Checkout of SimSmith v16.3 – spot check of transmission line database

I am not a SimSmith user, and with upgrade of my desktop computer, I have lost access to the Smith chart application I have used for 20+ years. That has given me reason to evaluate various Smith chart applications for a replacement.

Smith charts are about modelling problems in transmission line terms, and what better test than a simple transmission line problem.

Above, a model of Belden 8216 (an RG-174 type cable) picked from SimSmith’s library of transmission line data (source KN5L). The model is at 1MHz and essentially indicates the Matched Line Loss of 100m by deducting the left hand dBW figure from the next one to the right, -5.88228e-3–2.33357=2.33dB. (Duh, I could not copy and paste these values, they had to be read and typed in by hand which is not only laborious but more importantly gives scope for error.)

Lets check the Manufacturer’s data sheet. Continue reading Checkout of SimSmith v16.3 – spot check of transmission line database

Measuring ambient noise level using a spectrum analyser

The external noise figure Fa is defined (from ITU P.372-13) as:

I have taken a sweep of the 40m band when this is a little activity, but little enough to see the ambient noise floor at the time. It is raining and it is relatively noisy.

Above, the noise floor in 9kHz bandwidth with a CISPR quasi peak detector is about -78dBm. This is 12dB above the instrument noise floor, sufficient to not bother making a correction and we can take the external noise to be -78dBm (see below for correction calculation if needed). Lets allow 1dB loss in the antenna system, and call it -77dBm at the air interface.
Continue reading Measuring ambient noise level using a spectrum analyser

Balancing a ceiling fan

I have a ceiling fan which has poor balance and is quite annoying on its high speed.

To solve the problem, I attached a flight controller board which I had on hand for this sort of purpose to the stationary spindle extension, and I have the associated configuration software installed for flying machines

Above, the OmnibusF4 v1 flight controller. Not a good flight controller for flying machines because of the silly pinout, but cheap (for that reason), about $20 on eBay. The flight controller contains a 3 axis gyro and accelerometer, the latter will be used here. Continue reading Balancing a ceiling fan

Baselining an antenna system with an analyser

I often receive emails from folk trying to validate continued performance of an installed antenna system using their analyser.

With foresight they have swept the antenna system from the tx end and saved the data to serve as a baseline.

The following are example sweeps from one of my own antennas, a Diamond X50N with 10m of LDF4-50A feed line.

Now I have plotted Return Loss rather than VSWR for several reasons:

  • Return Loss is more sensitive to the problems that we might want to identify;
  • Rigexpert in this case decided that the Antscope user could not be interested in plotting VSWR>5 (Return Loss<3.5dB).

Now a hazard in working with Return Loss is that many authors of articles and software don’t use the industry standard meaning.

Return Loss

Lets just remind ourselves of the meaning of the term Return Loss. (IEEE 1988) defines Return Loss as:

(1) (data transmission) (A) At a discontinuity in a transmission system the difference between the power incident upon the discontinuity. (B) The ratio in decibels of the power incident upon the discontinuity to the power reflected from the discontinuity. Note: This ratio is also the square of the reciprocal to the magnitude of the reflection coefficient. (C) More broadly, the return loss is a measure of the dissimilarity between two impedances, being equal to the number of decibels that corresponds to the scalar value of the reciprocal of the reflection coefficient, and hence being expressed by the following formula:

20*log10|(Z1+Z2)/(Z1-Z2)| decibel

where Z1 and Z2 = the two impedances.

(2) (or gain) (waveguide). The ratio of incident to reflected power at a reference plane of a network.

Return Loss expressed in dB will ALWAYS be a positive number in passive networks.

The relationship between ReturnLoss in dB and VSWR is given by the equations:

  • ReturnLoss=-20*log((VSWR-1)/(VSWR+1))
  • VSWR=(1+10^(-ReturnLoss/20))/(1-10^(-ReturnLoss/20))

Diamond X50N on 2m

So now that we are on the same page about Return Loss, lets look at my 2m plot.

The X50N does not have VSWR or Return Loss specs, but we might expect that at the antenna itself, VSWR<1.5 which implies Return Loss>25dB. Measuring into feed line, you can add twice the matched line loss to the Return Loss target (see why Return Loss is a better measure).
Continue reading Baselining an antenna system with an analyser

UHF series coaxial connector characteristic impedance

Measurements of Insertion VSWR of UHF series connectors consistently show increasing Insertion VSWR with frequency, an issue that often impacts measurement accuracy.

My own article Exploiting your antenna analyser #12 is but one of many.

Measurements consistently hint that the defect is that the characteristic impedance is typically somewhere between 30 and 40Ω.

Above is a dimensioned drawing from Amphenol (https://www.amphenolrf.com/connectors/uhf.html). Continue reading UHF series coaxial connector characteristic impedance

Fixes #1: magnetic stirrer with heating plate and digital display XB 85-2

Review: magnetic stirrer with heating plate and digital display XB 85-2 documented problems that prevented the device being very useful.

Attempts to tune the supplied PID controller above were frustrated by a lack of meaningful documentation supplied or found in searches on the ‘net, and the fact that the display is sometimes faked to appear that the temperature has stabilised. With any non-zero I term, it behaved badly and some observations suggest that it suffers from integral windup. It is truly a piece of Chinese junk and unusable.

Above is an independent logger capture of the temperature from switch on. There is a large overshoot, and then, no matter what the settings, it oscillates and the lowest amplitude obtained was 1°pp (above). The overshoot is almost as much as observed in manual warm up when power is cut at 40°. Continue reading Fixes #1: magnetic stirrer with heating plate and digital display XB 85-2

A low cost 50Ω termination for measurement purposes

This article shows just how easy it is to make an inexpensive low VSWR load for antenna analyser validation / measurements.

Above is an AA-600 sweep of the prototype from 10kHz to 100MHz. VSWR reads 1.02 in ‘All’ mode at 100MHz… better than the inherent accuracy of the instrument.

How expensive?

It is made from two 100Ω 1% 1206 SM resistors purchased on eBay for about $2/100, so about $0.04 for the resistors, and 40mm of bare copper wire (0.5mm phone / data wire in this case).

In use, it is held in contact with the coax socket (in this case an N type) with a pair of disposable plastic first aid tweezers (yep, you can buy them on ebay for about $0.20/pair).

While you are at it, make a good short circuit termination by scrunching up a bit of (clean) kitchen aluminium foil and press that against the coax socket conductors.

Try both of these on your antenna analyser and see how it stacks up.