Service Monitor Project

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Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:22 am

Service Monitor Project

Post by drbob » Mon Oct 20, 2014 5:23 am

This is a broad overview of the concept I want to work on and the reason(s) why I think this would be a great project that would be of interest to many within the forums - and hopefully beyond.

The Need

As a guy that services radio (and other electronic) equipment, I have a couple of decent service monitors. Specifically, I have two Motorola R2600CHS ( ) and a couple of older Motorola 2001 series monitors. I also have a couple of HP 8924C that have served me well. ( ) While generally functional there are constantly little "issues" that come up and make me bang my head against the wall.

1. Easy access to various functions is hit-or-miss. For example, navigating the different interfaces is always a challenge and sometimes I have to whip out my cheat-sheet notes to remember how I solved a problem in the past for seldom-used testing options;
2. Heavy pigs. It's not unusual for me to need to take one of these units up a mountain to service equipment on-site -- or even to roll it out to a vehicle to service in-bay. One time I had to lug a 2001 the last mile to a 4700 ft site on my back. Not fun...
3. Evolving communications options means that every one of these units is even more dated than their age implies - for example, recently I wanted to look at bluetooth signal levels to troubleshoot a problem a client was having. Yeah, that went over well... Or 2.4 GHz for determining overlap, etc. Yes, there are other tools to do the job (I end up using my iPad to resolve some issues, or put together some other solution). Recently I needed to test a POCSAG paging problem involving three different pagers and determining their receive status - you'd think that a newer service monitor would have the resources to do that, but we weren't that lucky...

In short, there are numerous service issues I encounter and the constantly changing landscape has always been a frustration, a delay factor, or extended the amount of time necessary to troubleshoot an issue.

When I started looking at SDR, I began to see an alternative with significant potential. The ability to develop - on-the-fly - a service tool that could meet the challenge of an ever-changing industry. Light-weight, robust and flexible.

I'm not a software developer, but I am a hardware guy - I've serviced and repaired electronics for a long time, and have an appreciation for what "works" and what "doesn't." Troubleshooting and modes-of-failure analysis have been my life for 35 years.

Those things said, the question that's been evolving in my head for the last 6 months: What would my device look like? How would it behave?

Having the chance to do some exploring, I stepped off into GNU Radio and enjoyed the building block approach - small chunks of a bigger problem, but also blocks that could be, potentially turned on/off as needed. In short, a set of modules could be developed and stored in such a way that they could easily be called up to form a test function. Setting up frequency, modulation method, inserting a data-stream - all of these seem relatively straight-forward.

I figured that this will be a great thread to lay out a master plan, encourage feedback and participation, and document my trip through the land of the bladeRF. I encourage you to put your two cents in and let's see where some dreaming might take us.

Bob Nelson, WA7ARC

Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:22 am

General Concepts

Post by drbob » Mon Oct 20, 2014 6:04 am

Frequency Coverage
DC - Light :roll:

Modes of Operation
These will be the foundation - additional modes will be added as developed/necessary to provide a wide variety of modes of operation.

Modulation/Signalling Tools - encode and decode
Paging, including FLEX, POCSAG
Packet - a variety of methods
What other meaningful options? Would be great to have APCO25, and a host of other digital tools

TDR ( )
Antenna Analysis ( )
Tracking Generator ( )
Spectrum Analyzer with Recording and Analysis Features

Note to self... Buy an Agilent FieldFox for Christmas :idea:

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