Wizkers.io is live!


Wizkers.io is live!

This is the first week of 2015, and the next step in a project I started almost two years ago: today, I am releasing “Wizkers“, a full Javascript/HTML5 Open Source framework that provides data visualization, logging and data upload to any instrument or device that produces data.

Wizkers CPM Count

What makes Wizkers different? First of all, it is designed to be super easy to use: any computer running Google Chrome can be up and running in a matter of minutes using the Chrome Packaged app version of Wizkers, which we call “Mouse Wizkers”. But you are not limited to running inside of Chrome: Wizkers works just as well as a server on hardware as small as a Beaglebone Black or as virtual as an Amazon Web Services EC2 instance!

Second, Wizkers provides a much needed missing link between Internet Of Things data services and the actual devices that produce data, by enabling complete local control, logging and visualization, while still letting you forward data to whatever backend you want.

Last, Wizkers is designed in a very modular manner, which makes it possible to support new instruments and devices with as little work as possible. If you have designed a device that produces data, and want to give it a great interface, look no further!

Wizkers is already being deployed by quite a few testers, including professional users, and I am very excited to see where 2015 will take us!

State of the project

Wizkers can be considered to be in advanced beta state. The documentation is a work in progress, as is customary, and will improve over time. So while you can expect a few rough edges, dive in and give us feedback, and help us make Wizkers better!

Wizkers support about half of dozen devices, as varied as Ham radio transceivers or Geiger counters. we encourage you to visit our site, Wizkers.io, and get better acquainted with this project.

And by all means, please get in touch with any remark, comment, or question you may have!

Sark 110 review

One of the really useful tools you can have as a Ham is an antenna analyser, which enables you to understand better how your antennas and overall RF installation are behaving/performing at various frequencies.

Sark-110 to KX3 Size comparison

Sark-110 to KX3 Size comparison

At the very least, an antenna analyser will let you check the standing wave ratio which, in a very simplified view, is the amount of energy that is being reflected back into your transmitter and not being sent out. A high SWR usually is not a very good thing, though a low SWR does not always mean you have a perfect antenna either, that would be too easy – a 50 Ohm resistor connected to your amplifier will always give you a 1:1 SWR but won’t help you much if you want to make contacts!

Still, understanding how your antenna behaves depending on the frequency, see exactly where it resonates, and how its impedance evolves, is extremely useful. There are many types of antenna analysers on the market, from really cheap kits, to totally awesome tools like the Agilent Fieldfox, or even more advanced stuff that costs as much as a small house… I found a good article at rigexperts which explains a lot of different possible architectures, a good read.

With this in mind, I recently purchased a Sark 110 from Seeed Studio, who sells it for $360 as of January 2014: this antenna analyser is designed for HF to low VHF bands, with a 0 to 230MHz range. This makes it perfect for hams, though being able to include the 70cm band would have been a nice touch. The Sark 110 is fairly priced, especially for what it does: you get much more than a VSWR indicator here!

Fried Circuits tester: multiscreen and energy measurement

Animated preview

Animated preview (click!)

More work on the Fried Circuits OLED backpack! These latest firmware improvements add the following:

  • Multiscreen support: you can now use the button on the OLED backpack to cycle between 6 screens that give you various readings.
  • Energy measurement: the OLED backpack now measures energy and charge in Wh and Ah.
  • Interrupt-based reading: use a timer & interrupts to measure voltage & current at a fixed interval

FriedCircuits’ new tester

Update (2013-09-03): The Tindie fundraiser is on!

William from FriedCircuits.us kindly sent me a preview of his next board: a more generic current and voltage tester with the same form factor as his very successful USB breakout.

FriedCircuits VA Tester

FriedCircuits VA Tester

As was the case for the USB tester, the main use of this board is to enable easy current and voltage readings on the line using a multimeter. Traces on the breakout are designed with withstand up to 3 amps, and the large holes in the middle can be used with banana plugs. In case you don’t want to measure current, a jumper is provided in the kit to bridge the current breakout points easily.

Things get interesting, though, once you realise that you can still connect the OLED backpack to this new board. The INA219 chip used on that backpack can measure up to 26V, and will be able to measure up to 3.2A in its current configuration – consistent with what the traces can support. The only shortcoming of the “tester + backpack” configuration, is that the backpack does not have its own voltage regulator, so you will need to power it from USB if you want to use it. Fortunately, the new tester board is designed so that it cannot power the OLED backpack, so there is no danger of damaging it. Moreover, if you want to use the backpack to do logging, it will not be an issue as you will need the USB connection anyway.

Assembled VA Tester

Assembled VA Tester

I had a few exchanges with William over the last few days, and he has a few smart updates in store before the final design, so stay tuned and visit FriedCircuits’ Tindie page regularly! One of the very smart moves was to slightly move the power testing headers, so that there is no risk of shorting power to ground with a jumper.

The fundraiser actually started on the 3rd of September, you can find it here.

All in all, once it is released, this tool will be a nice addition to your toolbox for any project where you need to measure power – I use the USB tester very often, and I’m quite sure it will be the case for this tool as well!

Fried Circuits USB Tester OLED backpack: adding autoscale

USB Tester on 200mA scaleI am a big fan of the USB tester designed by William at http://friedcircuits.us/, and I contributed a bit of code a few months ago, to implement scrolling of the USB voltage graph display.

Since the OLED screen on this device is fairly small, I thought it would be nice to implement autoscaling, so that the display always makes the best use of available space. I implemented this yesterday, and it seems to be working pretty well.

Using this updated firmware, the OLED backpack will now change its display scale dynamically from 200mA to 5A. One nice thing if you are a developer, is that you can simply define the scales in one single array at the beginning of the firmware code and you won’t need to touch any other part.

This new feature is already rolled into the official firmware that is available at https://github.com/FriedCircuits/FC-USB-Tester-OLED-Backpack so go try it, test and report!

One area where I would be interested to get feedback: do you think it is worth displaying the scale on the display? Since we only have 24 vertical pixels, the graph is more of a trend indicator than anything else, so I decided against it. The display flashes a “*” briefly when changing scale, and current reading is always displayed at the bottom anyway…

Safecast Onyx: a simple data visualisation tool

Safecast OnyxI recently received the “Onyx” Geiger counter that I had backed on Kickstarter in late 2012. This is a great little device, with the added bonus that it is completely open source: it was designed by Bunnie Huang following the Japan earthquake and Fukushima events. You can find the description of his design on his blog.

The Onyx can act as a logging monitor, and saves readings every 30 minutes. It is possible to download those using its serial interface, so I decided to re-use the same sort of framework I had developed for the Z-Scale controller, and write a quick “Onyx Viewer” utility. I had 2 hours ahead of me in the plane back home today, so here it is!

Fluke 289: fixing the ‘shutdown’ issue

I am the lucky owner of a Fluke 289 multimeter: it is a great digital multimeter, albeit pretty large… Still, I believe this is one of the the best portable DMMs you can find in 2012, with great precision, large display, excellent logging capabilities, very rugged and so on – I am not here to do a review of the device, it has already been done with great talent.

Unfortunately, this multimeter is plagued by one small issue, which can become a very big issue when using it for recording data over long periods of time: its infrared communication port is too sensitive to ambient light!

In practice, this means that if the IR port is exposed to sunlight or any sort of strong light, it will end up crashing the DMM after a few minutes.

Update: Fluke released in 2013 a firmware update to the 289, which fixes this issue, according to the changelog!