The FUNcube Dongle Pro+: LF to L band software-defined radio

In stock! Click here to order.

Any mode, anywhere

No drivers required! Device drivers are already included in your operating system - Windows, Linux or Mac OSX, 32 or 64 bit.

* The guaranteed coverage of the FUNcube Dongle Pro+ is from 150kHz to 1.9GHz, and there is a gap in coverage between 240MHz and 420MHz.

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FUNcube Christmas ordering

Folks

Seasons greetings to all!

We currently have a good stock of FUNcube Dongles ready for immediate dispatch, you can order here.

Here are the cutoff dates for delivery before Christmas day:

North America: Tuesday 23 December 11:00 UTC
Northwest Europe: Tuesday 23 December 11:00 UTC
Southern and Eastern Europe: Monday 22 December 11:00 UTC
Scandinavia & Baltics: Monday 22 December 11:00 UTC
Brazil*: Friday 5 December
Russia*: Wednesday 3 December
Rest of world: Friday 19 December 11:00 UTC

*Note that for Brazil and Russia, we are temporaily using the Royal Mail International Signed for service rather than FedEx due to the way customs charges are currently levied in those countries.

Many thanks, Howard

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FUNcube Dongle Pro+ and Raspberry Pi

Folks,

I’ve been working on some firmware for the FCD Pro+ to work around the USB stack limitations of the Raspberry Pi.

The workaround reduces the bandwidth of the FCD to work within those conditions: there is one version for 48kHz bandwidth and the other for 96kHz.

The documentation for updating your firmware is here, and the firmware bootloader/upgrade program is here.

The firmware for 48kHz is here, 96kHz is here, and the original 192kHz firmware is here.

Take care when using this new firmware! Due to the way Windows works, it doesn’t fully re-enumerate the USB port when you re-insert your device, so you’ll find that your Windows software might get a little confused. In short, the way to resolve this is to shut down any programs using the FCD Pro+ first, uninstall the FUNcube sound device from the Device Manager control panel applet (run devmgmt.msc), unplug the FCD Pro+, re-insert it a few seconds later, and let it re-enumerate (may take a minute or so depending on your system). Once this is done you can restart your programs. Of course, if you have installed a restricted bandwidth version of the firmware, this will be restricted in Windows too. You can always install the original firmware using the same steps.

Why are there two versions? It’s because there are two “features” of the Raspberry Pi stack. Warning: this will get a bit nerdy.

The first problem is that the USB stack has a problem with USB full speed isochronous streams of more than about 750 bytes per 1ms frame. The USB specification allows for up to 1023 bytes per frame, and the FCD Pro+, with the default firmware, uses 768 bytes per frame. So while the FCD Pro+ is within the USB specification, it’s just beyond the Pi’s capabilities.

The second feature of the Pi’s USB stack is that there is only a single transaction translator (TT) for USB full speed devices (such as the FCD), so all full speed devices have to share this TT. Having a single TT unfortunately is not a unique scenario on USB 2.0 hosts and hubs, we sometimes see it on PCs too. Obscurely, this can be circumvented by putting the FCD Pro+ on an external USB 2.0 hub, because the hub will have its own TT.

There’s a whole treatise about this here.

So, in short, the 48kHz version is designed to work on the Pi without an external USB 2.0 hub, allowing for the USB full speed devices to share the single available TT. The 96kHz version _might_ work on your Pi, depending on what other full speed devices are connected, and should work if the FCD Pro+ is placed on an external USB 2.0 hub, either on its own as the only full speed device on that hub if the hub only has one TT, or with other full speed devices if the hub is a multi TT hub.

Many thanks, Howard

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We’ve moved and back up and running!

Folks,

While we still have a little more unpacking to do, we’re now back up and running following our move, so we’re now back to dispatching FUNcube Dongles immediately. Thank you all for your patience!

Many thanks, Howard

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Yet more FUNcube satellites!

Folks

Although the FUNcube Dongle is capable of receiving many different types of signals, both from terra firma and from space, it was originally designed to receive the FUNcube-1 satellite launched back in November 2013.

What we weren’t expecting when we first embarked on the FUNcube project was that we’d have any more than just the one satellite. Well, we now have three FUNcube satellite payloads in orbit. As well as FUNcube-1, we now have both FUNcube-2 and FUNcube-3 in space.

