Tag Archives: Midnight Solutions

Preparing an FT8 Linux Laptop from a Chromebook

UPDATE – “It’s Alive! It talks!”  Using some hints from https://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?t=303867 I got the audio working.  I’m also editing in a few hints.  See the Sat Oct 19,2019 1:04 pm post for the step-by-step.  Basically seemed to be a driver issue with this particular Chromebook model.   


The Audio Fix

[Edited 08FEB2020]


CAUTION [SEE ABOVE – Resolved with some research and work!] – I’m struggling to get the Audio I/O working.  Some users are reporting that the Dell 3120 (Candy) Chromebook running GalliumOS ends up with the audio inoperative, and few say they have it working.  I’ve undone the whole process and repeated with the same problem.  Might be better to pick a different Chromebook in the end.  More to follow!  [Edited 08FEB2020]


With some help from Vic KC9NWB I’ve mostly prepared a very inexpensive laptop to run WSJT-X with my soon to be built Midnight Design Solutions Phaser FT8 transceiver Kit.

I started with a Dell 3120 Chromebook which was a scratch-n-dent sale item at Amazon’s Woot.  With the larger memory Amazon usually gets $100 plus tax for one of these, but catching it on a short Woot offer saved about $30 in my case.  So with taxing delivered I’ve added $71 to my FT8 Phaser project for a dedicated computer.  At the time of my writing Amazon does have some on offer (again S&D/renewed) for the $75 range.

Rugged Chromebook

I followed the conversion to Linux Joshua Woehlke wrote up at https://joshuawoehlke.com/galliumos-dell-chromebook-3120/

Some notes: Backup the firmware to a separate flashdrive, and do make a set of backup media to restore ChromeOS just in case you have to revert to solve problems like I did. https://wiki.galliumos.org/Installing is also another good reference. You can make a new ChromeOS restoration media drive through the chrome browser app plug-in as well.  But having the right stuff handy is helpful and saves time if you do have to go back.  [Edited 08FEB2020]

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Midnight Design Solutions Phaser 20m FT8 Transceiver Kit Has Arrived

The week of December 9th 2019 I ordered one of Dave Benson’s K1SWL’s newest kit designs, Midnight Design Solutions Phaser, in the 20m version, along with an enclosure kit.

The kits arrived on January 10th 2020, earlier than originally predicted or expected.

Here is look inside a a Phaser:

Midnight Design’s Phaser FT8 Transceiver

These radios are single band designs, and the main FT8 frequency for the band is fixed, while an alternative frequency is defined but can be used modified. Actually it appears that the programming will work out of band, but the filtering & circuits not so much.

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Midnight Design Solutions Phaser 20m FT8 Transceiver Kit Ordered

Last week I ordered one of Dave Benson’s K1SWL’s newest kit designs, Midnight Design Solutions Phaser, in the 20m version.

Excited about a kit that also catches the current fad of FT8 by design.

Ordered their neat looking enclosure kit as well.

I’ve built Dave K1SWL designed kits in the past with great success. He does a great job of builder-friendly designs.

Here is look inside a 40 or 80m build:

Midnight Design’s Phaser FT8 Transceiver


These radios are single band designs, and the main FT8 frequency for the band is fixed, while an alternative frequency is defined but can be used modified.

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Programing the NUE-PSK Digital Modem

Just wanted to jot a quick note about how easy the NUE-PSK Digital Modem is to program – once I read the directions!

Mine has been back for each update and has the USB add-on with the RTCC (Real Time Clock Chip) feature.

It has been upgraded to Version 5, which added a morse key jack and full CW features.

Experimenting with Winston K9CFVR (we can drop the /AG as he is now listed in the FCC database) we hand typed everything. Did it the hard way and really didn’t get around to consulting the manual until after we were done.

It is a tribute to the ease of the NUE-PSK Modem that we were able to run PSK-31 at all given our caviler attitude to reading the directions.

I now have the NUE-PSK loaded up with a Config.txt file that has all my macros in it – paralleling what I usually program into MixW or fldigi when operating.

Technique was a quick couple steps:

  1. Download the Default Config.txt file from either the NUE-PSK itself, or from the website.
  2. Edit the file with a plain text editor.
  3. Put it back on the USB Thumb Drive.
  4. Use the NUE-PSK’s Load Config feature to Upload the edited Config.txt file into the Modem.
  5. Let the Modem reboot & test.

Took all of a few moments to do and the machine is ready to go.

