WSJTX on ChromeOS (zero modifications required)

Discussion in 'Computers, Hardware, and Operating Systems' started by N9EWB, Jul 4, 2021.

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  1. N9EWB

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    I wanted to share a little about my recent chromebook experience with WSJTX and some of the gotchas.

    This past Amazon prime day I took a gamble and bought a cheap 11.6" chromebook to see what I could do with HAM radio. I was fully aware of all the hackery one could do to get a full blown version of linux installed, but I did not want to do that. I wanted to see what was possible with ChromeOS and what was supplied by Google natively.

    I am using the native chrome linux feature. No hacking, no side-loading, no installing of anything other than what chrome supports natively. Chrome has a containerized version of linux that is essentially debian. It has a functional version of WSJTX 2.0 that you can install with the apt package manager. (yes it's old, but still works fine) I have full cat control and audio working with this version of WSJTX with my Lab599 TX-500.

    The trick with native chrome linux containers is that they presently only support audio output with the native on-board soundcard. You can use any USB soundcard to get audio into linux as a microphone source, but cannot use a USB soundcard to get audio out of linux. ChromeOS will only output audio from the linux container via the on-board soundcard. This meant having to use a convoluted cable setup. I am using a USB soundcard as my microphone input, and using the on-board headphone jack to get audio out. This is because most chromebooks do not have a dedicated microphone input jack.

    Also of note, if you do not have isolation on the audio interfaces, expect RF to get into your chromebook. To my surprise the RF was not coming across the audio interface cables, but rather the USB CAT control. The higher my output and SWR, the more easily the RF would play havoc on my USB cat control dongle and stop transmissions. It took me several hours to isolate this cause and ended up with a solution to wrap the CAT control cable around a ferrite bead about 4 times. This stopped the RFI issues and I can now pump a full 10+ wats from the TX-500, at any SWR, and not have any RF interference with the chromebook.

    All that said, the setup works well. For less than you can spend on a raspberry pi all decked out, you can have a very small inexpensive laptop that will handle all your field needs. My chromebook is 11.6", easy to work on and see, and the battery life is exceptional.

    I would not advocate anyone rush out and buy a chromebook to play radio, you're almost certainly better off with a real laptop, but it is possible to get everything working on ChromeOS without the usual hacking.

    Hope this helps someone... 73
  2. N9EWB

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    Update: ChomeOS lacks any ability to adjust time within the Linux container. For this reason I have abandoned testing on my chromebook. Digital mode operations work on ChromeOS, so long as you are tethered to wifi. Not so well in a POTA situation.

    I have since invested in a AVITA magus II tablet PC running Ubuntu and am very very happy with it. Did my first FT8 digital POTA activation with it this past week.

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