Although FUNcube-1 is a satellite in its own right, FUNcube-2 hitched a ride on-board the UK Space Agency’s UKube-1 satellite as a payload and was launched on Tuesday (8 July 2014), and already signals have been received. There’s some more news here. The FUNcube-2 payload carries similar capabilities to FUNcube-1, as well as the other payloads carried by UKube.

Here are some videos of UKube’s integration, Soyuz roll-out and launch.

FUNcube-3 is a satellite in its own right, and was launched on 19 June 2014 from Yasny on a DNEPR rocket, and was heard in South Africa ten minutes after deployment and has a BPSK telemetry downlink as well as a linear transponder. There’s more information here.

Many thanks, Howard

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Pro+ and Pro differences

Folks

A quick note to let you know that you should make sure when downloading documentation and software that you are using the correct versions for whichever FUNcube Dongle you have! Aside from different front markings, you can identify which one you have from the serial number that’s marked on the back. The original FUNcube Dongle Pro’s (FCDP) have serial numbers less than 10,000. Serial numbers 10,000 and above are the FUNcube Dongle Pro Plus (FCDPP).

Although the two FCD versions look similar from the outside, inside the hardware’s almost completely different, and using the wrong software and/or documentation with each device will inevitably be frustrating! There were many improvements made when we designed the FCDPP, most notable being coverage down to LF, auto-switched discrete front-end pre-selection filters including very selective SAW filters for 2m and 70cm, doubling of spectrum bandwidth, and use of a very stable TCXO reference oscillator. The component count is 250% greater as a result, but we still managed to squeeze it all in to the USB dongle enclosure – just!

You’ll notice a couple of menus at the top of the page, one is “The New FUNcube Dongle Pro+” and the other is “The Original FUNcube Dongle“, so you should choose the one appropriate to your FCD.

In other news, we’ve just begun started receiving yet another batch of FUNcube Dongle Pro Plus units from the manufacturers, so we’ve plenty of stock and you can order directly by following this link.

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Firmware updating on the FUNcube Dongle Pro+

Folks,

As you may know, there are two FUNcube Dongle models out there, the original FUNcube Dongle Pro (aka FCDP, serial numbers below 10000, firmware v18x where x is a release letter, with v18j the most recent) and the newer FUNcube Dongle Pro+ (aka FCDPP, serial numbers 10000 and above, firmware v20.xx, with v20.03 the most recent).

FCDPPs shipped since about November 2012 with serial numbers 10250 or so and above already have the latest 20.03 firmware shipped with them, so there is no need to perform an update. (The only other public version in the very early FCDPP units were inadvertently sent out with FCC cellular blocked frequency ranges, other than that they functioned perfectly well).

Although the names of the two FUNcube Dongle models are similar, they’re almost entirely different hardware designs, and the firmware designed for an FCDP won’t work in a FCDPP, nor the other way around.

When I wrote the bootloaders for the FCDP and FCDPP, I didn’t include a check to ensure the right firmware files were for the correct FCD. Next time I will! There should be no harm if you inadvertently upload the wrong firmware, but the unit should simply remain in bootloader mode until a valid firmware image is uploaded. Both the FCDP and FCDPP include several safety mechanisms both in software and hardware to perform a sanity check in case the firmware’s wrong, and if it makes no sense the device will sit in bootloader mode to prevent “bricking” the device.

So in short if you’ve recently purchased an FCDPP, you shouldn’t have any need to update the firmware.

Many thanks, Howard

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FUNcube Dongle and SMA connectors (and the Dashboard)

Folks,

I wrote a note about the SMA connectors that the FUNcube Dongle uses for its antenna connection some time ago, but I think it’s probably worth reiterating.

All FUNcube Dongles have conventional SMA female connectors, so your antenna lead needs to have a standard SMA male connector to mate with it. Standard SMA connectors have been around for decades, and are fairly ubiquitous these days in commercial RF equipment at VHF and above, but are perfectly well suited down to LF too, especially if the device is tiny (like the FUNcube Dongle!)

The problem is that as well as “standard” SMA connectors, there are also RP or Reverse Polarity SMA connectors available. The RP connectors were developed more recently as an attempt to have a physical way to make it difficult to put high gain antennas on WiFi equipment.