Here are my macros as currently implemented:


Macro F1:  CALL CQ : CQ CQ CQ de <MYCALL> <MYCALL> <MYCALL> pse k


Macro F3: ANSWER WITH REPORT: <THEIRCALL> de <MYCALL> UR 599 599 into EN64dc EN64dc Manitowoc, Wisconsin – Name is Steve Steve HOW COPY? <THEIRCALL> de <MYCALL> kn

Macro F4: ANSWER WITH OPERATING CONDITIONS: <THEIRCALL> de <MYCALL> Full Print – I am operating a NUE-PSK Digital Modem (no computer) with a SGC-2020 Transceiver at 8 watts with a portable antenna. A very small portable setup from my “Go-Kit” that I am testing today.  BTU <THEIRCALL> de <MYCALL> kn

Macro F5: ANSWER WITH A BIT ABOUT ME: <THEIRCALL> de <MYCALL> Thank you for the information.  All copied.   I am good at QRZ.com and you can find more about me at https://k9zw.wordpress.com BTU <THEIRCALL> de <MYCALL> kn

Macro F6: REQUEST AN EMAIL CONFIRMATION: <THEIRCALL> de <MYCALL> Would you please email me a confirmation of our QSO.  I do eQSL and direct QSLs.  Sometimes LoTW when I feel brave!  My email is k9zw@mac.com  BTU <THEIRCALL> de <MYCALL> kn

Macro F7: SAY 73 AND SK: <THEIRCALL> de <MYCALL> Thank you for the QSO – Godspeed and 73 – Hope we do meet again!  <THEIRCALL> de <MYCALL> SK..Sk..so









I’ve left out the transmit on/off and control characters on my cheat-sheet notes, but they are there in the Uploaded Config.txt file.

A little manual reading a pre-use programing sure makes the NUE-PSK Digital Modem one slick little device and a perfect companion to the SGC-2020 Transceiver!



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For Want of Nail, Nothing Like an Upgrade to Peak Interest, and Playing with Go-Kit Gear

In the run up to Dayton my Shack Computer had been acting up. Latency Spikes and gremlins that were giving PowerSDR no end of grief. Thought a decent dual-core Dell, I was even considering replacing the machine.

Troubleshooting found only erratic symptoms. The underlying cause(s) just weren’t easily found.

On return from Dayton middle son Winston KC9FVR/AG asked if we could run up the station so he could try some PSK31, having been reading the Digital HF book bought at the ARRL booth. We couldn’t get things to run very smoothly and after a very rapid shutdown in response to a sudden lightening storm powerful enough to set fire to buildings only 10 blocks away, the system would no longer recognize the Flex-5000A hardware.

Utilities and Testing showed that the OEM Dell Firewire card gave up the ghost.

Quick research at the Flex-Radio Knowledge Center & Forum Archives identified the best cards for performance and roughly $25 later a card was on its way rushing from Amazon.

Took the downtime to do ALL updates – from BIOS to any driver/software/system update that could be done. Also left the machine running a very in-depth anti-virus scan which ran overnight (all clean enough to pass).

The new card was truly PnP (Plug-n-Play) and despite having a different chipset than advertised (putting it into an OK-class rather than preferred-class for PowerSDR use) the system quickly reinstalled the “Found New Hardware” of the Flex-5000A.

Operator error led me to fight with VAC (Virtual Audio Cables) and settings – trouble I could have avoided by a simple reboot.

Once running it was lickety-split to help Winston KC9FVR/AG put a handful of PSK31 QSOs under his belt.

The drive that comes from a fresh license upgrade and an experimenter’s mindset had Winston KC9FVR/AG quickly asking – can I run fldigi from my Linux Thinkpad using some of your other gear?

So to the garage to raid the go-kit stash.

Up went the 20m Hamstick Dipole on 12 feet of surplus cameo-poles and a trial of a Small Wonder Labs PSK-20 I had ended up with somewhere along the way.

We had little joy with this setup, and it is uncertain if the PSK-20 is needing repairs or if we were struggling with Linux sound issues.

So out came the SGC-2020 Transceiver and the NUE-PSK Modem. This combination hadn’t really been used. The NUE-PSK modem had come back a few weeks ago from a full update at Midnight Solutions bringing it up to Version 5 with all the add-on features, and the transceiver had been run but once.

Plugged in the SGC-2020 and cabled up the NUE-PSK and “PING” we were on the air just that quick.

Winston KC9FVR/AG complete a QSO and then declared the micro-keyboard “worse than texting” and dug out an old full sized IBM clicky-clicky keyboard which worked wonderful.

Of course we weren’t about to read the manuals any further than the absolute basics to get things running, so we were hand-typing everything. Macros are for sissies (or for those who read the manuals).

