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New User Comments

- I would like to see a prominent frequency and mode display. 

- Many interface features are not documented; some don’t work. 

- Difficult to tune with cursor on frequency slider; it usually changes passband. Passband changes should require the option key. 

- Web interface (local) is very slow; frequency changes take about 1.5 seconds. It’s almost impossible to tune SSB signals. 

- Why are the 30M and 160M amateur radio bands omitted?

- Recommended Wellbrook loop ALA1530LN is a poor HF antenna. Resonant antennas should be used on HF. 

- The fan noise is annoying.

VA7GI, Vancouver BC

Comments

  • To change the Prominence of some elements obviously affects others, you say you are a new user and there in lies the problem, see what range of other users rely on the waterfall and spectrum.

    Be specific about what you don't think works, your current bug reporting does not work.

    Have you tried the other methods for changing frequency? Shift click, arrows, shift arrows, Snap etc?

    30m and 160m omitted? Have you scrolled to the Amateur bands?

    "- Recommended Wellbrook loop ALA1530LN is a poor HF antenna. Resonant antennas should be used on HF. "

    Wow, "Resonant antennas" to resonate at what frequency? would it be OK with you for us to have trapped antennas or should we have about ten dedicated single band, some up to hundreds of feet long? in our twenty foot gardens?

  • Re Fan Noise.... the kiwi can be remote... no need to have near op position.

  • edited October 2

    I always find it interesting that different people have different experiences when using the same product. I guess a lot depends on what you are using the KiWi for and how you are using it.

    And in this case the points raised differ from my observations.

    - I would like to see a prominent frequency and mode display.

    It's already fairly prominent, and if it was any larger it would take up valuable waterfall space. I suspect that this may just be because you are transitioning from a more conventional receiver, where the emphasis is on spinning the dial, to an SDR where clicking on the waterfall tends to be the more prevalent method of tuning to signals. If you want to have a larger control panel, try changing your browser zoom setting for the KiWi. I find that 133% tends to suits me better on my desktop PC but other settings are preferable on my tablet and laptop.

    - Many interface features are not documented; some don’t work.

    John is always adding new features or items that have been requested by users. As a result sometimes the instructions and guides don't get updated for a while. However all the basics are covered, and it doesn't take too much effort to figure out the rest. Have you seen the various guides that are available on-line. I'd say they were pretty comprehensive.


    Folks do find bugs, but these days as the product is fairly mature they are generally pretty minor ones. If you have found features that don't work then report them on here and get them fixed. Sotimes it's simply that something is being used incorrectly or in a different way to how it was intended to be used.


    - Difficult to tune with cursor on frequency slider; it usually changes passband. Passband changes should require the option key.

    Again this may simply be part of the transition to using an SDR. You don't need to drag the passband bar all of the time, just click on the waterfall or spectrum screen. If you want to drag the frequency slider, and are having difficulty, just zoom in a bit more. Personally I've never had a problem by accidentally changing the passband when tuning using my desktop, laptop or tablet.


    - Web interface (local) is very slow; frequency changes take about 1.5 seconds. It’s almost impossible to tune SSB signals.

    When you say local do you mean a personally owned KiWi on your own local network ? Do you mean browser response times when changing frequency (which should be pretty much instantaneous) or do you mean latency of the audio relative to a more conventional receiver at the same location ?

    If it is the former, you must have some sort of problem. Even remote KiWi's with fairly poor internet connections are perfectly usable and tuning signals has never been a problem for me. I've certainly not noticed 1.5 second delays between changing a control and something happening.

    If you mean the audio is delayed, then yes this can happen. There is a finite amount of time taken by the KiWi to process the signal, convert it to IP and then for your browser to convert it to audio. In addition this can be made worse by propagation delays as it passes over the internet. With remote KiWi's I have observed 3 second or more delays in the audio at times. This is usually not a problem unless you are a CW operator and are trying to use a remote KiWi to have a real time QSO.


    - Why are the 30M and 160M amateur radio bands omitted?

    This one puzzled me. Omitted from where ? All the KiWi's I have checked including my own, have these bands present, both in the drop down 'select band' feature and as displayed on the waterfall top bar. If you have come across a KiWi with these bands 'missing' it may be because the KiWi owner has chosen to 'mask' them from public usage for some reason.