For the FUNcube Dongle, the SMA on the left is GOOD, but the RP-SMA on the right is BAD! (Picture linked from OscarLiang.net)

To confuse things, there is nothing physically to stop you plugging an RP SMA male into a standard SMA female, such as that on your FUNcube Dongle. You won’t break anything, but it won’t work either as there is no prong on the RP SMA male to mate with the standard SMA female on the FUNcube Dongle. This will be reflected in the apparent insensitivity of the FUNcube Dongle, which is hardly surprising either, it’s just like having a break inside you antenna cable!

So, in short, do not use RP-SMA connectors on a FUNcube Dongle, they won’t work. The correct SMA connector should have a centre pin.

Onto another subject entirely, we had a very useful meeting of the FUNcube team over the weekend, and we’ve been making some further improvements to the Dashboard software which will be released soon, increasing decoding sensitivity by about 6dB when used with the FUNcube Dongle.

Many thanks, Howard

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February 2014 update

Folks,

The New Year has been busy, we’ve had some large commercial orders as well as plenty of personal customers, many I am sure eager to try their hand at receiving the recently launched FUNcube satellite, as well as many other signals: remember the FUNcube Dongle Pro Plus is capable of receiving narrowband signals of any sort with the appropriate software from LF to 2GHz (full specifications here).

The inventory level remains good, you can order by following this link.

You don’t need big antennas to receive the FUNcube satellite, I’ve had success receiving the satellite with a simple rubber duck antenna. At home, I’m currently using an end-fed half wave mounted on the end of an 8m telescopic fibreglass fishing pole (with the ubiquitous duck tape, of course!) with good results, even with 20m of RG58 cable loss.

Using a half wave antenna means there’s no need for a ground plane. Similar results can be achieved with a 1/4 or 5/8 wave, but it will need a ground plane of some sort for optimum results. Of course, a simple dipole tuned for 145MHz will work. Whether you use horizontal or vertical polarisation is up to you: the satellite is rotating so inevitably you’ll experience some fades if you use linear polarised antennas such as those described.

What I have found is that having the antenna out in clear space helps a lot: these days there’s so much RF noise from all sorts of sources that having the antenna mounted outside, away from your computer equipment and home network (even plasma TVs and other domestic electronics can emit plenty of RF noise) is very beneficial in receiving the weaker signals from space. As a rule of thumb, if you plug in the antenna and see an increase of more than about 10dB of noise floor, consider moving you antenna. It’s just like astronomers being affected by light pollution, but in the radio spectrum.

Many thanks, Howard

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FUNcube Dongle Pro+: Now in stock!

Folks,

It’s been a very busy few weeks, what with the unbelievably successful FUNcube-1 satellite launch, the Christmas seasonal rush and some large commercial orders, but I’m delighted to let you know that the we’re back in stock! I just received a bumper batch from the manufacturer that are now on test.

Please follow this link to order.

Here are the last order dates for delivery by 24 December.

23 December 1100 UTC Continental US, Canada, North West Europe (eg, UK, France, Germany, Benelux, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy)

20 December 1100 UTC Rest of Europe, Russia (eg, Spain, Finland, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Portugal)

For South East Asia I need three working days, and Australasia typically needs four, so if you order from those areas I’m afraid it’s likely to be just after Christmas for delivery to those locations if you haven’t already ordered.

Many thanks, and of course, seasons’ greetings to you.

Howard

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FUNcube Dongle availability update

Folks

What with the phenomenal FUNcube-1 satellite launch success ten days ago(http://www.funcube.org.uk), Christmas orders and three large commercial orders all coming at once, demand for the FUNcube Dongle Pro+ is currently significantly higher than I anticipated.

Rest assured that if you are already on the waiting list, you will be invited to order well before Christmas. It you’d like to get on that waiting list, please register here.

Our last waitlist number to be invited to order was 3862, and there are currently 366 more people in the waiting list. When you receive an invitation to order, there are physical units in stock to ship immediately.

To give you an idea of the volumes we’re shipping right now, 173 units were shipped this morning. It was a busy weekend! As soon as the units come from the manufacturer, I test them and ship them, usually within a working day.

Thank you for your patience!

Howard

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