Ham Radio

Hermes SDR

Hermes SDR is an outstanding high-performance Software Defined Radio developed by TAPR (Tucson Amateur Packet Radio) group and the Open HP SDR group.

I received my Hermes card from the first production run in October 2012. This page has notes about my bring-up process and links to resources I found useful.

I'm very impressed by the listening quality of this receiver. Finally, at last, I get the type of reception I've always wanted. Everything about this SDR exceeds my expectations so far. Including the learning curve of the PowerSDR user interface, lol.

I'm a big subscriber to the approach "find the simplest possible thing that could work" and gain experience to make knowledgeable choices from there. So, I'll see how far this old (but pretty fast) Pentium-4 can take me (free!) before buying a new system.

First Assembly

Here are a couple photos to give you a sense of the K7BWH shack during our QSO party.

The Hermes SDR is working fine with a few caveats at this time.It’s very jury-rigged and temporary just to get it up and running. It is receive-only until the 10w amp and low-pass filters arrive. And I have almost no idea about how to drive PowerSDR yet. It took two minutes just to find the Mute button, lol.

One suggestion is to get rid of the smt/SO239 adapter. It puts too much stress on the board. A better method is to use a short jumper cable with smt on one end and SO239 on the other and small coax between.

Computer

I'm starting with a Dell 9100 system unit. Pentium-4 at 3 GHz with 1 GB of RAM.

It’s dedicated to SDR with nothing else but a fresh install of 64-bit Windows-7. Not sure yet if it’s sufficient for this task. It works okay so far but it’s seven years old.

I will be exploring what situations overload the CPU. Seems to be running at 60 to 80% utilization so far. In all likelihood the PC will need replacing, but the machine was available on short notice and I'm interested to see how well it works.

I’m a big subscriber to the problem-solving approach of starting with the simplest possible thing that could possibly work, and gain experience to make knowledgeable decisions for improvement.

Operating Layout

Annotated shack layout

A NASA control station would be fun, I've always wanted one. But NASA does it the stupid way, with consoles arranged in long horizontal rows. They really should be stacking them vertically for more efficient use of space. Think how simple it would be for the boss to pass down instructions from his desk at the highest point in a ballistic communications protocol. Isn't it strange how they never asked me personally for my fabulous ideas on this.

My layout goals are:

  1. Table is shared with work computer
  2. Make efficient use of desk space
  3. Dedicated SDR computer
  4. Dual monitor
  5. Easy field-of-view to watch SDR screen while working
  6. Switch antenna for comparison with other rigs
  7. Reserve space for: 10w amp, 100w amp, LDG tuner, rotator

Installing Hercules DJ Control for Hermes SDR

Hercules DJ Control MP3 e2

Bring up:

  • Plug in USB cables.
  • Insert setup CD and choose "Install DJ Control MP3 e2 Drivers."
  • From the Start menu, run "Guillemot WebUpdater" to install the latest software.

This software runs from a forked version of PowerSDR identified as "PowerSDR-UI". This is manually installed by copying distribution files into an installed FlexRadio PowerSDR folder. The versions must match.

Check version of base PowerSDR by examining file properties of c:\Program Files\OpenHPSDR\PowerSDR (W5WC)\OpenHPSDR.exe". Use the Details tab to find Product version e.g. 2.2.3.19.

At the time of writing, Oct 31, 2012 the versions are:

  • Install "PowerSDR RX1 2.2.3.19" from OpenHPSDR.org - don't go to FlexRadio
  • Test it for basic operation.
  • Download "PowerSDR-UI 0.993 beta package" from www.dh1tw.de
  • Unzip the content of PowerSDR-UI (six files) into the PowerSDR application directory, e.g., "c:\Program Files\OpenHPSDR\PowerSDR (W5WC)"

December 2012 Update

I'm finishing initial bring-up of Hermes + Anan-10 package.

My 30-day trial of Windows-7 Pro timed out. Installed Win-7 Ultimate on Dell 9100.

Visit openhpsdr.org/download.php and install "PowerSDR v2.2.5.0 (W5WC) Setup" in place of 2.2.3.19. The new version came up fine on receiver. But still shows Hermes firmware version 1.8. So, how to update firmware for Hermes SDR?

  1. Following steps in Hermes_User_Manual_V1.13.pdf:
  2. Download the latest Windows firmware installer from http://openhpsdr.org/download.php, currently named "HPSDRProgrammer-v1.6-win32.zip"
  3. The firmware installer is just a zip file. Unpack it and run its executable.
  4. If you are missing 'wpcap.dll' (Windows packet capture library) then download it from http://www.winpcap.org/install/default.htm currently v4.1.2.