Winston KC9FVR/AG downloaded a PSK31 app for his Android Phone and it was neat to see it decode from the speaker’s sound output.

I ran a handful of QSOs (it is sure a lot easier to type “K9ZW” than what it took him to type “KC9FVR/AG”) before we put the station away (took ten minutes to pick up everything and store it again.)

My go-kit HF gear did digital just fine! Power needs are such that I think I could get more than 12-18 hours of full duty out of each of the gell-cells I have set aside from their storage charge levels, and days if they were topped off first.

Remember that “spark of interest” that comes with a fresh license upgrade? Well it was back down to the shack to run a couple 20m & 160m JT65 demo contacts before promising each other that we would run some Hellschreiber on the weekend.

A couple things learned – in terms of the station the dead firewire card really put the main station out of commission. “For want of a Nail” they say the battle was lost, and for want of a working firewire port the station was off the air. Critical Key Component Dependency is not unique to an SDR setup, as most stations lack backups for mission critical items. Almost nobody has a spare for each item in their station.

Then the joy of seeing an inquisitive mind wanting to explore amateur radio shouldn’t be missing from an operator’s life. It was wonderful to help Winston KC9FVR/AG explore digital-HF and heartwarming that he would only let this father retire for the evening by making a promise for “more radios, more!” on the weekend!

And lastly that it is great fun to pull out the go-kit gear and give it a whirl. Couldn’t think of a finer father-son activity to put one’s work day aside.



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NUE-PSK Digital Modem – Development Roadmap from George N2APB

George N2APB posted this update to the NUE-PSK Digital Modem Reflector.


As many of you know, I’ve had a NUE-PSK Modem from very early on, which twice has been updated to the latest feature set.

Highly recommended and very neat bit of Amateur Radio Kit!



NUE-PSK Digital Modem
Development Roadmap

What new features are we working on?

The NUE-PSK modem currently supports two popular digital modes: PSK-31 and RTTY. We also support variations within those two modes (QPSK, QPSK/R and RTTY-reversed). And we have a nifty USB card add-on accessory that provides connection to the PC for updating, support for flash thumb drives to capture Tx and Rx text for later printing and archiving, and easy uploading/downloading modem configuration settings and macro strings for editing on the PC.

New Features In Development

CW Mode CW (or Morse code) is perhaps the oldest operating mode of all; and although not an official “digital mode” by today’s standards, many users of the NUE-PSK Digital Modem have expressed interest in having it supported by the modem. Our plans are to have CW incrementally provided in several closely-spaced phases: Morse keyboard sending, CW decoding, and then “paddle-input and Morse-output mode” that will enable completely headless operation for optimum field operation … no keyboard or display will be necessary, thus providing for ultra-convenient portable operation. Morse Transmit should be ready in early June. CW Decode and Paddle-In/Morse-Out should be ready mid-summer.

Real Time Clock Calendar (RTCC) – When we created and designed the USB card, we planned for components to be later added to allow us to display current date and time on the modem LCD, as well as to add this info on every QSO that is recorded to the thumb drive. This last usage is geared especially for the EmComm community, as it is important to duly note date/time on message traffic into/out of an emergency and disaster locations. The plan is to provide a small update kit for sale such that one can easily upgrade the USB card capabilities, or of course one can send it in for the RTCC Upgrade. We expect to have RTCC component upgrade available in June.

MT63 Mode – We’ve had some discussion on the email list considering “What next digital mode would you like to have available?”, and when we compare the top choices with the development effort required for each (including available modem processor resources), MT63 comes out on top. Development for support of this mode is in progress and we hope to have it complete and available this summer.

The Timetable

Our ‘schedule’ has always been stated as being flexible and informal … We’re just two guys working on things in our radio shacks when the day jobs and family issues are not pressing, and so far most customers are happy with progress that we make. Sometimes, however, perhaps because of the effort we make in providing good customer support and order fulfillment, some people believe that we’re a big company and they get upset that we do not hit a specific day, week or month for availability. So, if you are buying the modem solely for the coming of an anticipated feature, and get easily frustrated when that feature isn’t ready when hoped for, then perhaps this product is not for you.

That all said, we are indeed working on these three new features and are hopeful that they will be coming along soon. And meanwhile, the modem is splendidly usable for all of its advertised capabilities and all set for a summer of Field Days, hikes, camping and other portable operations. We love the modem just as much as any of the 800-or-so other owners, and we too are eager to continue expanding the modem’s feature set.

After all, this is a capability that few other ham radio products on the market have … It’s the modem that keeps on growing!

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