After reading our last post, SWLing Post reader, Mark, asks:
“I am very close to giving in and purchasing a Microsoft Surface Pro-2 to run Perseus software when traveling primarily for remote receiver mode (i.e. I can DX from various receivers around the world by using hotel room WiFi etc). Has anyone use a windows tablet device for this type of use when traveling?”
Please comment if you have experience running Perseus software on a Windows tablet device. That very combo might tempt me as well!
Update: Many thanks to Brett Saylor who responded with this review of his Surface Pro/Perseus set up.
This week I bought an HP Stream 7 tablet from the local Microsoft Store for $99, and it runs my Elad FDM-S2 receiver great! This recently introduced tablet is the perhaps the lowest priced new computer with Windows 8.1. I can even record the entire MW band, and play back the WAV files without audio stuttering. CPU load is an impressive 11-12%. Once you add a small OTG USB adapter you can plug in a USB hub and attach a wireless mouse receiver, the SDR’s cable, and other stuff. I was recording to a micro SD card (the slot is a bit of a pain, as you need to remove the back cover of the tablet. Recording to a USB external HD or SSD may also work). I also had an AC adapter powering the USB hub, as the tablet’s micro USB port cannot supply enough current for the Elad SDR.
This will be a neat, very portable setup for camping DXpeditions and when I want to take the SDR right to the termination of a phased loop array antenna for adjusting nulls. I do that now, but it’s more of a hassle with a regular laptop.
I presume I’ll be able to run the Afedri SDR-Net in “LAN mode” also but I’ll need to attach a USB-to-LAN adapter to the tablet first. A LAN rather than a USB connection is required for this particular SDR to have the bandwidth to handle all of medium wave at once.
Here’s a review of the 7-inch, Win 8.1 tablet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoPNzx8bcVQ. Also, when you buy it for $99 USD it includes a one-year subscription to MS Office 365, that can be used on two different devices. That’s worth $70 in itself.
Very impressive, Guy! I just turned this comment into a post so it would get more visibility. -Thomas
I now have my very own Surface Pro 2 and its a very interesting device. Anyone that knows me will know I am an iPad junky (I have 3!), and using the Surface Pro2 is a very different experience. It feels very much like a very portable version of a high end PC (which of course it is) rather than an appliance device (which the iPad is).
I have both the WinRadio G31DDC Excalibur and Perseus software loaded and have had a lot of fun using the receivers on the tablet. The Perseus took some installing as the driver is not “signed” and the Windows 8.1 security system won’t allow the driver to install until you do some admin configuration – it took me about 30 min to do the research and get the Perseus running. It’s now obvious that the Perseus won’t work in remote mode in hotels or pubic WiFi hotspots because particular ports need to opened on the WiFi router, something you can do unless you are in control of the router.
Regardless of that limitation of the Perseus system the Surface Pro 2 is a fantastic small PC to run either receiver and I am definitely going to travel with it along with one of the receivers. Both the WinRadio and Perseus applications play back spectrum files perfectly. Tomorrow I have four hours of commuting, and so tonight I am recording some hours of spectrum recording so I can do some time shift DX (using earbuds) with the spectrum tomorrow as I sit on the plane.
Next weekend I will do a bit of a write up with some photos and send to Thomas as I expect he may be interested in posting the use of the tablet as a high-end SDR control device. Oh I almost forgot, the Windows tablet TuneIn app works perfectly (of course!) allowing for some S9+60 type listening!
This is brilliant news (well, save connecting to the Perseus remotely). The thought of being able to record spectrum and listen to it on the road from a tablet is very appealing.
You’ll have to let me know if it has the horse power to play back a file and record a .wav broadcast from the file simultaneously. I have a hunch it can.
Yes, can’t wait to hear your further thoughts!
Thanks Brett – you have sold me! I am going to pick up a Surface Pro 2 tomorrow. I’m sure I will get a lot of use out of it with my WinRadio Excalibur when I take some SDR hardware along with me, but my I expect my main use will be for using just the Perseus software (leaving the actual Perseus hardware at home) in remote mode when I travel around on business. It will be fun to DX on my own receiver back in Australia when traveling anywhere else in the world, as well as using any other online Perseus’s in remote mode.
I will post a report on my experience here once I have tried the set-up out.