Things work great with Hermes alone! Now to connect Anan-10 and try the same receiver test again.

It works great. This rig is a joy to use, and very quiet.

March 2013 Update

I installed a new Dell T110 computer running Windows Server 2012 Essentials, on Intel E3-1230 V2 with 8 GB of RAM.

  • Visit www.winpcap.org, a network packet capture program, and install WinPcap 4.1.3, which also supports Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.
  • Download programmers from openhpsdr.org/download.php
    • "Hermes_v2.3.rbf"
    • latest Windows firmware installer, currently named "HPSDRProgrammer_V2 Windows installer Version 2.0.3 -- 2013-2-16"
  • Download applications from openhpsdr.org/download.php:
    • "PowerSDR mRX v3.0.2.0 Setup"
    • "PowerSDR RX2 v2.2.14.0 (W5WC) Setup"
    • "KISSKonsoleSetup"
    • "cuSDR64_MSVS"

October 2013 Update

It's time to update my firmware and software.

  • Visit openhpsdr.org
  • Go to Downloads tab and fetch:
  • Fix the Skins directory
    • On Windows Server 2008r2, the skins are installed to the wrong directory.
    • Default: c:\Users\Administrator\AppData\Roaming\FlexRadio Systems\PowerSDR\Skins\
    • Move to: c:\Users\Administrator\AppData\Roaming\FlexRadio Systems\PowerSDR mRX\Skins\
  • Install the new firmware:
    1. Open your Windows Control Panel and uninstall "HPSDRProgrammer_V2 version 2.0.0"
    2. Run program "HPSDRProgrammer_V2-2.0.4.0.msi"
      1. Accept license agreement
      2. Use all defaults until program completes installation
      3. Verify the new program is listed in the Control Panel's Programs and Features
      4. Close Control Panel
    3. Run program "HPSDRProgrammer V2"
      1. Discover device
      2. Browse to RBF file recently downloaded above "Hermes_v2.4.rbf"
      3. Program
      4. Verify the device is discovered again
      5. Close program
  • Install the new KISS Konsole
    1. Uninstall "KISS Konsole" version 1.1.26.0
    2. Run program "KISSKonsoleSetup.msi" version 1.1.28.0
  • Install the new PowerSDR
    1. Don't need to uninstall the old software; it will upgrade in place.
    2. Run program "PowerSDR_mRX_v3.1.5.0_Setup.msi" with all defaults
    3. Verify IP address and version using Setup > General > Hardware Config
    4. Reset database
    5. Run TX calibration procedure
    6. Run Mic level settings procedure

    Fldigi with Hermes

    Instructions from HPSDR Digital Modes Operation using PowerSDR, Fldigi, VAC, com0com

    1. Fldigi:
      1. Download the latest version of fldigi from the fldigi download page.
      2. My versions are Fldigi 3.21.65 and Flarq 4.3.4.
    2. Screenshot of virtual COM port driver com0com:
      1. Install at least two sets of null modem emulator ports (COM5 and 15, COM6 and 16) from com0com.
      2. This is a kernel-mode virtual serial port driver for Windows.
      3. My version is 3.0.0.0 on 2013-01-08.
      4. The ReadMe instructions say to run 'bcdedit.exe -set TESTSIGNING ON' but it produced "The boot configuration data store could not be opened. Access is denied."
      5. The serial driver will create two port pairs.
        One is "Virtual Port Pair 0" with CNCA0 and CNCB0 ports.
        One is "Virtual Port Pair 1" with COM3 and COM4.
        Other two named "com0com - serial port emulator" on CNCAn and CNCBn ports.
      6. To configure, run Start / com0com / Setup
    3. VAC:
      1. Download trial version from Virtual Audio Cable home page as a Zip archive.
      2. If VAC is already installed, then uninstall the old one first.
      3. Unpack the archive and run Setup.
      4. Follow FlexRadio instructions: How to Setup Virtual Audio Cable (VAC) with PowerSDR
      5. My version is 4.12.0.4973 (trial) as of 2013-01-06.
      6. To configure, run Start / Virtual Audio Cable / Control Panel
      7. Modify the two VAC connections per FlexRadio instructions above.
      8. The trial version is not usable on the air. Cost is US$35. Purchase from Muzychenko.
    4. PowerSDR:
      1. Start up PowerSDR
      2. Setup / Audio / VAC 1
        Driver = MME, Input = Line 1, Output = Line 2, Buffer size = 1024
      3. Always start PowerSDR first, then Fldigi
    5. MTTY:
      1. Download the latest version from MM Hamsoft page.
      2. My version is 1.68a as of 2013-01-06.
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