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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9 Responses to February 2014 update

  1. Gary Vander Haagen says:

    “Sdr# will not connect”. I’ve been using dongle successfully until yesterday. On rebooting sdr# would not connect: paunanticipatedhosterror and padeviceunavailable came up time and again. Went thru your windows installation instructions, all shows properly. Tried other USB ports, and latest SW. Still the same. Tried to release ports and did partial uninstall of hubs. The utility program and boot loader do connect.

    Any suggestions of where to go. Everything else on computer seems fine.

    Gary Vander Haagen, Ann Arbor, MI USA

    • admin says:

      Hello Gary.

      I recommend that you start SDRSharp with the FCD+ already inserted, and leave it in. SDRSharp I believe only enumerates the devices at startup of the application. Similarly, if you remove the device while SDRsharp is open, you will get this error.

      Please be very careful regarding uninstalling any drivers, this can be very difficult to diagnose and fix afterwards! There is a debugging document here http://www.funcubedongle.com/MyImages/FCD2Win7Check.pdf

      Many thanks, Howard

  2. Gary Vander Haagen says:

    Howard, thanks for reply. I had followed that process and tried several times including removing-uninstalling the usb drivers per one of your other notes to someone with the same issue. No luck what so ever. It has become totally unresponsive. Any other ideas?

    Gary

    • admin says:

      Hello Gary

      There should be no USB drivers to install or uninstall, the FCD+ should automatically install with drivers provided automatically as part of the operating system distribution. The exception to that is if third party drivers have erroneously been used such as those provided by Zadig which should never ever be used with the FCD+, Zadig was not designed to be used with the FCD+. Removing Zadig drivers is very difficult as there is no uninstall facility, it has to be done manually, and it can take hours particularly if the Zadig driver install has been done several times.

      My recommendation is to try the FCD+ on a new PC to see how that goes, then you can isolate whether it’s a PC environment problem or a fault with the FCD+ itself. If the drivers appear as shown in the debugging document, then the only other thing is if there is insufficient USB bandwidth due to the host having a single rather than multiple USB transaction translator. You can check this by putting the FCD+ on its own on the end of a USB 2.0 hub.

      Howard

  3. Fred Radford says:

    I purchased the pro several years ago when it first became available. What do I have to do now to update or other to get it in the action? Thank you. Fred

    • admin says:

      Hello Fred

      There’s no upgrade path from the Pro to the Pro+. Although they may have the same from factor, the Pro+ is a completely new design, with almost three times the parts of the Pro, including eleven discrete front end filters, TCXO and wider bandwidth among the enhancements.

      Many thanks, Howard

  4. Gez says:

    Hi Howard,

    I purchased a new FCD pro+ about 18 months before. It is quite impressive.

    My device suddenly lost gain this week. For example strong local AM and FM stations are 40db down or more, and no longer overload the front end. The LNA and mixer gain are both enabled, IF gain is zero and the USB interface is acting normally. The noise seems about the same. Only strong signals can be detected.

    Have tested several antenna systems, cables and connectors with the same result – the dongle is now definitely “deaf”. I am using SDR# on Win 7 (64). Firmware version is 20.03

    Anyway the device was quite sensitive before this. I was v. happy to have one and would appreciate some suggestions that will help.

  5. admin says:

    Hello Gez

    I am happy to take a look at this for you free of charge. Please return it to the invoice address, and I’ll fix it for you.

    Many thanks, Howard

  6. Gez says:

    Thanx . Actually my FCD has recovered now. I am investigating to find the issue.. so back to normal sensitivity.

    I tend to use the sdr for LF where the image rejection of broadcast signals is not good, that is understandable because the receiver is designed for VHF. Very happy with it regardless.

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