 is different in being a humidity dependent capacitive element and is therefore simpler to use with microcontrollers with ADC input.


The above graph is from the datasheet. It is intended primarily for sensing high humidity (dew point, condensing conditions) which suits this application.
Continue reading Fan controlled by humidity sensor

Review of inexpensive Chinese thermostat – STC-1000

This is a review of an inexpensive STC-1000 Chinese bang-bang  thermostat that was purchased on eBay for around A$12 complete with thermistor sensor and postage.

Above is the front view of the thermostat. There are many thermostats on the market with similar front panels, but they differ in internals and most importantly, performance and quality.


Above, the rating label is clear and informational, but it does not give the sensor parameters.  Continue reading Review of inexpensive Chinese thermostat – STC-1000