    Too long for one post - 2nd part follows.

  • edited October 2

    - Recommended Wellbrook loop ALA1530LN is a poor HF antenna. Resonant antennas should be used on HF.

    I think you may be approaching this from the wrong angle, or be lucky enough to have the space to erect large antennas. The KiWi is a broadband 0-30MHz receiver. That is one of it's main attractions, it opens up a huge chunk of spectrum to listeners all around the world, and is not just confined to the amateur bands. In order to take advantage of this wide frequency coverage, a suitable wide band antenna is required.

    Unlike antennas that are required for transmission purposes, antennas used for receive purposes need to meet different criteria in order to achieve good performance. They do not need to be resonant, they just need to have sufficient sensitivity for the receiver noise floor to be raised by greater than 6dB when the antenna is connected. Any less than this, then the antenna does not have enough gain, any more and you are wasting your receiver's valuable dynamic range.

    Using a resonant antenna tuned to a particular frequency, may well cause problems on other frequencies where it does not present a good match e.g. an 80m dipole on 40m where it presents a high impedance at the feedpoint. It's fine, if for example, you are only interested in using one amateur band at a time, but it's not so good when many people are trying to simultaneously use the same receiver on many different frequencies. Bottom line - you don't need a resonant antenna for receive purposes, even if you have sufficient space to install one, but many people don't.

    The other problem that people increasingly face these days, especially in urban areas, is unwanted noise and interference. The only way to improve this over a wide frequency range is to use a directional antenna in order to try and null out interference sources as much as possible.

    Taking the above points into account the Wellbrook is a good option for many KiWi owners. Especially if you only have a small backyard and a high level of noise and interference. The Wellbrook is probably the best commercial broadband active loop antenna currently available, but there are others such as the LZ1AQ, which are cheaper or can be home built. I have used both and compared them against other passive broadband and resonant antennas in a quiet rural location, and they are capable of providing good levels of performance.

    If you are lucky enough to have the space to erect large antennas and towers, then there are other antennas that may be more suitable, but for most folks who are constrained by their location, the Wellbrook is a good choice


    - The fan noise is annoying.

    I assume that you are using the KiWi metal case and supplied fan. It can be noisy, but sometimes it's made worse because the plastic fan case is being slightly crushed between the foam pad and the case.

    Have you fitted the fan correctly ?

    Other solutions. Fit a quieter fan or move the KiWi out of earshot. It's self contained so you could put it almost anywhere.


    BTW, I have no commercial interest with John and his KiWi project or Wellbrook or LZ1AQ.

    I'm just a happy KiWi owner, and wished to express my own viewpoint.

    Regards,

    Martin.

  • jksjks
    edited October 3

    - I would like to see a prominent frequency and mode display. 

    Yes, that is not a bad idea. Just as we desperately need a purpose-built mobile interface we could probably use some changes appropriate for larger desktop screens. The UI was designed using a 15" laptop (1440 x 900) where the existing control panels already obscures too much of the waterfall (especially when extensions and the spectrum are open). Martin's idea about changing the browser page zoom is excellent. I had forgotten about that feature.

    There have been requests for ham-style A/B dual VFOs which makes this problem even worse.

    - Many interface features are not documented; some don’t work. 

    Not documented: True. The extension help buttons especially need to be completed. The website is a disaster. There is a lot of wisdom buried in the forum, but it's difficult to find. The repo CHANGE_LOG file has good stuff. But also a very poor and inefficient way of finding things.

    I'd like to know what you think doesn't work. To make sure it's on the bug list.

    - Difficult to tune with cursor on frequency slider; it usually changes passband. Passband changes should require the option key. 

    True. This behavior is leftover from OpenWebRX. I haven't worked on it in years.

    Last night I found a pretty serious annoyance. The "hotspot" for adjusting the upper & lower passband edges extends below the bottom of the sloped yellow passband symbol to the bottom of the frequency scale. It shouldn't. It should stop at the bottom of the passband symbol such that when you click anywhere in the lower half of the frequency scale, and anywhere in the top half (outside of the passband hotspots), it only tunes. Also, I think when you're zoomed out, and the passband symbol is narrow, there shouldn't be any hotspots recognized at all. They can't be differentiated very well anyway. And it leads to annoying behavior where you click expecting frequency tuning and instead you get an upper/lower passband adjustment.

