Setting up a Raspberry Pi SD card with some Amateur Radio related apps

Gert KK6ZGA asked if I could set up an SD Card for her Raspberry Pi with including a few Amateur Radio apps. Rather than just install a bunch of random apps and hand it back, I thought it may be useful to document the setup steps for others as a reference in case anyone else is interested in doing something similar.

First steps, installing an OS – the SD card was blank, so first step I installed Raspbian from here:

… and then wrote the .img to the sd card with the dd util (notes on how to do this here , If on Windows there are utilities you can download to help you burn an image to an sd card, Google for help with these).

With my LG monitor it doesn’t recognize the HDMI output from the Pi unless you tweak the settings in config.txt to boost the output signal. I’ve covered this before here.

Booting up for the first time, the keyboard is configured by default for GB_en locale and UK keyboard layout (which makes it difficult to find some symbols on a US keyboard like ‘$’, so I have notes on how to switch this to US_en using raspi-config here.

For future reference, I have a number of other Raspberry Pi related getting started posts here.

Raspbian by default is configured to boot to a graphical desktop and to logon automatically with the default userid/password (pi / raspberry) – you should change your password on first boot. You can change this option in raspi-config too if you’d like to boot to a shell, or require logon at boot.

After first boot and the initial setup above, the list of apps I thought would be useful to install is most of what I covered in my July 2016 presentation at one of our RCARS club meetings on using a Raspberry Pi with  amateur radio. Here’s each of the apps I installed and how to start/use them:

  • Installed xlog:
    • sudo apt-get install xlog
    • To start, double-click the icon on the desktop
  • Installed cqrlog
    • sudo apt-get install cqrlog
    • To start, double-click the icon on the descktop

There’s many things you can do with with RTL-SDR (you’ll need a RTL-SDR dongle to take advantage of these), so here’s a couple of examples. Most of these are command line only, from the Terminal, which you can open from the desktop here:

  • dump1090 receives and decodes ADS-B transponder signals from airplanes flying overhead (depending on your antenna, within about a 100 mile radius) on 1.090Ghz. To run, there’s a couple of different modes.

‘Interactive’ mode is started like this from a terminal, first ‘cd dump1090’ then:

./dump1090 –interactive

You’ll see a display like this that updates every second, showing decoded info from received ADS-B transponder signals:

‘Net’ mode displays the received signals via a webpage. You’ll need the Pi to be on a network, either wired or wifi, and you’ll need to know your Pi’s IP address (which you can find by running ‘ifconfig’ in a Terminal). Run this with:

./dump1090 –net –quiet

And then point a browser at your Pi’s IP address on port 8080 (e.g. assuming your IP is, and you’ll see the received signals plotted like this:

Received signals including latitude and longitude location info are plotted on the map, other signals with no location info are displayed in the table on the right.

Other things you can do with rtl-sdr utils: rtl_fm allows you to tune to a specific frequency and decode the FM modulation, and with a combination of piping the data to your audio out if you have speakers attached to the Pi’s audio output, you can receive FM signals and output the audio like this (scroll to the right for the whole command):

rtl_fm -f 96.9M -M wbfm -s 200000 -r 48000 | aplay -r 48k -f S16_LE

This tunes the RTL-SDR to 96.9Mhz, uses wideband FM, a sample rate (I think) of 200000, pipes the audio ‘|’ into aplay to play the audio stream. Take a look at the RTL-SDR docs here for more info on the options.

Hopefully this is a few things to get you started 🙂

Building a Card Playing Twitter Bot: storing and retrieving game state to/from AWS DynamoDB

I recently built a Twitter Bot that plays Blackjack. Here’s my previous posts so far if you are catching up:

Since interaction with the Bot is via Twitter, there will be an unknown length of time between when a player choses to reply and interact with the bot which could be seconds, minutes or days. We therefore need to store the gameplay state for each player, retrieve it on the next interaction from the user and store it again after the response from the bot while we wait for the next player interaction.

The bot can support any number of players in parallel. For each bot/player interaction we need to store the following:

  • the player’s twitter handle
  • current cards remaining in the deck
  • cards in the player’s hand
  • cards in the bot’s hand
  • who’s turn is it next

In a ‘traditional’ data model we could easily model this with some relational tables, but with DynamoDB as a key/value / document based datastore, since we only need to store one interaction state per user, we can store this whole data structure in a single row keyed by the user’s Twitter handle.

DynamoDB’s supported types of scalar values (number, string), and set types (collections of scalar types) allow us to store everything we need in the game state (I did consider the document type, persisting JSON documents), but for retrieving game state values in an easy to use format this didn’t appear as useful and straightforward as scalar types and sets).

Browsing the table in DynamoDB using the AWS console, here’s what the schema currently looks like for a completed game:

AWS DynamoDB offers 3 different APIs for interacting with tables and your data, described in the docs here: low level, document, high level object mapper. With the AWS Java SDK APIs, using Java POJO classes to represent your data together with the DynamoDB Object Mapper APIs is probably the simplest of the 3 approaches, and will feel familiar if you’ve used JPA, Hibernate or other object/relational type mappers before.

Similar to JPA, the AWS DynamoDB APIs provide a number of annotations to map Java Pojos to your DynamoDB tables and columns. Here’s the Pojo class that represents the game state:

[code language=”Java”]
@DynamoDBTable(tableName = "twitterbot-blackjack")
public class PlayerGameState {

private String twitterhandle;
private Hand playerHand;
private Hand botHand;
private Deck deck;


twitterhandle is the key, the annotation for the key column looks like this:

[code language=”Java”]

public String getTwitterhandle() {
return this.twitterhandle;


deck, playerHand and botHand are all collections of Card. As a ‘sub-document’ type used by each of these other collections of Cards, the type is annotated with @DynamoDBDocument (instead of @DynamoDBTable):

[code language=”Java”]

public class Card {

private Suit suit;
private CardName name;
private int pointsValue;


DynamoDB supports maps of scalar values, so these fit well for representing a deck of cards, and the player’s hands of cards. If a single Card is a map of values, a collection of Cards is a map of Cards, so a map of maps. To map these more complex structures, a DynamoDB Type Converter is needed to tell the DynamoDB api how to map the structure to the table and back:

[code language=”Java”]
public class Hand {

private List<Card> cards = new ArrayList<>();

@DynamoDBTypeConverted(converter = ListOfCardsToMapOfMapsConverter.class)
public List<Card> getCards(){


Next up I’ll describe how these Type Converters are used in more detail, and we’ll look at storing an retrieving from a DynamoDB table.

Slides from RCARCS 7/3/18 meeting: Intro to FT8 Digital Mode

I presented an overview of the incredibly popular FT8 digital mode at the River City ARCS club meeting on 7/3/18.

Here’s a copy of my slides:

Instead of disassembling my HF station and taking it into the meeting, I tried something different and demo’d using the mode (to receive) using WebSDR, and to transmit using a remote station provided by . We operated the W1/Chaplain, CT station on the East coast, and worked 3 stations in Europe – HA1RB, DL2LDE and DG6YID during the meeting. From this East coast station the 40m section where FT8 is operated on 7.074Mhz was completely packed from edge to edge on the waterfall!