Who’s behind the FUNcube Dongle?

Folks,

FUNcube Dongles are the ground receiver for the FUNcube Satellite project, and you can read much more about the whole FUNcube project as a whole here.

The FUNcube project was initially made possible by AMSAT-UK and the Radio Communications Foundation (RCF), both not-for-profit organisations.

Launching and building a satellite to exacting standards isn’t cheap, and to fund this, the FUNcube project welcomes donations. We’re also lucky enough to have support from both AMSAT-UK and the RCF and, of course, a proportion of the sale price of FUNcube Dongles also helps to fund the project.

Now let me introduce myself: I’m Howard Long, and hold the amateur radio callsign G6LVB. There are several other team members on the FUNcube project, but it was me who ended up with the ground receiver project, now known as the FUNcube Dongle. One day they’ll let me play with the cool space hardware, but until that time my feet are well and truly nailed to the ground. When the FUNcube Dongle was first developed back at the end of 2010, we anticipated selling maybe a couple of hundred in total, but really we had no idea. Because of this, there was some risk involved in the manufacturing of FUNcube Dongles, and I didn’t feel it was fair to risk taking seed funding from non-profits like AMSAT-UK, the RCF, or indeed anyone else for that matter.

In my other life as a freelance consultant, I have a limited liability company that has been about since 1991, and we’ve used that to fund the FUNcube Dongles and take on any risk associated with that part of the project. There are other benefits associated with this, such as when it comes to setting up accounts with suppliers. Probably more useful is that it also means that we can fund various parts of the FUNcube Satellite a little more tax-efficiently, although it’s always fun explaining to the accountant what a stage-payment on a satellite launch is.

Now my company is called Hanlincrest Ltd, and it was purchased off-the-shelf all those years ago and I never bothered to change the name of it. So when you purchase a FUNcube Dongle directly from me, you’ll see the payment going to my company.

All this allows me to sneak in the legal bit required in the UK: Hanlincrest Ltd. is registered in the United Kingdom at Companies House, registration number 2652912. VAT registration GB611331202.

Many thanks, Howard

70 Responses to Who’s behind the FUNcube Dongle?

  1. paul j weston says:

    love the fcd pro I have ,waiting with relish for the pro+. glad to learn something of you at a personal level, these fcds are made with a lot of love. all best pj

  2. Wander says:

    Eu quero um desse, como fa├žo? onde compro? quanto fica se enviar para o cep: 31050-125 Belo Horizonte – Brasil – Minas Gerais.
    obrigado.

    translated by google:
    I want one of those, as I do? where I buy? as if it is send to zip: 31050-125 Belo Horizonte – Brazil – Minas Gerais.
    Thank you.

  3. Werner Loebach says:

    Hello Howard,

    when plugging in the FUNcube Dongle Pro+, a power surge warning message popped up on my computer screen, that a device was connected, that exceeded the power limits of the USB port. I’m using a normal desktop computer (IBM Intellistation Z pro). Any ideas?

    Many thanks
    Werner

    • admin says:

      Hello Werner

      I am afraid it sounds like a hardware fault. I’ve emailed you directly with details on how to proceed.

      I guess you could try it on another port or another PC in case the fault is just on that one port, but I suspect your unit isn’t working correctly.

      Can you let me know if it ever worked, or is this new behaviour?

      Many thanks, Howard

  4. Robert Adlington M0BOB says:

    Hi,

    I tried registering my details on the website to show my interest in the Funcube Dongle +, but I am not sure if my details were received (I did not recieve an automated acknowledgement email). (In other words I would like to buy one eventually).

    Thanks.

    Robert Adlington.
    M0BOB

  5. Gennaro Trivisonno says:

    Hi,

    I tried registering my details on the website to show my interest in the Funcube Dongle +, but I am not sure if my details were received (I did not recieve an automated acknowledgement email). (In other words I would like to buy one eventually).

    Thanks.

