Review - Funcube Dongle

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Amateur callsign: VK6ADF

Review - Funcube Dongle

Post by VK6ADF » Wed Mar 16, 2011 11:52 pm

What is a FunCube and what is it's Dongle?

A Funcube is a satellite being developed by AMSAT UK as a Radio Educational Satellite.

The idea, I gather, is for schools to take an active interest in the satellite.

The Dongle is a Software Defined Radio (SDR) that was developed as a simple radio in which they can receive the Funcube transmissions
and display telemetry for a science experiment on board. It seems there will be 2 versions of the Dongle. One that will just receive
the satellite transmission or the Pro version which receives from 64MHz to 1700MHz. Currently there are 21 of the Funcube Dongles
in Australia. As with all SDR's the controls and the audio relies on a PC to do the processing of the information received via the
USB port. Essentially it is a scanner in a package not much bigger than a thumbdrive.


It covers all modes and being an SDR the screen shows the section of spectrum being monitored and any transmission within that section
shows up on the "waterfall" and simply clicking on it the audio is heard in the PC speakers. It has a bandwidth of about 80KHz so on the computer screen you
can watch up to a 80KHz section of the spectrum at a time.

Since I received mine last week, I have listened to the local FM radio station, the local 2 metre beacon and beacons on orbiting
satellites. I only have a vertical antenna for 430 to 440MHz so I was surprised when I heard a CW beacon from one of the
orbiting microsats. I never bothered to try receiving them in the past thinking for whatever reason I would have no chance.

How wrong I was.

The software to run it can be any of the currently available SDR software such as Winrad Plus, Spectravue, PowerSDR, Quisk
but sofar I have only tried Winrad Plus and Spectravue.

The only negative comment I would have is in the centre of the display the Dongle generates a voltage spike which when
your cursor passes over you get a constant tone out of the speakers so you have to tune slightly off it to hear anything.
Once this is realised then it does not pose too much of a problem.

The only other problem was in fact getting it. Demand far outweighs supply at the moment and batches of around 100 go on sale
on a day specified on the website at a particular time and its a fastest finger on the keys wins. They sellout in less than 2 mins
usually. The latest web messages says another 500 have been ordered. When I ordered mine, it was sent and then somehow lost in
the post. The tracking number was provided and Australia Post said customs did not allow it in and it went back. Royal Mail said they
did not have it. 2 months after ordering, many visits to the Post Office both here and in the UK by the manufacturer, it arrived.

If you want to view some video's on the Dongle, there are a few on Youtube by the inventor. Doing a search for Funcube Dongle
will bring up other video's from owners showing satellite reception (beacons usually).

The price? It cost me $177 delivered but that will increase slighly as the delivery method has now changed to Fedex.

Overall I am happy with it and having a great amount of fun seeing what satellites I can receive.

Not so much a technical review, but just letting anyone who did not know of it, that they are available.

73 Phil VK6ADF

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Re: Review - Funcube Dongle

Post by robbage » Mon Dec 10, 2012 7:22 pm

HARG had a demo of a generic USB DVB-T (Digital TV dongle) running SDR# on the weekend. More or less a poor man's version of the Funcube. That was pretty cool for a $18 device and free software. Hopefully somebody can do a review here soon...
There's also a simple program from the same people which will decode ADS-B. I haven't seen that running yet. I wonder if it interfaces to ADS-B mapping software.
APRS, AIS, ACARS, POCSAG etc should be possible as well.
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