If anyone is interested, here is the review of using Perseus with the original Surface Pro (not Surface Pro 2) that I wrote last summer:
First, the pertinent specs on the tablet:
128 GB solid state drive (approximately 64 GB free)
64-bit Windows 8 Pro
10.6″ ClearType Full HD Display, 1920×1080 pixels, 16:9 (widescreen)
3rd Gen Intel CoreTM i5-317U 1.7 GHz Processor
Intel HD Graphics 4000
4 GB dual-channel DDR3-1600 memory
One full-size USB 3.0 port
Stereo headset jack
Microsoft “Type” Cover (mechanical keyboard)
Task Manger reports 2 cores, 4 logical processors in use, and cache: L1=128kB, L2=512kB and L3=3.0MB
Note that this is the Surface Pro model tablet, not the less expensive Surface RT which will not run Windows 7-compatible software.
For an external hard drive I was using a LaCie USB 3.0 3TB “Porsche Design” Model P’9230 (no RPM speed indicated). The Perseus, a USB 2.0 Logitech MX wireless mouse and the 3TB USB 3.0 drive were attached to the Surface’s single USB 3.0 port via an IOGear model GUH374 4-port powered USB 3.0 hub.
I installed the Perseus 4.1a software and the latest USB drivers from the Microtelecom website. This appear to work fine under Windows 8. I also installed the Mestor recording software which has worked flawlessly for me in the past. For audio recording I installed Total Recorder v8.4. Other than these packages and Microsoft Office, I didn’t install any other software on the Surface.
The form factor of the Surface feels like a very small laptop when deployed with the Type Cover folded down as the keyboard and the built-in kickstand holding the tablet at an angle similar to a laptop screen. The keyboard flexes a bit when typing, but when used on a hard flat surface this is not very noticeable. The USB and headphone jack plug into the left side of the tablet and an Apple-like magnetic power supply connector plugs into the right side. The Surface also comes with a stylus pen which can be used as a pointing device, but in all honesty I don’t find either the stylus or my finger to be ergonomic when using the Surface in a laptop configuration. The keyboard also has a built-in touch pad with left and right mouse buttons and two-finger scrolling. But, for the Perseus software, I find the Logitech mouse to be the best input device.
The Perseus interface fills more than 3/4 of the Surfaces screen (which, while less than 11″ in diameter, is still very easy to read even with my 50+ year old eyes.) When playing back Perseus 1600 kHz wide recordings, Windows Task Manager reports between 15-30% total CPU utilization and a speed of 1.05 GHz. Of that, Perseus only appears to be using 2-3% of the CPU. Live playback of Perseus uses about 15% of the CPU and the speed varies between 1.2 GHz and 2.3 GHz (not sure how they do that on a 1.7 GHz CPU). Recording that same size bandwidth appears to use about 20% of CPU at a speed of around 1.5 GHz.
Now on to the all-important issue of performance. I am mostly happy with how the Surface handles recording and playback of Perseus files. I did not experience any stuttering on playback from the internal or external drives at any time, even when playing back files in the Perseus app while Mestor was simultaneously recording. I could also run Chrome and browse the web during playback with no ill effects. However, I did notice that when I recorded to the external USB hard drive using the Perseus program the recordings would stutter when transitioning from the end of one file segment to the start of the next. Sometimes this stuttering lasted the entire length of the next file segment. This stuttering was not noted when recording to the internal SSD drive, however, which leads me to believe that the simultaneous flow of data in and out of the USB port is near the limit of capacity of the interface. So, for the duration of my listening, I used Mestor for all the recording and that worked perfectly.
One test I did not perform was to see how long the Surface could record or playback using only its built-in battery. However, given the advertised 4-hour life, I would put it squarely in the range of most normal laptops and certainly enough for a couple of hours in the field doing top of the hour recordings.
So is the Surface Pro the perfect Perseus companion? If you must use the Perseus software for recording, then you will want to get a version with the largest internal solid-state drive you can afford (they just announced a version with 256 GB) and record to that. If you are satisfied using Mestor, then an external drive through a hub works well. For stutter-free playback, it’s a real gem of a system (I’ll be taking it along on my next business trip to review my recent recordings).
Do you have a photo of your Perseus/Surface set up? I’d love to make this its own post as your review is very informative. I find the idea _very_ tempting to try myself. Mark’s future report might just be the tipping point for me!