    Gennaro Trivisonno
    I8TVS

  6. Craig W6CAW says:

    My FCD Pro + is working but it appears you have blocked some frequencies that are used for the 800 public service in the USA. Example the Pro + will not accept 868.925 Mhz. Our USA trunking scanners receive these frequencies legally. Is this part of blocking cellular frequencies or what??

    • admin says:

      Hello Craig

      Looks like you have discovered a feature of the first units that went out! I inadvertently sent out cell blocked versions of the FCD+ up to about serial number 10250 or so. The cell frequencies were extended a little to take into account the fact that the frequency only specifies the centre frequency, not the whole span, hence the slightly extended block.

      I’ll be putting up the firmware update this weekend to resolve this: it’s already been tested by third parties, and I will publish how to proceed on this site. I apologise for my error.

      Many thanks, Hwoard

  7. Francis Boulot F5MIU says:

    Hello,
    I am being very desapointed because when I received the information that the Dongle pro+ whas available (12/6/2012 at 9PM E.T.), all extended range units was allready solde out !
    I attend to purchase it for radioham and also for atmospheric radio probes chasing on the range 402 to 410MHz purpose.
    Do you know when some pro+ extended (400 => 420) will be available ?
    Best 73’s, Francis, F5MIU

    • admin says:

      Hello Francis

      I am unsure as to whether there will be anymore: none the latest batch of chips I have from the manufacturer are not tuning down as low as 400MHz I am afraid.

      Occasionally, I receive units from the board assembler with chips from the old batch, but this is becoming increasingly rare. I still keep a look out for these devices as the 400MHz test is performed on all untis as a matter of course for characterisation and quality control purposes.

      Many thanks, Howard

  8. Vlad says:

    Howard, Nice product ! Congratulations!
    Do you have a resellers in U.S. ?
    The Best, 73

    • admin says:

      Hello Vlad

      Thank you for your comments.

      We’re awaiting completion of FCC conformance testing as resellers will need the FCC to have the requisite testing and laeblling. To be honest, I think this is probably going to end up being several weeks away now while we work thorugh the immediate rush. I had hoped to have the FCC conformance testing done in October when we did the CE testing but it was not to be. This is largely due to the difficulty in the regulations not keeping up with the technology, and being able to assess exactly what test are required for such a wide range SDR receiver.

      Many thanks, Howard

  9. Jim says:

    Are these made in the USA or UNITED KINGDOM? If they are made by essentially slave labor in Asia or any other exploited Country, I will not be interested. Thank you for your time in this matter.

    • admin says:

      Hello Jim

      The FCD+ is proudly manufactured in the United Kingdom. This includes the entire PCB assembly that is done at HCD in Letchworth in the United Kingdom, all the way to the testing, placing in the enclosures, drilling holes in the enclosures and final packaging and dispatch which I do myself.

      Many thanks, Howard

  10. Jim Rhodes says:

    I purchased a used Funcube Pro and it seems to install OK, but the control software does not seem to find it. I have other USB sound devices and drivers installed on all 3 computers I tried it on, is it possible that this is causing the problem? The operating systems are Win XP, Win 7 Ultimate 64bit and Win 7 Pro 32bit. The Win 7 systems show it as a microphone device instead of line in, but do show as 2 channel devices.

    • admin says:

      Hello Jim

      It sounds like you may be using Pro+ software for a Pro device?

      The Pro shows as a microphone device whereas the Pro+ shows itself as a Line device.

      Many thanks, Howard

      • Jim Rhodes says:

        Then do I need something different for control software as what I downloaded does not find the dongle at all.

        • admin says:

          Hello Jim

          Check out the downloads section under “The new FUNCube Dongle Pro+” menu at the top of this page.

          Many thanks, Howard

          • Jim Rhodes says:

            That is where I got the software from yes. It does not find the dongle and it sounds like I should lose it.

          • admin says:

            Hello Jim

            I am still not at all sure whether you have a Pro or a Pro+ device.

            Can you confirm whether you have a Pro or a Pro+ device? The two devices have different USB IDs, so you must use the correct software with the device. You can’t use the Pro+ software with a Pro device and vice versa.

