ADS-B Receivers

And now for something completely different…

I’ve been hosting ADS-B receivers from FlightAware and FlightRadar24 for a few years now. Living in ML, I had an optimal location. Sure, there were limitations from mountains 100 miles away, but in general, I could pick up aircraft broadcasts above Portland, Seattle, Spokane, Richland.

Before we’d sold the house, I started receiving regular alerts from FlightAware that my receiver was offline. Checked everything, of course: it’s connected, nothing’s changed, device is plugged into the network, DHCP service is showing the device is alive. Even its own onboard diagnostics are even showing that it’s fine… except…

I sent an email to FlightAware to let them know it was offline and suggested that perhaps its 1090 radio was faulty.

They were rather dismissive. “No. Just double check it’s plugged in and connected to the network.”

It is. It’s reporting an error with the 1090 receiver.

“No. Just make sure it’s plugged in.”

Time passed. Moved house. And finally got round to taking a closer look…

I don’t have a prime location now. I can’t even get the antenna atop the rental’s roof. But, I can improvise a bit.

Right, so my FlightRadar24 receiver continues to work just fine. Well, limited receive range of course, but still fine.

But the FlightAware receiver…

It has an “internal” USB receiver. Just a simplistic RTL dongle from the looks of things.

I have a few spare RTL SDRs. Soooo… plug it in, power it up and it reports that everything is normal. Works fine. Still rather annoyed that FlightAware was dismissive of the issue I was reporting. But it works now.

Someday, I’ll see about having the receive antennas as high as possible. Perhaps I’ll have an antenna tower installed at the “next house”.

Lightning Radio Bursts

A rather good summary of the radio waves coming from lightning:

He does mention the Inspire VLF-3 radio kit, which you can order here. A neat kit, although it’s admittedly a bit pricey. But, it is complete with PCBs, discrete components, and instructions. You need only add a soldering iron. If you’re looking to explore more than simply QRP transceivers, it’s a good step in the exploration.

Also this:

Touch to send…

An assortment of parts that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike a key.


Not nearly as complex as the two transceivers and oscilloscope that I’ve recently assembled.


I suppose with the dexterity issue I currently have, it replicates closely enough an iambic paddle. I’d like a real paddle — but I have absolutely no interest in dropping the going rate for one.

I should also see about locating some hundred-plus year old tech and some robust wire to hook up keys. Hmm… or maybe there’s even a simplistic wireless tool that I can use to bridge the gap between devices. Yep, there’s something of a conflict in pondering the use of modern Bluetooth technology to interconnect tools, to then send nearly 200-year old signal (Morse Code) over a 125-year old (Radio) medium.

I am a bit of an anachronism.

It’s Working!

Apart from an astoundingly simple audio alarm and several car stereo installs, I’ve never built any actual electronic devices.

So I’m actually rather impressed that I managed to cobble together a Pixie_4.1 from parts and with only a schematic and some rather worthless Chinese-language only instructions:

E4GA1lNISMCba95Lt25wkwIt even works, as well. I’m sure nobody was nearly as surprised as I was.


No idea how much power it puts out — maybe 250mw or so. Which, on the 40m band is quite sufficient to get out. Fun fact: No amount of power in the world will get out if there’s no path for the energy to travel. I once had a QSO from Denver, CO to South Africa (about 15,000 km) with only 250mw.

Anyway, back to the Pixie: I did switch out the originally-included 7.023MHz crystal for the 7.030MHz (upper left quadrant) to keep in my license band. I’m not ready to upgrade to Extra, so for now, I’ll stay in the General area of the bands.

There are a few things I’ll do as well:

  • Change out the crystal to something like SIP connectors so I can easily swap crystals out.
  • Add a 9V connector.
  • Add a BNC type connector to aide with connecting an antenna rather than the two-pin connector.
  • Somewhere I’ve an Altoids tin that I’ll see about putting it in.

These are incredibly inexpensive, and, for me, rather relaxing to go about sorting through parts, assembling, soldering, de-soldering, testing… perhaps I’ll see about even building another. Just because.

Next, I’m quite interested in having a go at assembling the QRP Labs QCX CW Transceiver kit (greater complexity) and even a DSO138 Oscilliscope (SMD and smaller components) as well. Obviously, I’ll need to improve my CW skills, and I even have a J-37 key that K0AOG gave me many years ago… but I don’t have the needed manual dexterity or hearing (different story), but I’ll get to that.

Security Fail

Security failure: requiring that create an account with a minimum or maximum account name size.

Why it’s a problem:

  • Ham radio operators often like to use their world-unique radio callsigns to identify themselves and they are frequently four or five characters long. So they’ll need to resort to using their given names.
  • People with relatively common given names will find that they can’t even use their own name as an account name, so they resort to made-up names, or worse – using their given name along with a year of birth, creating an even bigger security risk.

Also, in your user-feedback, don’t tell them how to social-engineer your security team. A simple and vague “input prohibited” would suffice, particularly if they’re trying to include something that your software or wetware tends to stumble with.