Automating FM-DXing

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daveB
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Automating FM-DXing

Post by daveB »

I thought this should be a separate thread.
JF wrote: I would like to be able to scan the band, split into as many sections as is necessary. That would be four sections on the FDM-S2. (I don't plan to buy the S3 in a hurry.) I would need something to log PI and PS, as is available, noting the frequency too. ...
I was part way through devising an XML file for the S2, two or three a few years ago, where I had a minute-by-minute band change. So 87.5 - 93.3 in the first minute, 93.3 to whichever frequency it was I can't remember in the next minute, etc., looping round back to the beginning again. I would have had to play the recordings to study them anyway so that method wouldn't have been fully automated.
SDR Console provides the "something to log PI, PS, and frequency" and it's RDS decoder sensitivity now appears to be on par with RDSSpy. It may be better, but it would take quite a bit of time to determine that.

So this morning I recorded a keystroke macro to do just what you have suggested with Mini Mouse Macro. It's for SDRPlay with 8MHz bw, so I split the band into three. I have set up blocks of 10 VFOs under favourites to cover the whole FM band, and SDRConsole will log all ten to the RDS log simultaneously. See screenshot below.
SDRConsole favourites.jpg
Then the macro 'simply'
1. Sets frequency to 90.9
2. Starts record
3. Steps through favourites 1-7 at set intervals
4. Stops record
5. Sets frequency to 97.9
6. Starts record
7. Steps through favourites 8-13 at set intervals
8. Stops record
9. Sets frequency to 104.5
10. Starts record
11. Steps through favourites 14-19
12 Stops record
Goes back to the beginning.

I've tested it and it works, but I've not set up the times accurately yet. For one minute recording it would need to step thru the favourites at 8 or 9 second intervals.

There are however some very important limitations.
1. the screen layout has to be exactly right otherwise the X,Y co-ordinates for the mouse position will be wrong.
2. you have to be on the Rec/Playback window with the radio running.
3. the 'lock frequency' option on the record window must be ticked
4. you can't be doing any thing else on the computer screen, because if you are moving the mouse when the macro wants to, it will mess things up.

It is still not possible to capture everything, but as it is logging and recording at the same time the RDS database can be used to identify periods of DX activity and the actual recorded files can then be analysed in more detail. Then there is the problem of recording space! So quickly determining which files are DX-dead, as I have to do now anyway, frees up disk space.

Maybe Simon Brown will make some progress with building a macro program for SDR console which will run in the background - but there must potentially be hundreds of commands that would need to be made available to satisfy everyone.
Location: Sittingbourne, Kent JO01ji
SDRPlay, AirSpyMini, RTL dongles, ST311, Yamaha TX930. 5 ele yagi 20ft agl - 70 deg. FM5 - 80 deg, 5.1 Yagi 16ft agl - 120 degFM5 -180 deg. Vert 3-ele Moxon - 80 deg. Shielded magnetic loop 0.1-200 MHz - 10 ft agl

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John Faulkner, Skegness
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Re: Automating FM-DXing

Post by John Faulkner, Skegness »

Wow! That all sounds very interesting and doable. I don't use SDR Play so I'll need to configure something more appropriate for my FDM-S2/Console if that's possible. I would also be using my computer at least some of the time and so a necessary mouse position would be out of the question. It may be a 'back to the drawing board' situation for me.

daveB
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Joined: 07 Oct 2014 16:49

Re: Automating FM-DXing

Post by daveB »

Yes John,
It's more of an interesting excercise to see what the possibilities are. I'll probably be sticking with my current way of operating, which is to record to two of my hard drives using two SDRs whilst either live DXing on the 3rd SDR or playing back from the third hard drive.
Location: Sittingbourne, Kent JO01ji
SDRPlay, AirSpyMini, RTL dongles, ST311, Yamaha TX930. 5 ele yagi 20ft agl - 70 deg. FM5 - 80 deg, 5.1 Yagi 16ft agl - 120 degFM5 -180 deg. Vert 3-ele Moxon - 80 deg. Shielded magnetic loop 0.1-200 MHz - 10 ft agl

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John Faulkner, Skegness
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Re: Automating FM-DXing

Post by John Faulkner, Skegness »

Wow! Who would have thought we'd be DXing like this. Whatever happened to single frequency DXing? :)

daveB
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Re: Automating FM-DXing

Post by daveB »

John Faulkner, Skegness wrote:
20 Feb 2021 21:21
Wow! Who would have thought we'd be DXing like this. Whatever happened to single frequency DXing? :)
It's DXing John - but not as we know it :lol:

I remember as a teenager staring at a TV for hours waiting for DX signals. Early morning would produce flashes of the "Russian" testcard from random meteors. And Lopik on E4 was nearly always present above the noise.