            If it’s a Pro+, you will also see that there’s a Windows debugging document in the downloads section, and I recommend using that if you have a Pro+.

            Thank you, Howard

  11. Marco-Luis says:

    Dear Howard,

    We are looking for a SDR for direct readout of LRIT/HRIT/GVAR products from GOES-East on 1600 MHz, do you think is possible to accomplish this with the FUNcube Dongle?? Thanks in advance.

    Marco-Luis
    YV1HX

    • admin says:

      Hello Marco Luis

      I am not sure what the bandwidth these modulation schemes use. If they’re relatively narrow bandwidth (under 170kHz or so) then the FCD+ would be suitable.

      Many thanks, Howard

  12. Neil says:

    I would just like to say a big thanks for firstly getting my Funcube pro+ to me in time for Christmas and also for producing such a fantastic product.
    I have not had a great deal of time to experiment fully with it at the moment what with Christmas and working over New Year, but I can say that I could not be happier with it.
    Great stuff and a big thanks.

    • admin says:

      Thank you Neil!

      It was indeed quite hard work fulfilling all the orders before Christmas and it’s not until I receive them in my hot little hands from the manufacturer that I really know I can get them out. Typically they’re only with me for less than one working day before I dispatch, during which time I re-test, place them in enclosures, label and package them.

      Many thanks, Howard

  13. CS says:

    Hi Howard!
    I’m looking for a SDR to decode TETRA. The frequency range starts with 380 MHz up to 420 MHz. (BOS & Private) As i see, the FCD Pro+ can’t work with frequencies below 410 MHz. The old version of the FCD got no problems with this frequency range. It seems the problem is in the HF-filter front end. Is it possible to set a bypass?
    If there is no chance to get the FCD Pro+ for this usage, maybe there is a possibility to use FCD Pro?

    Any Ideas to realize that?

    Thanks, CS

    • admin says:

      Hello CS.

      The new chip we use in the FCD+ is not guaranteed to cover between 240MHz and 420MHz. This is not a filter problem, it’s to do with the internal LO VCO/PLL/divider chain inside the tuner chip.

      Many thanks, Howard

  14. Kevin Glacken says:

    Hello Howard
    I need some help. My funcube dongle that I bought from you has stopped receiving Wfm stereo broadcast. Also on some bands when its working its shown double Rx signals. Simple set up here . In door scanner magmount antenna and a Toshiba l755 lap top. Software is Sdr# and sdr console. None are rx wfm . My cheap rtl dongle is working fine. I hope you can help have been enjoying the new style of radio. Sn0011175.

    Thanks Kevin Glacken

  15. Lee says:

    Dear Howard, I received my FCD+ today and I am extremely Happy.. I cannot thank you enough for your speedy responses and fast shipping..!!!

    The dongle is truly amazing, and the hard work that has gone into designing this peice really shows..

    A massive thank you Howard..

    Kind regards

    Lee

    • admin says:

      Hello Lee.

      Many thanks for your comments. There was a lot of work put into making the FCD+ work the way it does, a lot of that taken from our experiences of the FCD and the feedback we have from that.

      Many thanks again, Howard

  16. Toshiya Maeda / JH5CZY says:

    Dear Howard.

    FCDP+ arrived today. (serial#0011728)
    Instantly, it installs, and although it was made to operate, it does not move well.
    FCD+Frequency Control Program v2.002 is operating normally. Probably I think that Frequency hardware is normal.

    but, if it PLAY on SDR software, an error will come out.
    In the case of SDRSharp.. Popup (paUnanticipatedHostError)
    In the case of HDSDR.. Popup (Unspecified error in SoundStartIn, error code 1)

    What should I do? Please give me advice.

    • admin says:

      Hello Toshiya

      It is possible that there is a problem with the total full-speed USB bandwidth in conjunction with the USB hardware you’re using.

      I have two suggestions: try this on a different PC, or try the FCD+ through a USB 2 hub or USB 2 active extender.