    The other big problem that I found is that when you mouse down in the frequency scale but the mouse tracks outside the scale as you're dragging the tuning stops (by tracking into the waterfall below or tag window above). I fixed this and it is much less annoying now.

    Remember that certain key modifiers already exist: Shift-drag of the carrier position (vertical yellow symbol) does BFO tuning, Shift-drag of the other parts of the passband does passband shift (PBT). Alt-drag of the upper/lower hotspots varies the passband width about the passband center point. There are also several other ways of adjusting the passband that are more convenient: Via keyboard shortcuts or by typing special sequences directly into the frequency box. See the docs.

    - Web interface (local) is very slow; frequency changes take about 1.5 seconds. It’s almost impossible to tune SSB signals. 

    SSB tuning: Since most sideband stations tend to tune on 5, 3 or 1 kHz boundaries, rather than fractional frequencies as is done with CW, I just use the circled +/- buttons to quickly tune to those boundaries. You can also shift-click in the waterfall to tune to the nearest boundary (amount depends on band & mode).

    Audio delay: This has been a big problem over the years. It's a tug-of-war between network latency (either Internet or local delays due to (typically) wifi) and underpowered devices where Javascript on the browser can't respond reliably and you get audio dropouts if there is not enough buffering.

    We tried some code a while ago that automatically selected less buffering for local connections, but there were howls of protest from some people. You can force it manually with the "abuf=TIME" URL parameter, where TIME is between 0.25 and 5 (seconds) e.g. my_local_kiwi:8073/?abuf=0.25 If you get audio drops increase TIME to 0.5 or something.

    - Why are the 30M and 160M amateur radio bands omitted?

    Where are they omitted? They should be in the main control panel "select band" menu, drawn in the band scale (at the appropriate zoom level) and in e.g. the WSPR extension band menu etc.

    - The fan noise is annoying.

    Someone found a fix for this: http://forum.kiwisdr.com/index.php?p=/discussion/comment/11912/#Comment_11912

    • Although I’m a new KiwiSDR user, I have tested several SDRs and operate an IC-7300, which is an FPGA SDR radio. I am an electronics engineer with over 50 years experience with communications receivers. I don’t deserve or appreciate condescension from some people on the Forum. 
    • I can’t find any documentation on how to use the Extensions list (it seems to do nothing). What is a Spec vs LMS filter? What does Comp do? How do I make the noise filter work? What is the diagonal up arrow near the frequency display? How do I remove the stations ribbon in the middle of the window (a great place for a large frequency display)? These are just a few of the undocumented features. 
    • Yes, of course I can click anywhere in the waterfall display to tune the receiver. This is OK for approximate tuning but not good enough for SSB. Yes, I can click on the + & - buttons, but at 1.5 seconds delay per click, the SSB transmission is gone. I need to slide the cursor smoothly to accurately fine-tune a USB signal. Try tuning an SSB signal! 
    • SLOW WEB INTERFACE: I operate a remote transceiver over the Internet; I measure a 23 ms latency delay. Using Ethernet LAN in my house (no WiFi), the KiwiSDR lag is over 1500 ms. I can only assume a very slow CPU or excessive buffering in the Beaglebone. [Even a delay of 250 ms is far too long.] 
    • Next to the frequency display is a Select Band list. The amateur bands do not include 30m, 40m, 80m, and 160m. 
    • ANTENNAS: “An HF radio is only as good as its antenna.” Compared to my 20m beam antenna, my Wellbrook loop ALA1530LN has 50 dB lower signal strength (it works OK on VLF). A multi-band vertical antenna takes up little space. A web-based SDR should have a resonant antenna for HF (and announce what bands it operates on). There is no such thing as an excellent broadband antenna.
    • My KiwiSDR is located in my shack, were all my antenna feedlines terminate. I can’t escape the fan noise unless I use headphones. I’ll try unplugging the fan and mounting the aluminum case vertically to achieve convection air flow. 
  • "Next to the frequency display is a Select Band list. The amateur bands do not include 30m, 40m, 80m, and 160m."

    Strange. On my kiwi and others, they do.

  • edited October 3

    >I am an electronics engineer with over 50 years experience with communications receivers. I don’t >deserve or appreciate condescension from some people on the Forum.