Recording and analysing the recordings afterwards is I beleive the only way it is possible to gain a reasonable understanding of the capabilities of the various DX modes. In the decade I've been DXing I can only think of one instance where I was live DXing and 'saw' double hop SpE. The pi code 42E9 popped up on RDSspy on one of the receivers that was running. Fortunately I was recording as it only lasted a few seconds. Everything else has been from recordings, and I think the longest I've had double hop reception has probably been under 15 minutes. So there is very little chance of being 'on-air', on the right frequency, at the right time. Even with all the receivers and aerials I've got, it is still fortuitous if It's the right aerial, and I've kept the right files as I often have to delete files when I run out of space.
Location: Sittingbourne, Kent JO01ji
SDRPlay, AirSpyMini, RTL dongles, ST311, Yamaha TX930. 5 ele yagi 20ft agl - 70 deg. FM5 - 80 deg, 5.1 Yagi 16ft agl - 120 degFM5 -180 deg. Vert 3-ele Moxon - 80 deg. Shielded magnetic loop 0.1-200 MHz - 10 ft agl

Nick Gilly
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Location: Whitchurch, Hampshire, UK

Re: Automating FM-DXing

Post by Nick Gilly »

Still live one channel-at-a-time DXing here. I don't have the space in the 'shack' (which is actually in the living room) to add an SDR and associated computer, so I still DX the old way, even if the receiver is far more capable than your traditional old analogue tuners. Despite this, I've still managed to log and record a fair amount of exotics and double-hop over the last 10 years or so. Having DX Maps and internet streams available for parallel checking is definitely a big help too.
Good DX.

Nick, Whitchurch, Hampshire.

BW Broadcast RBRX Encore, Kenwood L-1000T, Yamaha T-2, Denon TU-800L, Kenwood KT-1100SD (modified), Yamaha T-85, Sony XDR-F1HD tuners, horizontal Körner 9.2 beam (Antennenland version), Yaesu G-450C rotator

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John Faulkner, Skegness
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Re: Automating FM-DXing

Post by John Faulkner, Skegness »

You've brought me back down to earth here David. Thank you. Short duration double hops, being at the receiver at the right time, of course. There really is no substitute for being at the dials when the opening occurs. It's probably THE only way. Keeping a check on charts, monitoring the situation in real-time or in the chat to see what other people are receiving. Any automated tuning will probably strictly be bottom section of the band only.

I will have a play with automation, but I had better keep it simple to begin with.

daveB
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Re: Automating FM-DXing

Post by daveB »

There really is no substitute for being at the dials when the opening occurs.
But at least capturing the DX when I can't be present is better than nothing. Maybe it's a comparison between a real cream caje and one with artifical cream :)

So back to 'simple' automation. Run SDR Console with as many VFO's as you can afford the CPU power for. Set the VFO's to the bottom of the band and let it run. If you don't want to tie up the Elad you could run a cheap RTL dongle to evaluate the benefits. If you think it is worth it you could then buy an SDRPLay RSP1A - currently £111 from SDRPlay. Run it at 6MHz bandwidth it has 14 bit ADC resolution.

Running the SDRPlay at 8MHz, with 20 VFOs (!), and with the waterfall reolution set to 1/8th SDRC uses around 44% of the CPU. Minimise the window and it drops to 39%. The CPU is an i5-10500 and no external graphics card. If I then run another SDR using SDRSharp, SDRC usage goes up to 55%

With 20 VFO's, and skipping the locals and their adjacent channel I can continuusly log 87.6 - 90.6 MHz - and if I record at the same time I can check out to 94.5 MHz if anything shows up on the RDSlog.

There are some interesting possibilities for the start of the season.
Location: Sittingbourne, Kent JO01ji
SDRPlay, AirSpyMini, RTL dongles, ST311, Yamaha TX930. 5 ele yagi 20ft agl - 70 deg. FM5 - 80 deg, 5.1 Yagi 16ft agl - 120 degFM5 -180 deg. Vert 3-ele Moxon - 80 deg. Shielded magnetic loop 0.1-200 MHz - 10 ft agl

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John Faulkner, Skegness
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Re: Automating FM-DXing

Post by John Faulkner, Skegness »

I got more than 30 VFOs running on the old computer, still with around 50% CPU usage. I should have my new computer fully up and running again in the next week or so and will try everything on there. It will use Windows 7. (... for as long as I possibly can!)

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