Basic setup guide to wxsat reception (using a windows computer)

Analoguesat

Analoguesat

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Getting a basic wxsat system up and running actually isnt too difficult. I shall give you a basic guide to setting up a windows decoding station.

Hardware needed
1 old laptop or computer of some kind
an sdr dtt dongle - Im using a nooelec I had lying around
an antenna of some sort (to begin with a very simple one will suffice)
some coax cable
asssorted cable interconnects

Software needed (all free)
Zadig driver software
WXtoImg
SDRSharp (aka SDR#)
Virtual Cable software to pipe the audio from SDR# to WXtoImg



So first of all you need to get the computer to see the sdr dongle. Plug the dongle into your computer. Windows will install the wrong drivers, so run the Zadig software. Select the DTT dongle, you may need to tick the Options - other devices box if nothing shows up. Make sure you select the right device then choose the Win USB v6.xxxxxx driver and allow Zadig to change the driver.

zadig.JPG

Really old kit seems to struggle to do this bit for some reason - Ive had issues changing the driver on a really old laptop.

The antenna.
To get yourself going you can build a very simple antenna. Find a "choc bloc" connector block and cut a section off 2 blocs long.

choc.JPG

Find a piece of stiff wire and cut two lengths 53.5cm long. Strip the ends if required and fasten the two wires into one side of the "chocbloc" The wire needs to be stiff enough to support its own weight - I used thick plastic covered gardening wire that I found in the shed. Thin welding rod or similar would also be suitable. Splay the wires out horizontally so they are about 120 degrees apart. Dont be too bothered about getting it perfect - it'll be near enough for the strong downlink signals from the NOAA birds. Run the coax into the other side of the chocblocs, fasten the chocblock to the top of a post of some sort (I used a broomhandle I found lying around!) and run a length of coax to your computer using whatever interconnects you need to get through windows, etc. Again dont worry about coax specs, using flat section coax to get through windows etc to begin with - it'll work well enough to get some pics. You can play with changing coax / better hardware later.

This is my mk 2 antenna - the chocbloc is under the blue plastic bag which is just there for some waterproofing as the weather is horrible up here atm! About half an hour to make including finding all the bits of junk that went into it!

mk2.JPG
 
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Analoguesat

Analoguesat

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SDRSharp doesnt like my decade and a bit old Dell Dimension 5150 so you want to use a newer beastie than that!

So we have the dongle connected to the antenna. Now we need to get a signal onto the computer. Get the SDRSharp software and install it. Click on the top left "gearwheel" and select your RTL USB device. Directly below that Make sure the Source tab is set to SDR device and on the Radio tab select WFM. Tune your device to 89MHz (or whatever your strong FM radio station is) press the black triangle next to the gearwheel and you should see a waveform appear. Thats Radio 2 on 89.1 MHz here over on the left side of the graph. Move the tuning line (the vertical whitish line) over the radio channel, select a wide bandwidth, say 200, 000 turn the volume up and you can listen in to the music of your choice. Congratulations - your software is working correctly!

Go on - have a play for a bit - you need to find out what some of the main controls do - you cant break it.....


Capture.PNG
 
Analoguesat

Analoguesat

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Now you need to install WXtoImg This bit is fairly simple but you will get the unregistered version. The software is no longer supported so you wont be able to get a pukka key. So we need to find as working key for it.

Ahem have a look here (Reply 31) .... ;)


Code:
https://www.wxforum.net/index.php?topic=31494.25
It work fine - and seeing as the wxtoimg software designer had been giving out free keys at the end I cant see any problem about using this method. Click on Help - Enter Upgrade Key and carefully enter the info.

OK the satellite pass info is out of date so click on File - Update Keplers and the WXtoImg software will go and pick up some updates. (If you get an error message saying keplers are still out of date just run this bit again. Just occasionally the update doesnt "stick").

Next click on Options - Active APT Satellites and untick NOAA 17 - that one is dead If you are wondering what happened to NOAA 16 - it was decommissioned in June 2014 & fragmented in late 2015!

Capture.JPG



Now to set your location. Click on Options - Ground Station Location and set your home location - one decimal place is near enough. Get this right or else your pass info will be incorrect!

Capture.JPG
 
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Analoguesat

Analoguesat

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One last thing to do with WXtoImg - have a look at the pass info so click on File - Satellite pass List and you will get something like this:

Capture.JPG

MEL is Maximum Elevation & Long is the longitude of the pass MEL - the higher the better - Long - the closer to your longitude the better. Have a look at the far right column - that gives you the frequency used. So wait for a pass and tune SDRSharp to whatever the frequency is. With any luck you will get a signal that sound like ding ding ding ding....


You can download a sample here WAV files

The accompanying wave form is very very distinctive.

waveform.JPG


Those audio files are full passes so you can run them through WXtoImg and have a play if you like (File - Open Audio File)
 
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Analoguesat

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One main procedure left. We need to get the ausio from SDR# into WXtoImg. We need to use what is called a virtual audio cable which allows audio piping from one bit of software to another. The free ones are good enough for what we need - I used VBCable because its free :D

Set it up and in your computer audio properties set the default "speaker system" to the VB Cable.

Go into the WXtoImg Options - Recording Options and change the soundcard to the VB Cable:

Capture.PNG

You can play with the record options in here - unless you are in a particularly favourable location theres not much point recording anything with a max elevation below about 20 degrees, and record only when the satellite is above say 15 degrees above the horizon which get rid of the really grainy pictures when the signal is very weak at the start and end of the pass.
 