    Unfortunately, you initially only gave a brief list of issues, with very little supporting information, so when responding, like others, I had to make some assumptions, based on my own experience with the KiWi, which seemed to be to be at odds with your findings.

    In good faith I tried to assist in helping to resolve some of the points you raised and spent some time writing what I believed to be a well reasoned and informative reply.

    I don't think it's worth revisiting the majority of the points, as they have already been addressed by others.

    However I would take exception with one point. I don't think it is realistic to compare a Wellbrook loop against a multi element HF beam antenna mounted on top of a tower, which in turn is probably in a location with sufficient space to accommodate it. Most KiWi owners would probably be extremely happy to have access to such an antenna system, but for the majority it can only ever remain a dream, and we have to make the best of our own modest circumstances. Excellent broadband antennas do exist, and a few KiWi owners on this forum are using them. Don't compare gain, which is useful for transmit purposes, with receive S/N ratio. Directivity can improve the S/N on receive, but once you have sufficient gain to be limited by the local noise floor, then you don't need any more.

    The KiWi is a low cost self contained web sdr with wideband 0-30MHz coverage with a reasonable dynamic range and noise figure. It's used for a variety of purposes, not just amateur radio. Its wide geographical distribution and built in extensions, make short wave listening available to anyone with an internet connected web browser.

    From your post I suspect that your user requirements are fairly specific, and the main problem is that they are not being met by the KiWi sdr to your level of satisfaction. In this respect there may be better options such as the Perseus, which I guess you have already tried.



    I sincerely hope you find satisfactory resolutions to the issues you raised.

    Regards,

    Martin

  • With regard to the audio delay, which I accept can be an issue under certain operating conditions.

    Some time ago I measured a few well known SDR's using this method.


    Airspy HF plus local PC

    Airspy HF plus via spyserver (local)

    SDR Play (local)

    KiWi SDR (local)


    I made no attempt to change the KiWi's buffering, so this was 'stock'.

    But the response of the KiWi controls is still fairly instantaneous despite the audio latency.

    Regards,

    Martin

  • jksjks
    edited October 3

    @GBI

    Next to the frequency display is a Select Band list. The amateur bands do not include 30m, 40m, 80m, and 160m. 

    Something fundamental is wrong here. Below is a screenshot of the open "select band" menu. You have to scroll down to the "Amateur" section (perhaps it should be listed first, but it isn't for historical reasons). It shouldn't matter, but the content and order for this menu is determined by a configuration file on the Kiwi Beagle: /root/kiwi.config/config.js


    I can’t find any documentation on how to use the Extensions list

    There is a "help" button on the left-side control panel of every extension control panel that appears when you select an entry from that menu. Unfortunately many of the buttons are disabled because the content has not yet been written.

    (it seems to do nothing). [the extension list?]

    Really? Every single one of those extension menu entries should cause a custom extension control panel to appear on the left side of the display. Most also replace the "top bar" with a data panel, e.g. display for the S-meter graph, SSTV display etc. There are currently 22 different extension from which the Kiwi derives most of its unique features. Also, each orange "More" button in the main control panel should open a similar extended panel on the left with additional controls.

    If you're not seeing those then something is dreadful wrong. I assume you're using a desktop browser and not mobile? Which browser?

    These are just a few of the undocumented features. [listed below]

    Fair point on all of these. The documentation definitely lags. Most of the items mentioned below should have a mouse hover tooltip with a one word explanation (e.g. the "Comp" button). Some browsers have trouble displaying tooltips unfortunately.

    What is a Spec vs LMS filter? How do I make the noise filter work?

    "Spectral" vs "Least Mean Squares" filtering. The spectral filter comes from the Teensy-ConvolutionSDR and UHSDR projects and is discussed here: github.com/df8oe/UHSDR/wiki/Noise-reduction The Wild noise blanker also comes from there. The LMS filter is Warren Pratt's variable-leak LMS algorithm from his wdsp package.

    There is no documentation currently on how to effectively setup and adjust these. It is all trial-and-error. There is a built-in pulse generator to help learn the noise blankers.

    What does Comp do?

    When selected white instead of green the compression on the network audio stream is removed. This is necessary when low-level compression artifacts would otherwise negatively effect external decoding programs (e.g. wsprdaemon).

