Saturday, 29 December 2012

Keyer on RPi

This Christmas, along with other fine gifts, Santa gave me a Raspberry Pi.

In this brief lull in hostilities between Christmas and New year I've stolen a couple of hours to play with my new toy. I have to say I'm impressed!

It has been a pretty steep learning curve, because I didn't really know much about the whole Linux universe when I started. I've used a MAC at work for the past couple of years - but MAC encourages such a superficial engagement with the computer that you don't need to know anything about the nuts and bolts!

I was greatly helped by another present from Santa - the Raspberry Pi User Guide by Upton and Halfacree. That has been a good little book, which gave me a useful kick start. However, I didn't want just to light an LED or detect a button push as my baptism on the GPIO - so I decided to make a keyer...

I approached the project with a little trepidation, because Eben says in the User's Guide referenced above ...

"If true real-time operation is required for your project, the Pi may be a bad choice. Instead, consider using a microcontroller platform such as the popular open-source Arduino..."

That bothered me, because it was exactly the availability of the GPIO interface that attracted me to the Pi in the first place, promising a convergence between real computing and the PIC-based fun-and-games I've been describing on these pages. I hoped that the "real-time" warning (repeated on the Project Home Page for the GPIO module I used) wasn't going to threaten that promised convergence. Yes - I know that a morse keyer isn't exactly pushing the boundaries of real-time operation - but I also know from experience that a surprisingly small latency (of only 80 milliseconds) in a keyer is enough to make operation difficult.

Here's the circuit I hooked up...

You can see that three GPIO lines are used for interface; one for each of the paddle's switches and one to key the transmitter (through the open collector). I started development with some little momentary action push-button switches which I left on the breadboard in parallel with the interface to the twin paddle, as you see in this picture...

Talking of interfacing to the RPi GPIO lines, I really like this solution - I shall have to buy one or make a copy!

Before we go on to describe the code, a warning. Remember that I started this knowing NOTHING about programming in Python, so what follows is an account of how something can be done, rather than how something should be done.

My code uses a Python module to access the GPIO port and I chose to use the module recommended in the User's Guide.

The code is seen in the windows below - I have been connecting to the Pi through SSH using the PuTTY SSH Client . The windows below show the Keyer program listed in the Nano editor. You don't have to work in this rather spartan way - I chose to do so in order to learn more about console/terminal interaction with Linux.

The first window shows some configuration stuff and some initial functions...

The second window shows the main operating "loop" of the code...

I don't know just how bad a piece of Python the above code is. All I know is that I learned a bunch from writing it and that the resulting keyer works perfectly. Having said that, it is utterly pointless as I already have my own Keyer solution and its more Rhythmically sophisticated derivative!

 ...-.- de m0xpd


Perhaps this wasn't just a Raspberry Pi learning exercise - it could be a tool for wireless telegraphy. To prove it (to myself, at least), I just used the keyer and my Funster Plus rig (which ironically already has a keyer built into it!) to have a quick QSO with Wally, operating the GB0YAM station on 40m at the Yorkshire Air Museum. Reminded me just how sloppy my CW has become!

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