Great antenna for software defined radio is really easy to make

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The University of Kent’s hackerspace, TinkerSoc, recently had a talk on software-defined radio using an incredibly inexpensive USB TV tuner. Of course this is nothing new to Hackaday readers, but they did manage to build one of the best antennas for their TV dongle. It’s a discone antenna, and is perfectly suited for tuning into a whole bunch of really cool things such as weather balloons and aircraft transponders.

The idea discone antenna looks exactly like its namesake; a metal disk attached to a metal cone. Of course with the frequencies the RTL software-defined radio deals with, it’s rarely necessary to build antennas out of sheet metal. The team at TinkerSoc built their discone out of galvanized garden wire and attached it to the input of their TV tuner.

All the dimensions for their discone antenna were gleaned from [ve3sqb]‘s antenna design programs. Since TinkerSoc designed their antenna for 110 MHz, it ended up being pretty large. For higher frequencies, though, a discone antenna become fairly small and more than portable enough for a mobile rig.

Hackaday Links: May 29, 2012

Teensy CNC mill

The guys at Inventables put together a neat CNC router kit that looks very interesting. It uses Makerslide linear bearings and CNC’d parts to make a surprisingly cheap frame for something that can engrave wood and metal. Inventables is running a Kickstarter-esque preorder to fund this production run but right now they’re 30 orders short. We’d like to see how these routers turn out in the real world, so if you’re on the fence (or just want a CNC router), this might be the time to buy.

DIY solder fume extractor

[Jared] sent in a fume extractor he put together. It’s a small PC case fan with a carbon filter sandwiched between a pair of grilles. Not much, but if should keep those wonderful flux fumes away from your face.

A million fake Internet points to the first person to come up with a DIY clone

[filespace] shared an awesome Electrofishing video with us. Electrofishing pulses a DC current through two electrodes attached to a boat. This current causes galvanotaxis in fish, causing them to swim towards the anode. The fish can be caught with a net and released afterwards; there’s no damage to the fish at all. We’d love to see a DIY solution, but throwing M-80s into a lake doesn’t count.

Improving GSM reception with a bit of metal

[Raivis] lives in the country, so even his voice reception on GSM is terrible, let alone data. Inspired by an earlier post, [Raivis] built a discone antenna to improve his cell signal. Now everything is crystal clear and his Huawei E1752 USB/GSM modem improved from 3 mbps down to 5 mbps down.

CNC halftone photos

[Dana] sent in a few pics of a project he’s working on. He’s making halftone prints with a CNC and metal. We’ve seen this before, but we’re really loving [Dana]‘s take on it. He’s using two-layer engraving plastic with a .005” engraving tool on his CNC. There’s a gallery of his work after the break; [Dana]‘s portrait is 14000+ dots and took 6 hours, his bosses kids are 16000+ dots and took 4 hours, and [Dana]‘s niece is 5500 dots and took 35 minutes. Very awesome work, and now [Dana] has fulfilled a lifelong dream of machining his face.

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Improving a software defined radio with a few bits of wire

Impressed by the recent advances in the software defined radio scene, [Jason] picked up a $20 USB TV tuner dongle to check out his local airwaves. Unfortunately, the antenna included with the little USB dongle is terrible at receiving any signal other than broadcast TV. [Jason] wanted to improve his reception, so he got some wire and made his own discone antenna.

The discone antenna is ideally suited for [Jason]‘s setup – properly constructed, it’s able to receive over the entire 64 to 1700 MHz band the RTL-SDR dongle is able to read. To construct his antenna, [Jason] checked out [VE3SQB]‘s list of antenna design programs, got the dimensions of his antenna, and set to work attaching wire to PVC pipe.

The antenna is a massive improvement over the stock antenna included with the TV tuner dongle. After mounting his discone at the far end of his back yard, [Jason] started picking up a few blips from the transponders of passing aircraft.

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