    What is the diagonal up arrow near the frequency display?

    The tooltips say "next" and "prev". These scroll through the frequency history list (if any) and display past frequencies in the frequency entry box. Press keyboard enter when you've scrolled to a frequency you want to use.

    How do I remove the stations ribbon in the middle of the window (a great place for a large frequency display)?

    The 'y' key, or repeated presses on the main control panel 'Off' button, cycles through combinations of what bars above the frequency scale are shown. This is designed to help using smaller screens. Use the 'h' or '?' keys to see a list of all keyboard shortcuts.

    SLOW WEB INTERFACE: I operate a remote transceiver over the Internet; I measure a 23 ms latency delay. Using Ethernet LAN in my house (no WiFi), the KiwiSDR lag is over 1500 ms. I can only assume a very slow CPU or excessive buffering in the Beaglebone. [Even a delay of 250 ms is far too long.] 

    Yeah, but you control it with a piece of custom software that runs on Windows/Linux/Mac that has low and predictable latency. Using Javascript running on a browser, which is what gives the Kiwi its portable and consistent user interface, requiring NO software installation on any user machine, doesn't come without cost. Increased buffering to meet the realtime requirements (no audio drops) is one of those costs.

  • Thank you for the detailed responses. G8JNJ does seem to confirm a 1.5 s latency but I don't understand: "response of the KiWi controls is still fairly instantaneous." My experience is that all Kiwi controls have 1.5 s latency including frequency changes (and even mute). This makes it (almost) impossible to tune SSB signals, which require a slow slide to the precise transmit frequency to tune audible speech.

    It may not be possible, but I'd love to see a adjustment control for the amount of buffering the Kiwi does. Perhaps the BeagleBone CPU can be replaced by a DSP for FPGA for greater speed and/or lower latency. Is there a link to "custom software that runs on Windows/Linux/Mac that has low and predictable latency?" This all sound difficult and unnecessary. Any tuning lag is a problem on the ham bands.

    NB: WebSDR provides smooth tuning of SSB and buffering control.

    I am running v1.467 using Firefox on a Mac OS 10.14.6. It isn't true that: "Every single one of those extension menu entries should cause a custom extension control panel to appear on the left side of the display." When I click on items in the Extension Menus, nothing happens.

    My Select Band menu does not include lower amateur radio bands:

    All for now. GBI VA7GI

  • jksjks
    edited October 4

    Okay, it's pretty clear you have a damaged software installation. There could be many reasons for this. I'm surprised it runs at all with those symptoms, which I've never seen before. Here's how to set aside the current build files (in case the underlying eMMC flash has bad blocks or something), re-clone a new copy of the software distribution and build and install it:

    Connect to the admin page. Go to the "console" tab. Click "connect". After the prompt type the following commands in the "enter shell command" field at the bottom of the page.

    df .

    Make sure it says you have a reasonable amount of free space ("Avail"). 1 GB or so.

    Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
    /dev/mmcblk0p1  3.6G  1.7G  1.7G  51% /
    

    cd

    mv Beagle_SDR_GPS B.bad

    gclone Beagle_SDR_GPS

    cdp

    m

    mi

    The "m" command will take 30 minutes or so to finish. Type the "mi" after you get another prompt.

    After the "mi" finishes go to the admin page "control" tab. Click "KiwiSDR server restart". In about a minute it should be back (running v1.468) and behaving better.

  • Regarding the Wellbrook ALA1530LN - I tried several antennas in different locations at my QTH including a random length of wire, a "Grove FlexTenna" (a short wideband dual-"random"-wire design), and a MLA-30 active loop before finally breaking down and spending the money on a Wellbrook. The wire antennas picked up nothing but horrific amounts of noise, whether indoors or away from the house in a shed. The MLA-30 was better, but not great. The Wellbrook was head and shoulders above the rest and was well worth the few hundred dollars it cost. It worked OK near ground level and got even better when I got it up about 20 feet in the air. I don't regret it for a moment.

