Amateur Radio software on Chromebook.

(I will be updating this post as I learn and find solutions. If its any help to you make sure you check back, if you know any answers please add a comment – Thanks! Im reasonably new to configuring Linux)

I was trying to find the best computer option for my shack and portable use for digital modes and logging. The spot where we moor the boat has a lot of background rf noise with a nearby railway line and of course a butt load of boats with whatever they have aboard messing up the bands. just a few hundred meters up the river and its much, much better.

I tried a few machines, an apple laptop worked great, but they are kind of expensive. I tried an old MS surface but that made a lost of rf noise from the charger and the fan that insisted on running at full pelt for most of the time. I also tried a raspberry pi, which was OK but was a little slow in decoding FT8 which was a shame.

I was looking for something inexpensive – Im going to be taking this thing outside, so I dont want anything I would get too upset about if it got lost, dropped or went for a swim. I can live without a keyboard but having one does help.

So I found out that you could install Linux on a Chromebook. These machines are pretty cheap when compared to other laptops, they have an SSD (only 32GB but that should do) so they are quick to boot up and have no moving parts. I managed to find a new Acer R11 which also has the benefit of a touch screen, for about £200.

ChromeOS is a type of linux so its possible to run the two side by side off the SSD. (There is also the option of installing it on a USB stick if you prefer that way).

I installed Linux on the SSD using this very good guide – https://guyrobottv.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/installing-linux-on-an-acer-chromebook/ 

Im struggling a bit to get FLDIGI working, I have a ZLP Digimster Pro, which provides an external soundcard along with CAT control for the radio. I managed to get the USB ports to show up in FLDigi, but not the sound card. I got round the soundcard problem by setting the chromebook to use the USB Sound card before running Linux. I have not managed to get the software to control the radio yet.

Update: I got the rig control working. I needed to add the user to the serial group

sudo adduser <USERNAME> serial

I also added it to the dialout group as suggested by other posts I read

sudo adduser <USERNAME> dialout

Log out and log back in again

Ive got the USB ports working now, with both my KX3 and Icom 7300. With and without the Digimaster interface attached. All it took was adding the user to the above groups and rebooting. Ubuntu still can’t see the external sound cards (in the Digimaster and the Icom) but Chrome OS does, So I just select them as the default sound input and output and I can use that in Ubuntu.

Decodes happen pretty quick, the Chromebook is the Intel version so I expected that it would be quicker than the Raspberry Pi anyway 🙂

I’ve installed the following Ham Radio Software

FLDigi – http://www.hamradioandvision.com/installing-fldigi-for-linux/

WSJT-X – https://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx.html

CQRLOG – https://www.cqrlog.com/download

CQRLOG listens to the WSJT-X UDP port, and will automatically log a QSO when WSJT-X does, you just need to enable “remote for WSJT-X” in CQRLOG and “Accept UDP requests” in WSJT-X.

CQRLOG has options to upload to a couple of logging websites, and can also upload to/download from eQSL via a menu command.

Battery life on the Chromebook is claimed to be about 10 hours, so I should get somewhere near to that, but expect I may get less due to running Linux. Should be able to get some adapter from somewhere so I can charge it on the go from the 10AH battery or the solar panel in my portable kit.

 

So Im pretty much set up for digital modes portable. Except its p**sing down with rain now. 🙁

…to be continued

 

 

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