TRL measurements with homemade VNA and open source software

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Henrik Forstén writes:

I have been using the OSH Park’s 4 layer process a lot on my own projects. It has FR408 substrate that has better controlled permittivity and lower losses than ordinary FR-4 that other low cost PCB manufacturers use. In my opinion currently it is the best low cost process for making RF PCBs. My previous boards have worked pretty well, but I decided to make a test board that I can use to characterize the process better.
In the above picture is the test board that I made. It has two 50 ohm microstrip lines of different length, one open microstrip line, one microstrip line terminated with 50 ohm resistor and line with 0402 footprint that I populated with a 1 nF capacitor. I’m using this same type of capacitor as a general DC blocking capacitor in my VNA so I’m interested in finding out how it performs at high frequencies.

See the full post on Henrik’s blog.

Amiga 500 power supply build

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A how-to on building an Amiga 500 power supply from Inkoo Vintage Computing:

The power supply of my Amiga 500 is a bit unreliable. I’ve had some issues with the machine where the PSU could be the culprit, so I thought that it would be better to get a new power supply. There are used Amiga 500 power supplies occasionally available on online auctions, and there are also unused (but probably quite old) power supplies available on some online retailers. The issue with these 20-30 year old power supplies is that the capacitors are starting to dry. This can be a fire hazard, as old capacitors may even explode (this has happened to the PSU of my old IBM XT, it was not a pleasant experience). So in order to get safe and reliable operation from an old PSU, the capacitors should be replaced.

More details on Inkoo Vintage Computing homepage.

App note: Aluminum electrolytic capacitors design for long operational life

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App note from KEMET on long life electrolytic capacitors. Link here (PDF)

The service life for high quality power supplies and automotive power electronics is often limited by electrolytic capacitors’ operational life (Lop). Very long life (> 20 years at temperature up to 75C) is possible to be achieved by choosing capacitors with optimized design. Type of electrolyte, capacitors lid design, sealing method and rubber material quality, are important factors which determine the Lop.

App note: Comparison of ceramic and tantalum capacitors

 

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App note from KEMET about the replaceability between ceramic and tantalum capacitors to each other. Link here (PDF)

Ceramic capacitors have a multitude of dielectric types available and each of these types is characterized by their sensitivities to temparature, but not to voltage or time. This paper compares the X7R, X6S, or X5R dielectric types of ceramic capacitors with tantalum capacitors. Ceramic capacitors constructed witht these dielectrics offer moderate dielectric constants with moderate temperature and voltage sensitivities. They overlap with tantalum capacitors in capacitance/voltage range offerings. In many cases, the solder pad geometry allows swapping of ceramic 0603. 0805, 1206 or 1210 chip sizes with “J”, “R”, “A”, or “B” case tantalums, respectively.

Video tutorials: Building the Arduino based data loggers

From the comments on our Arduino data logger post:

A visiting researcher dropped by our humble basement workshop with questions about the physical skill level students would need if they added one of our DIY data loggers to their environmental curriculum. I figured the easiest way to cover that was to simply build one, while they recorded the process.
The result of that 3 hour session is now available on YouTube

Thanks Edward Mallon!

Project info at the Cave Pearl Project website.

STM32F103 vs GD32F103 round 4: SPI master

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Sjaak writes, “This is part 4 in the series where we compare the STM32F103 with its Chinese counterpart the GD32F103. Both are ARM Cortex M3 microcontrollers which are mostly pin, peripheral and register compatible. Now we compare the SPI master peripheral of both chips.”

More details at smdprutser.nl.

Check out the video after the break. 

Building a GBA LiPo voltage regulator and charger

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Alex published a new build:

I saw a post where someone fitted a 2000mAh LiPo battery to their GBA, they had do to some modifications to the GBA battery compartment to fit it all. By using a LiPo battery instead of the AA’s, it would save us about 20 grams, while not a lot, ever gram does count and you can tell the difference plus since the LiPo has a higher voltage, it has a higher energy density, so it should give us longer play time than the AA’s. So I decided I would do the same mod and I might make a little voltage regulator and charging board to go along with it.

See the full post on insideGadgets project page.

A software only solution to the vexing beagle bone black PHY issue

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Josh Levine has a nice write-up about a software only workaround for the Beagle Bone Black PHY issue:

Sometimes the Ethernet port on a Beagle Bone Black does not work on power up. It takes either a physical reset button press or a power cycle to fix it. This problem affects all BBB’s and until now could only be solved with hardware hacks.

The final official word from TI on this problem:
“There is no solution for this on the BB Black“

Full details at josh.com.

Tutorial: Setting up a low cost QRP (FT8, JT9, WSPR etc) monitoring station with an RTL-SDR v3 and Raspberry pi 3

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A detailed tutorial on how to set up a cheap QRP monitoring station using an RTL-SDR V3 and a Raspberry Pi 3 from rtl-sdr.com

This tutorial is inspired by dg0opk’s videos and blog post on monitoring QRP with single board computers. We’ll show you how to set up a super cheap QRP monitoring station using an RTL-SDR V3 and a Raspberry Pi 3. The total cost should be about US $56 ($21 for the RTL-SDR V3, and $35 for the Pi 3).
With this setup you’ll be able to continuously monitor multiple modes within the same band simultaneously (e.g. monitor 20 meter FT8, JT65+JT9 and WSPR all on one dongle at the same time). The method for creating multiple channels in Linux may also be useful for other applications. If you happen to have an upconverter or a better SDR to dedicate to monitoring such as an SDRplay or an Airspy HF+, then this can substitute for the RTL-SDR V3 as well.

More details at rtl-sdr.com.