Inovato Quadra HamClock
What a great solution if you shy away from the command line!
There has been some buzz lately about the Inovato Quadra HamClock bundle so I decided to give it a try. Inovato has been so swamped with orders that I kept getting “sold out” messages on their ordering page, but they also indicated folks should check in a 9:00 am Pacific to see if they had replenished stock. I did that for a few days and when I saw they were back in stock, I pounced on one. A handful of days later, it arrived in my mailbox.
I opened the package today and an hour later — including interruptions by the dog, dinner, and family — had HamClock running on my Tailscale tailnet. The assembly instructions were easy to follow, even with disruptions.
Here is the “unboxing,” in quotes because there was no box. I included my mechanical pencil in some photos for scale.
After assembling and connecting the bits and pieces, I used the included HDMI cable to connect to my PC monitor, then booted the Quadra. As it booted, I was thinking this very, very lightweight device couldn’t possibly run Debian Linux and HamClock, but I was wrong.
I was prompted to click anywhere to go through the HamClock setup screens. I replaced the default callsign with my own, entered my latitude and longitude, and pressed OK. HamClock looked for the fastest time server from a short list of servers and selected time.apple.com. Moments later, HamClock was running.
I want to emphasize that unlike my previous foray into HamClock in which I had to download and install the software, the Quadra came with the operating system installed and HamClock ready to go with minimal configuration.
I wanted to make sure the software was up to date, so I used the mini-keyboard to change out of full-screen mode (Fn-Alt-F9). I was surprised to find a pretty robust Xfce desktop environment running. I quickly found the Terminal and logged in as “root” with the default password specified in the instructions. From there, I ran “sudo apt update” which revealed 40 updates were available. When I followed the update with “sudo apt upgrade -y” I encountered the limitations of the system — the upgrades ran, but slowly. After several minutes, though, all was installed.
I followed up the update-upgrade dance with “sudo apt autoremove -y” which cleaned up a handful of no longer needed files.
One of the upgrades that took a while, and which intrigued me, was tailscale. I’ve usually had to manually install tailscale on my other Debian machines, so I was really happy to see it already on the Quadra. While still in the Terminal, I ran “sudo tailscale up” and opened the resulting URL with my desktop computer, allowing me to authorize the Quadra to be part of my tailnet.
With that, I disconnected the HDMI cable and rebooted. After a few minutes, I looked for the Quadra in my tailnet and found it listed as Inovato. A right-click on that device name copied the Tailscale IP address of the Quadra to my clipboard. Then I opened a browser, pasted the IP address in the address field, and added the port (8081) and the page name (live.html). It looked like this: http://100.101.102.103:8081/live.html
And done. HamClock was now happily running on the little Quadra. I saved a shortcut to the URL on my desktop computer. HamClock looks great running in a window!
Instead of trying to run HamClock in a virtual machine and using up system resources on my desktop PC, running it remotely offloads that resource drain to the Quadra.
If you’ve been putting off running HamClock because it seemed too difficult to install and configure, give the Inovato Quadra HamClock bundle a try. It is surprisingly inexpensive, especially compared to trying to source the parts yourself. If you run into trouble, help is available in their forum.
P.S.: January 4, 2024 — Since my Olympia computer is on the same tailnet as my Portland computer, I asked Tailscale for the IP address of the Inovato Quadra running HamClock and pasted that into Chrome. I added the port (:8081) and the page name (/live.html). Boom. I’m viewing my HamClock from 115 miles away, live. Happy camper here!