Saturday, March 24, 2012

Aggregator 2.1 - new insight for Skimmer ops

The newest Aggregator, Version 2.1, is now available, after extensive beta testing.  This post explains the new features of this release, tab by tab.

First of all, there is an entirely new tab titled "Skimmer Traffic."  Here's what it looks like:

  Overwhelming, right?  What this does is to keep track of what happens to every spot made by your Skimmer.

The left-hand side of each row is exactly the same as you are used to seeing in the Aggregator, except for the color coding.  Only the green spots are actually sent along to the RBN.

The right-hand side is where the fun stuff is.

For example, take a look at the first green timestamp. The rest of that line (the brown part) tells you how Aggregator decided to send the spot on to the RBN, and what it sent. The first brown entry is the frequency sent to the RBN.  This will be different from the spot frequency on the left if you are using a transverter in front of your SDR and have entered a base frequency to be added to each spot.

Then Skimmer decided that first green spot was a "CQ" spot.  If it had been a VHF spot, Aggregator would have sent it on anyway, but NVHF means it was not. NExcl means that the spot's frequency was not within the excluded frequencies controlled by the server (more on that below), and NBcn means it was not a regular, listed beacon.  Either VHF or Bcn would have over-ridden an NCQ determination, while Excl would have blocked a spot that otherwise seemd to qualify (see below). NInMaster didn't matter, because I had not selected the option to spot only those stations in the master.,scp file, and finally, NInBadCall meant that I had not identified this call as a "badcall", one of those produced by local RFI.

Why bother?  Some RBN Skimmer Ops wanted to be able to see why a given spot was or was not sent to the RBN, or whether their BadCall list was working properly.  This should give them all the information they need.

Reminders about the color-coding and symbols are at the top of the Skimmer Traffic tab.

Some users had expressed a need for a way to notch out specific frequencies, typically on 60 meters, because digital signals on those frequencies were being mis-decoded.  This capability has now been added to the  Spot Filters tab.

On the .ini files tab, Edit buttons have been added for each of the files listed in the two .ini rotations.

There is a new feature in the middle panel of the Connections tab. 

The last check-box allows you to accept or reject a list of excluded frequencies downloaded from the RBN.  Typically, the purpose is to block "spots" of RTTY stations, where Skimmer will attempt to decode Baudot as if it were Morse.  However, during contests you would want to un-check this option, because CW contest activity typically runs into the normal RTTY frequencies and beyond.

In addition, in the Local User area at the bottom, Dick has added two new features on the right side. Port 7550 is now capable of accepting more than one logon at a time, in case several of your friends want to connect locally. 

 The SETT response is what Aggregator uses to tell the RBN server periodically what bands you are listening on.  We thought any local users might want the same information periodically.

That's all for this release.  What would you like to see in the next one?

73, Pete N4ZR

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What Does a Flare Look Like?

Amazing screenshot from the RBN taken during today's flare.  Questions, anyone?