      Some USB host hardware uses a single transaction translator for all USB high-speed devices, and the total bandwidth required is more than a single transaction translator can use. By adding a USB 2 hub (or USB 2 active extender which is simple a one port hub), this implicitly adds a transaction translator within the hub/extender. Similarly, you may well find that other PCs have USB host hardware with multiple transaction translators.

      We’ve even seen simple things like removing other USB hardware resolves the problem.

      Many thanks, Howard

      • Toshiya Maeda /JH5CZY says:

        Thanks Howard.

        It will not move, if the USB port of a personal computer is directly connected with FUNCubeDongle.
        However, it came to move, without an error coming out by going via USBHUB on the way.

        Thank you for the advice.

  17. Loe Walter says:

    Hi Howard,

    My position on the waitinglist is so that I want to cancel my order.
    I ordered the dongle through the link you provided on your website: Hamradio.co.uk.
    Please remove me from your list.
    Sorry, I found no other way to do this.
    Regards,
    Loe

  18. Jens says:

    My fcd firmware update failed.
    Now the fcd is unusable.
    What can i do now?

    • admin says:

      Hello Jens.

      Can you give me some details please?

      Is it an FCD or FCD+?

      What does the bootloader software say?

      Many thanks, Howard

      • Peter SEATON says:

        Hello Howard
        My Funcube dongle pro V1.0 sn 0000172 has developed a USB connection problem .Will you be able to repair it for me.

        Regards Peter

        • admin says:

          Hello Peter

          Wow, that’s an old one!

          I’ve sent you an email directly with return details.

          Many thanks, Howard

  19. Chris says:

    Hello Howard,

    My Funcube (ser # 310) has developed a hardware problem. It seems to be
    an intermittent connection somewhere. Nothing visible under the
    microscope. What is my repair options? Is it still support for the old
    units?

    Regards

    Chris

    • admin says:

      Hello Chris.

      I’ll be glad to repair it for you. If it’s what I think it is (a cracked capacitor which affected the very early original FCDs), it’ll be free of charge.

      I’ve send you an email with the return details.

      Many thanks, Howard

    • admin says:

      Hello Chris

      I’ve sent you an email on how to return for repair. Sounds like a cracked capacitor, a fault on some of the very early FCDs.

      Many thanks, Howard

  20. Mike says:

    Got my FCD+ today and ran the bootloader to upgrade the F/W to export18i.pro.bin everything goes ok and I get Firmware verified result, I then exit and try to launch FCHID2 and I get Error FCD not found. I’ve repeated the upg 3 more times with the same results.

    Any ideas?
    Thanks
    Mike

    Tried running SDR Console and I get “Not in Application Mode” I load bootloader again reset the app, get confirmed result and still get the same error.

    SDRSharp say FCD not connected or Driver error

    Any ideas?
    Thanks
    Mike

    • admin says:

      Hello Mike

      The FCD+ is not the FCD: it might look the same but it’s completely different inside. Putting old FCD firmware on the FCD+ won’t work.

      The FCD+ is already shipped with the latest firmware.

      It is almost certain that the FCD+ will now be stuck in the bootloader as the old FCD firmware at the very least won’t pass the checksum when the FCD+ tries to run it. Even if it does, the instruction set machine code is completely different so it will cause an exception, again switching to the bootloader.

      You should now put the correct FCD+ firmware back onto the device. This is here: http://www.funcubedongle.com/MyImages/FCD2.20.03.pro.bin

      In addition, there is documentation about updating the firmware on the FCD+ here: http://www.funcubedongle.com/MyImages/FCD2Firmware.pdf

      You’ll probably find it’s already stuck in the bootloader, so won’t need to perform the “switch to bootloader” step.

      Many thanks, Howard

  21. Bob says:

    Is there a User’s forum for the FCD+ ?

    I am lost out of the box: none of the SDR software I have tried seems to be able to get anything from the dongle. There are comments that the preamp needs to be turned down, but it is unclear how to do that. Also, how does one do Freq control? Would the SDR software control that, or is there something else I am missing.