Analoguesat

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Having set the default audio to VB Cable SDR Sharp should already be be configured to route the audio via the VB Cable.

Fot WXSat you need to set the radio properties to Wide FM (WFM) and a bandwidth of about 40,000 to start with. This means you dont need to worry about the doppler shift as the wide bandwith accounts for it. These settings in the gear wheel seem to work ok for me.

1sdr.PNG

With this set up you should get something You will need to manually tune SDR# between each pass. You need to look for the telemetry bars as the screen is building. If you get this far you will get some sort of image. Ive deliberately chosen this extremely rubbish image because it shows a very weak signal but the B&W telemetry bars are clearly visible - and its the very first wxsat signal I ever received! :D
Capture.JPG
 
Analoguesat

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To get the pretty "BBC weather forecast pictures" you need to change a few options in WXtoImg. Go to Options - Auto Processing. Tick Create Images then click on the Image Setting button next to it. At the very least you want the 4 x HVC items highlighted. You can play with the other stuff later :D

Capture.JPG


In WXtoImg click on File - Record - Auto Record & down the bottom it will tell you what the next satellite is & what its frequency is . Tune SDR# to that frequency & sit back & wait. DONT get too impatient - it will auto start after the pass starts - you will pick up a weak signal to begin with but we have the first part of the pass ignored if you remember :) Once the pass has completed the WXtoImg s/w will do some processing then in the saved images tab you will find whatever its been instructed to make. Check the next pass down the bottom of WXtoImg main page and reset SDR#
 
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Analoguesat

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Problems:

If you run win10 I guarantee the regular updates will break this & you need to rerun the Zadig driver install at the very least.

SDR# seems to be very buggy indeed under win10 - my 5 year old laptop keeps locking up solid when playing with SDR# The only way out is to push & hold the power button......

If you live near pager base stations your signals will get blatted by POCSAG transmissions leading to interference lines across the images.

SDR# is flaky and you need to keep a careful eye on the settings - if you move the cursor around you will get the audio mode changing - so make sure its reset to WFM after playing with it!

This setup only has manual tuning for each pass. I will investigate the auto re-tuning at a later date

The "BBC Weather images" are only available on good daylight passes

NOAA 15 18 & 19 are elderly satellites. The newer birds dont have the APT transmission equipment so the window of opportunity to play with this is limited. Once these 3 birds go out of service that it - game over.


However even when you get some interference lines its very satisfying to be able to have a look at the weather direct from space

One from this morning to show what possible - and if you know anybody who went on holiday to the south of France on Easter Monday you can console yourself that they were getting very wet! :-rofl2

(This was received using the very antenna pictured up at the top of the thread - no amps, no filters - just that slightly wonky antenna, 5m or so of coax & a few joining interconnects.)



good.jpg


You may need to tweak the audio levels a little if your antenna is a good one. Right down the very bottom right hand corner of WXtoImg is a volume indicator. You want this to be green for the majority of a pass. If levels are too low you need to knock the audio up a bit. On my system I just leave everything turned up maximum atm. You can adjust level in the virtual audio cable system levels or in SDR# - just to the right of the gear wheel top left.
 
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Analoguesat

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Have fun with this. If you have a go start a new thread here in the SDR software section so we can follow your progress and enjoy the pictures you produce :)
 
Analoguesat

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Ive opened the thread up for comments now - I forgot last night when I was working on it.

Only questions related to setup of a station on this thread - anything else will be moved / deleted
 
Terryl

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OK, I have the dongle installed but do not see it in the SDR settings (gear wheel) all are blank.SDR problem1A.jpg
 
Terryl

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Never mind I got it.

Will start new thread on my stuff.

Any problems I will post back here.
 
Terryl

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OK, how do you adjust the audio levels???
 
Analoguesat

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Just using the volume control on the task bar. Its just a normal volume system but routed through the vb pipes instead of the speakers
 
Terryl

Terryl

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Not getting anything as far as audio to the WXtoImg software, it was all junk and garbage.

I tried the SDR software record function but cant find the file it recorded...I'm doing something wrong
 
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Go into the control panel - audio properties of the computer & make sure virtual cable is selected as default in all the options (record playback etc.).

In SDR~ check the options and make sure virtual cable is selected as the source. (down near the bottom on the left hand side set of menus. Turn the volume slider (top left next to the gear wheel) up to maximum.

In wxtoimg go to options - recording options and select vbcable.
 
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I have said elsewhere that I have been moving my computer desk and reorganizing cables the desk hosts three computers two nas boxes two monitors and now my trusty TM 5402HD reason for that my TBS6925 card has decided that it can only see QPSK modulation transponders.You can imagine the spiders web of cables there.This morning I decided to do a WXimg scan.Something is seriously wrong here.I decided not to panic did a few checks no joy.next check the antenna.Still vertical above the garage.I did reroot and replaced the cable It now has two straight connectors.Must be a poor connection there somewhere.Yep a poor screw on f connector.Problem sorted for now untill the next time that I decide to improved things.First pic is the duff scan NOAA 15 at 08:21 UTC, second NOAA 19 at 15:28 UTC.
noaa-15-09290821-norm.jpgnoaa-19-09291528-hvct-precip.jpg
 
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