    I live in a small house on a quarter-acre lot - I have no room for huge antennas nor ability to get far enough away from my house, or the neighbors', to get away from the noise. The Wellbrook is as good as it's going to get for me. I'm still working on minimizing noise. The Kiwi lives in a shed with only a Raspberry Pi-based wifi bridge back to the house and a security camera (unplugging this doesn't reduce noise noticeably). I replaced the switch-mode power supplies for everything with linear supplies, which made a huge difference. I have a common-mode choke in the antenna signal path and snap-on ferrites on both ends of almost every wire. I'm even using shielded Ethernet cable, which made a difference. I'm still suffering with some persistent noise sources but maybe some day I'll sort them all out. But - and this is my point - I'm in a high RF noise environment and the Wellbrook outperforms everything else I've used.

    Any antenna that's pressed into service to cover 0 - 30 MHz is going to be a compromise. But I can't imagine another antenna that will do better than the Wellbrook. Yeah, sure, you could use resonant antennas and publish notes about what bands are covered, but that runs counter to the expectation that a KiwiSDR will be usable across the entire lower 30 MHz of spectrum. From my QTH in western Massachusetts I've logged stations from Russia, China, New Zealand, Australia (even some hams in Australia - not some 250 KW blowtorch broadcaster), South America, Europe, the Middle East... Not bad for a small loop. It may be a compromise, but it's obviously doing a hell of a job and I have no complaints.

  • Hello circuitmike. I'm also on a tiny city lot - 33x100' in the middle of dense Vancouver. I also have huge noise problems (which is why set up a remote rig on an island). My beam antenna is only 35' from the ground, on a 2" aluminum mast from a 2nd floor deck. My Wellbrook is about 20' above ground, like yours.

    I suggest you compare your Wellbrook to a simple resonant 20m dipole antenna - be sure that the dipole SWR is below 1:1.5. This may be a painful experience - you'll hear 10X more signals on the dipole (at resonance). My Wellbrook is essentially deaf and useless on 20m.

    It's simply not reasonable to expect the KiwiSDR to work well from VLF to 30MHz. Even a resonant vertical antenna is a second-rate antenna (unless it is at the seashore).

    My Wellbrook is an excellent antenna for local noise; I rotate it to point at a local noise source. I use it as a sense antenna with a Timewave ANC-4 phasing noise canceller.

  • Hello JKS,

    I attempted to set aside the current build files with this result:

    CONSOLE: open connection

    bash: cd: /root/Beagle_SDR_GPS: No such file or directory

    root@kiwisdr:~# df .

    Filesystem   Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on

    /dev/mmcblk0p1 3.5G 1.5G 1.9G 44% /

    root@kiwisdr:~# cd

    root@kiwisdr:~# mv Beagle_SDR_GPS B.bad

    mv: cannot stat 'Beagle_SDR_GPS': No such file or directory

    root@kiwisdr:~# gclone Beagle_SDR_GPS

    Cloning into 'Beagle_SDR_GPS'...

    remote: Enumerating objects: 27251, done.

    remote: Counting objects:  

    PRODUCES HUGE FILE

    I could not get the process to compete (no prompts). So I unplugged & replugged power to force the KiwiSDR to update its software. I am now on v1.468. The amateur radio bands are now visible and the extensions menu displays windows in the lower left. So I assume my KiwiSDR is operating normally.

    The 1.5 s click-delay latency is unchanged. It's still impossible to smoothly tune SSB signals. As a user, I would like to see LSB & USB interface upgraded to make them functional modes. In addition, please consider adding FT8 and FSK digital modes.

    The KiwiSDR is not inexpensive, at nearly 1/3 the cost of sophisticated FPGA-SDR transceiver. I therefore expected polished functionality. Good luck with future upgrades.

  • I'd keep the boxes in good condition.

  • ZygZyg
    edited October 5

    >The KiwiSDR is not inexpensive, at nearly 1/3 the cost of sophisticated FPGA-SDR transceiver. I therefore expected polished functionality.

    With hundreds of publically and easily accessible KiwiSDRs around the world, I'm surprised that you did not try any of them out and get to understand the unit before obtaining one for yourself.

  • I'm going to close this thread because it's not going anywhere helpful.

    If you want to bash me or my project that's fine. But please take to some other forum that I'm not paying for. Meanwhile, more insight into the origins and goals of the project can be found in the design review document: (admittedly dated by now)

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/dl/uaf2jwb99l56e98/KiwiSDR.design.review.pdf

This discussion has been closed.