    Thanks

  22. RANS Staf ON6RR says:

    Dear,

    Here I’m in the possession from a Funcube Pro+. As OS I use Windows 8. The unit isn’t working. Every time I try to start up the unit I receive a message that the Funcube Pro+ isn’t finding or that the driver is bad installed.
    Is Funcube Pro+ working with Windows 8 ?

    Greatings,
    Staf ON6RR

  23. Ruslan says:

    Hello,

    Can someone please tell how can I order FUNcube Dongle and get it shipped to Russia ? Also, please tell, can it be used to scan 868MHz IMS band ? I’m going to use it as a debugging tool for our IMS application (based on TI CC1110 chipset).

    Regards,
    Ruslan.

  24. Nils says:

    Dear Howard – recently I got two FCDPRO+ V2. I wanted to know how this SDR is doing on shortwave. The results were stunning. I filed them into a multimedia PDF (text, 40 screenshots, audio, video, hyperlinks) which you can download here:
    http://bit.ly/15PCCa4
    I show how to receive broadcast, amateur radio and utility, and how to decode digimodes from RTTY over SSTV-DRM to PACTOR-III with solely free software. The PDF is just meant as preview. If you like it, I would be proud to see it some day also on the official FCD page. I am convinced that FCD plus an approach to show what to do with it (and how attractive shortwave still is) will trigger much more interest.
    Your critics & comments are welcomed! 73 Nils, DK8OK

    • admin says:

      Hello Nils

      Wow, what an excellent in-depth and hands-on article. I’ll certainly put a link to it on the documentation page.

      Many thanks, Howard

  25. Tom Dailey says:

    Might I suggest mentioning (up front) that you accept VISA as well as PayPal. Yes, I did discover that after all. No biggie.

    Cheers, Tom
    W0EAJ – Denver USA

    • admin says:

      Hi Tom

      We’re working on it. You can use Visa through Paypal without a Paypal account, but we are also working on a merchant account too, but it is taking far longer to set up than we anticipated.

      Many thanks, Howard

  26. Chadrick Kinser NM5CK says:

    Didn’t read FunCube was just a Rcv when I placed the request so cancel please. No email really listed for direct email that I could find sorry.

  27. steve miller KB9LTE says:

    Hi howard….i purchased a funcube dongle pro a few months ago and i still havent gotten it to work…i have tried a few different programs with no luck…am i doing somthing wrong??? thanks steve

  28. Max says:

    Hello Howard,
    Great work on the funcubedongle. I ‘m still working with the original funcube dongle. I’m wondering about the RF-Input network of the e4000. It looks like an amplifier. I’cant understand the sense of this input network. The e4000 has internal amplifier and matching network hasn’t it?
    I’m very interrested in RF-networks so maybe you can give me a tip!
    Thanks in advance

    Max

    • admin says:

      Hello Max.

      When I put the original prototype of the first FCD together, the sensitivity on 145MHz was not good enough, with a noise figure of about 14dB. This would have made it very difficult to receive weak signals such as the FUNcube satellite for which it was meant to be used.

      To fix this, an external LNA was added. In addition, a high pass filter was also placed in front of that LNA to protect against strong signals below about 65MHz.

      In practice, although the on-chip front end filter on the E4000 works, it’s quite low Q, so the device was sometimes overloaded by strong out of band signals.

      That’s why when the FCD+ was developed, I added switched discrete hardware front end filters, eleven in total. I paid particular attention to the amateur 2m and 70cm bands too, and used SAW filters on these bands. Well over half of the parts on the FCD+ are for front end filtering.

      Many thanks, Howard

  29. richard allen w5sxd says:

    Hi Howard,

    Is the oscillator in the FCD+ powered up whenever it has 5V from the USB port? It is on even if there is no driver running?

    Thanks,

    Richard

    • admin says:

      Hello Richard.

      It depends which oscillator you mean. The 26MHz reference TCXO is on all the time. The LO is started once internal hardware checks have been made.

      Once the USB’s enumerated (and not in Bootloader mode), all oscillators are operating, and streaming is started internally immediately.

      Many thanks, Howard

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