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Remote shutdown / timeout

Discussion in 'RFinderPi - Open Source radio interface based on R' started by WE6EE, May 19, 2017.

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  1. WE6EE

    WE6EE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi guys,

    tl;dr: Is anyone interested the remote power shutdown watchdog I built to comply with 47 CFR 97.213?

    My name is Dave. I'm pretty new to ham radio, but have really been interested in remote operations. I've been able to set up my rig (IC-7300) for remote access using an RPi and forwarding the audio and control over the network using basic linux commands. The control works well, the audio so-so.

    But actually, the point of my post is that in all that experimentation to get that to work, I realized that sometimes I can crash the RPi. Furthermore, because of a sub-optimal antenna setup, I have had some incidents with "rf in the shack" that caused my hardware to crash -- including while transmitting.

    This inspired me to build a hardware watchdog timer that will power down the rig if it loses network contact. A transistor switch controls DC to the rig. The switch is controlled by what is essentially an Arduino, and the Ard is connected to an RPi via i2c.

    The RPi is running a simple server that I can connect to remotely using a web browser. The web page periodically polls the status of the watchdog, and when only a few seconds are left, it re-ups the counter. With this come a few other goodies, like remote voltage monitoring, and being able to switch some other things, too.

    The two processor approach was designed to make this very robust. The code on the Ard is very small and easy to validate. Nothing much should crash it and it *will* shut down the rig if it does not get a ping from the host. The RPi on the other hand, is easy to code for and is a nice robust computing platform. Also, in addition to the watchdog server, the RPi should also be able to act as the main communications gateway for the radio itself.

    I am thinking of just putting all the design files up on github, or I might make a kit, or even a complete product, depending on interest level. Is there any?

    Dave WE6EE

    1P5B9634.JPG 1P5B9637.JPG 1P5B9641.JPG page.png
    KC3BZJ likes this.
  2. WE6EE

    WE6EE Ham Member QRZ Page

  3. KA9JLM

    KA9JLM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think your project is interesting.

    RPi3 is the berries.

    Have Fun.
  4. WE6EE

    WE6EE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well, thanks KA9JLM. Let me know if you have any questions. I'm also curious to know if people think there are features that could be added to make this more useful: being able to switch more 12V devices, multiple serial ports to talk to different devices, etc.

    Right now I am alternating between using a Raspberry Pi to control my power-off watchdog and the rig and just using the Raspberry Pi to control the watchdog and using a separate windows computer to control the rig. The latter is running the Icom remote software, RS-BA1, which when it works is quite nice, but it is super fragile -- not good for something to be operated remotely.

    I think we are maybe one or two generations away from radios just having Ethernet / WiFi connections that "just work" -- radio shows up as a a website or something.
  5. KA9JLM

    KA9JLM Ham Member QRZ Page

    One thing that I find useful is having a Video Camera looking at the radio station, So that I can see what it is doing.

    Have fun with your project.
  6. WE6EE

    WE6EE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yes, a lot of people are doing that -- and I understand why. Between the PCs and the rigs and antenna switches, tuners, etc, there are so many things that can go wrong and there is not enough telemetry from this equipment to assess the "state" of your station without an actual picture. I think that's a shame, but I guess that's the state of the art right now.

    For whatever reason, I really didn't like the idea of having a full PC on all day when I am away from the shack, nor do I want my power supply and rig on either. So I focused pretty hard on complete remote control with the smallest "always-on" footprint possible. That's why the RPi3 is so attractive. One little device, drawing 5W to stay on top of everything.

    I've sort of relaxed that a little, though. Now that I am running the Icom RS-BA1 software to remote my IC-7300, I have to have a PC going. However, I found a little PC called a Minix Z83-4 that runs off 12V and also only pulls a few watts. Its not fast and has very limited storage (32GiB) but it gets the job done with a very small footprint. I'm pleased so far.

    I am *not* pleased with the junky Icom software, though. When it works, it's OK, but for something that is supposed to work as a "server" it is just awful. For example, if something goes wrong, it throws up a dialog box with an OK button. Guess what? I'm not there to click it!! That's the whole idea of remote software! Duh! And sometimes the server software just needs to be shut down and restarted because it's gotten into a snit. How am I going to do that remotely? (Because I'm OK at software, I actually wrote a little web server that I can use to restart the software remotely, but why couldn't Icom do that?)

    And I think you are right, you still want the video to see things like power meters, SWR meters, antenna switch positions, amplifier band modes, etc.

    Anyway, it's a fun technical challenge to make a *RELIABLE* remote station that can not just be operated, but also diagnosed and "rebooted" remotely.
  7. KA9JLM

    KA9JLM Ham Member QRZ Page

    You could use something like UltraVNC.

    Or use Task Scheduler with rules setup to automate the task.
  8. WE6EE

    WE6EE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yeah, VNC would be fine, but that's no excuse for Icom making such junk for remote access. A solution for remote access should be robust and should not need handholding. I almost feel like if I need to log into the host and just "do stuff", then this is by definition pretty lame.

    What I've done is write a little tiny remote server for my PC that I can access over the web. From it, I can do three things: 1) start the Icom utility, 2) kill the Icom utility, and 3) reboot the PC. I think this will be all I need in most circumstances. The server runs as a windows service and starts when the machine boots. A nice side-effect is that I can host the radio without anyone even being logged in.

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