Spending more and more time playing radio outdoors this summer has cut back on my HF data-modes, to the point where I,m really starting to miss it. The setup at home is a million miles away from portable and even though I have a capable laptop to take on field days if I wanted to, its a large (and heavy) widescreen model that chews through the battery like you wouldn’t believe.

Looking for a lighter option made me have another bash at an old Dell notebook that’s been gathering dust for ages. This notebook developed a small hard drive fault and refused to boot up the Windows OS. Having no CD ROM (its too small) meant it was put to one side with a plan to fix it when “I had more time”.

Shiny!

Shiny!

Luckily once I’d got Windows XP crammed into a flash drive and onto the Notebook, my fear that the hard drive was totally broken quickly evaporated. There were some clusters of bad sectors, but nothing too major and as everything going on there can be replaced in an hour, its not a problem if it fails on me again (even a replacement drive should be cheap enough).

Software

Some people I’ve spoken with are not big MultiPSK fans because its a little bloated, but for my purposes it’ll do and I was pretty surprised that this little dell notebook managed it so well.

There’s times when some live audio recording is needed and with that side of Windows XP being poor, I also installed the ever useful Audacity. As this computer is running Windows XP, there’s no way it was going to get plugged into the Internet and all the software was ported over on a flash disk.

Got Some Legs!

Never having run this notebook on the battery for very long, the full extent of how long the notebook would run needed to be tested. It would be a epic disaster if I dragged this rig up a mountain and it only lasted an hour 🙂

Wanting to get as close as possible to conditions out in the field, I gave the notebook a full charge, started MultiPSK, wired in the DX394 and just let the thing run.

Got a good four hours solid operating time before the laptop shut down, this may be extended slightly by closing down some more programs on the laptop (Windows does a huge amount of unnecessary things that can generally be done away with).

One great side effect of using battery powered computers for data decoding is that you can (usually) do away with an isolating interface and run a simple straight through 3.5mm jack-plug for the audio without the computer adding a few S points of hash to the receiver.

So can’t wait to get this rig outdoors and wired up to a half decent antenna, although the weather this coming weekend looks really rough and I may have to wait a bit.

Onward!

Once I have a light option for transmitting on HF that will fit nicely in my big rucksack, I’ll also be using this notebook to send out data modes from some RF quiet and remote places.

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