All posts by Jon

Getting online with USR-TCP232-T2

Recently, I had a hankering to connect my old Commodore VIC-20 to the internet.  Yes, I know, it’s been done before.  I’ve even done it before, sort of, using an RS-232 connection to another computer.

But I wanted to skip the reliance on another machine, and see if we could get the wonder computer of the 1980s connected independently.  Mostly independently, anyway.

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VITE VT-111 MW/SW/FM Radio

VITE VT-111

Recently I picked up a VITE VT-111 MW/SW/FM radio from eBay for about $11.  I’d been wanting an inexpensive shortwave radio for a while, and for $11 I figured — why not?

At first glance, it appears to be a re-badged Basbon DS-858.  Now, I’m not sure if it’s just an updated version of the Basbon, but the circuit board definitely has some differences between the Basbon and the VITE.  Here, have a look:

VT-111 guts
VT-111 guts

And here’s the front of that board:

VT-111 front guts
VT-111 front guts

Compared to other pictures I’ve found online from the Basbon, it looks like they’ve moved some things around, added one or two ICs (IC4, at least, isn’t present in the pictures of the Basbon), and covered the main IC with the infamous black goo, which means we’ll never know exactly what’s under there.

But something on the backside of the board caught my eye:

Hark!  What's this?!
Hark! What’s this?!

That appears to be a header, labeled with GND, VDD, SDA, and SCL.  Now, GND and VDD are obviously ground and positive voltage, but SDA and SCL are not as familiar to most.  But if you’ve been around microprocessors such as PICs, Arduinos, or even Raspberry Pis and Beaglebones, you know what those mean:

There’s an I²C bus in there.

Now, I did some limited probing with leads from my Beaglebone Black, and I wasn’t able to see the I²C as a slave, indicating either I’m not doing something right (likely; I’ve never played with I²C before), or the chip in there is acting as a master.  If it’s acting as an I²C master, which my Beaglebone is as well, I’m not sure how to proceed.

I may continue playing around with this.  It could be interesting.

Oh, and as for how the radio sounds?  Not bad. FM signals are nice and strong, and MW comes in tolerably well while indoors.  Looking at the pictures of the interior, the ferrite bar is pretty small, but there’s room in the case for possibly changing it out for something longer and/or modifying it to take an external antenna (read more about that stuff here).

I don’t have another (real) shortwave radio to compare it to (an RTLSDR dongle with experimental drivers is as close as I come), but it appears to perform adequately well for an $11 radio.  It can tune from 3.2MHz through 21.9MHz, which is a pretty impressive range for such a cheap radio.  I can bring in quite a few stations, more when I connect a longwire antenna to the built-in antenna.  China comes in really well from my location, though I’ve had a good time listening to Radio Australia, and the ever-present Overcomer Ministry out of South Carolina.

So, all in all, not a bad $11 purchase.

Uniden BC246T scanner program

BC246t Display main window

I wrote this little program a while ago, then modified it.  Then modified it again.  And again.  Basically, I just kept tinkering with it, until it grew from a simple command-line program, to what we have today.

So, what is it?

This is a Python/tk program to display the status and control the Uniden BC246T handheld scanner.  It essentially mimics the layout (sort of) of the scanner, and gives you access to all the keys.

Yeah, it’s a little useless.  But I had fun writing it (please please PLEASE don’t look at how ugly my coding style is, alright?).  It essentially allows me to put the scanner up on the shelf out of reach, but still see what’s going on.

If you have a Uniden BC246T, enjoy playing with it.  Here’s the link.

VIC-20 as terminal

Over a lazy Sunday afternoon, while the family was napping, I put into place an idea that formed in my head mere hours earlier: turn my Commodore VIC-20 into a simple terminal for a *nix box.

I was musing on ways to connect my VIC to other systems, and had recently been playing with Chris Baird’s great little hack of transferring files via serial port from a PC using a simple, 25-line BASIC program.  That got me wondering what other ways you could utilize the serial port.

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