This page last updated on Thu, 19 Jan 2017 00:45:28 +0000 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A FREQUENCY COUNTER PROJECT (from concept to a finished product) Dieter (Diz) Gentzow -- W8DIZ ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- PREFACE: So Brian Murrey, KB9BVN, the current Editor of the QRP-ARCI QRP Quarterly, emails me and asks if I was available to write an article for the QQ. Since Brian is an infamous member of the Flying Pigs, how could I refuse! Having never officially "published" anything formal, I decided to go all out and write a series of articles describing how to take a project from concept to finished product based on empirical experiences of yours truly. THE PROJECT: Why a frequency counter? It just happened to be the project 'du jour' when KB9BVN asked me to contribute to the QQ. I designed an early prototype 3 years ago and therefore do not expect any major engineering problems placing the design into production. The Frequency Counter project will proceed through the following steps: * 1. Install a version of Linux (called MINT) on a PC and become familiar with Linux. Linux Mint is an Ubuntu-based distribution whose goal is to provide a more complete out-of-the-box experience by including browser plug-ins, media codecs, support for DVD playback, Java and other components. It also adds a custom desktop and menus, several unique configuration tools, and a web-based package installation interface. Linux Mint is compatible with Ubuntu software repositories. * 2. Install ATmel tools on Linux for development, including a short course in Assembler Language. Learning by doing, a beginner's project to make an LED blink exactly once per second. * 3. Design a Freq Counter and create a schematic using free tools from * 4. Develop the Freq Counter software (in ASM) under Linux using the free AVRA Assembler/Compiler * 5. Build a prototype frequency counter. * 6. Design a Frequency Counter printed circuit board using free tools from * 7. Provide a complete Frequency Counter Kit for those folks that do not want to homebrew this project. I expect that this project will span 3 or 4 issues of the QQ, with additional documentation published at and possibly mirrored elsewhere. INSTALL LINUX MINT: First, I assume that you have a PC/Laptop running Windows. I also assume that you have another PC available to be dedicated for this project. Even though you can have a dual boot PC with both Windows and Linux, I do not recommend it for THIS project. If you do NOT wish install Linux, you will still be able to follow this series of articles, installing various software tools for developing the project using a Windows PC. Let's get started installing Linux Mint version 7 code named Gloria. The Official instructions from the developers of Mint are available at . Refer to pages 8 and 9 of the official instructions for downloading and creation of a CD from the ISO file. Download the ISO installation file from . The ISO file is almost 700 Megabytes and depending upon your internet connection, may take several hours to download. You may also purchase an install CD. Vendors for these CDs advertise on . Note that Distrowatch.Com is an excellent web-site for information on the top 100 versions of Linux. Linux has hundreds of versions if not thousands. I am also making available a Linux Mint 7 installation DVD (not CD); see NOTES at the end of this article. If you download the ISO file and plan to burn a CD/DVD using Windows, then you will need an ISO BURNER program. A FREE ISO BURNER is available from . Note that most Linux Systems include an ISO BURNER. Before burning the ISO file to a CD, you should check the ISO file integrity using an MD5 checksum program. For Windows, one is available at with instructions. Place the Linux Mint ISO Distribution CD/DVD into the optical drive of your dedicated Linux PC. If you are running windows, the CD/DVD should AUTORUN and display the following screen: Now reboot you dedicated Linux PC. If your PC does not boot from the CD/DVD, it is probably because your BIOS config is not set to boot from CD. Restart the computer and press F1, F2, Delete, or Escape (or whatever key lets you enter the BIOS configuration) and change your BIOS settings to tell your computer to boot from its CD drive. Once the initial boot screen is displayed, the PC will take about 2 minutes to finish booting Linux Mint. At this stage Linux Mint is not installed on your computer, it's simply running from the CD. The system you have in front of you is, however, almost exactly the same as the one you will have on your computer after the installation is finished. Have fun with it and see if you like it. Bear in mind that it's extremely slow because it runs from the CD. Once installed on the hard drive, Linux Mint is much faster. When you are ready, double-click on the "Install" icon located on the desktop. The Installer appears; answer all the questions; the default answers are mostly correct. The installer will now ask you where to install Linux Mint (on which hard drive, in which partition, etc.). I recommend you select the default "Use the entire disk" even if you have an existing partition on the Hard Drive. When the partitioning and formatting is finished, the PC will display an Install Screen asking for a Name. Enter your Amateur Callsign. Then enter a login password twice, then click "Forward". On the next screen, click on "Install". Now go to the fridge and indulge in your favorite beverage while the Install Program installs Linux Mint onto your Hard Drive. The installation should take between 10 and 15 minutes. After the installation is complete, click on "Restart Now". When prompted, remove the CD from the drive, connect your PC to the internet via a CAT5 cable and press Enter. When prompted, enter your user name and password. Next, a "Welcome to Linux Mint" screen appears. When the "Opening english.pdf" screen pops up, select "Save File" and click on "OK". After the pdf file is saved to your Desktop, close all windows. We will now going to update your Linux Mint PC to the latest versions of software, so make sure that you are connected to the internet. In the lower right corner of your Desktop, you should see an open lock icon. Click on it once. Enter your system password if prompted. Linux Mint is now retrieving all software updates available for your system. When the screen is ready, click on "Install Updates". As of Sept 6, 2009, there were 218 files that needed updating. Here is another opportunity for you to head to the fridge and partake of a cold beverage as this update process will take some time. If your screen goes black while the update is progressing, then the screen-saver kicked activated. Move your mouse to active your screen. After about 15 minutes, depending upon your internet connection speed, the update should complete. Click on "Close". Finally, close the "mintUpdate" window. The Lock Icon in the lower right of your Desktop should now display as Locked. If all went well, then CONGRATULATIONS! Your PC is now updated with the latest version of Linux Mint and ready to rock-and-roll. Any addendums and/or corrections to this Linux Mint Install will be available at Now double-click on the PDF file on your Desktop and go to page 23 and follow the examples in "Introduction to the Linux Mint Desktop. NEXT ARTICLE: Install ATmel tools on Linux for development, including AVRA and AVRDUDE. Also, a short course in Assembler Language using the ATmel ATtiny2313-20PU. Learning by doing, a beginner's project to make an LED blink exactly once per second. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dieter (Diz) Gentzow, W8DIZ, aka WB8QYY before April 2000, has been a licensed ham since 1973. Past employment include Honeywell as an Industrial Sales & Systems Engineer, AC Nielson, Electrical Engineer designing black boxes that monitor TV viewing habits and a handful of other hardware and/or software jobs. Currently semi-retired, living in sunny Palm Harbor, Florida. You can contact Diz, W8DIZ via eMail at NOTES: Download Linux Mint 7 Gloria User Guide Download Linux Mint 7 Gloria ISO file at A Linux Mint 7 (Gloria) DVD distribution is available from W8DIZ for $3 plus shipping, available at Additional documentation is available at