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Author Topic: Quiet (RF-wise) laptop for use in a Digital Shack?  (Read 647 times)
KE0MS
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Posts: 9




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« on: December 14, 2009, 07:46:20 AM »

All,

I am a longtime ham, but never been active in the digital modes before, except for packet back in the late 80s... been away from that even for a long time.

I need to acquire a laptop (or a desktop I suppose) computer that will not generate TONS of RF-hash when powered up.  The Compaq older laptop I have that I was going to use put out an S9+20 RF-hash that obliterates everything.  My IBM T400 is not too bad either, but if there is a better one out there, I'd be glad to hear about it.

All of my legacy experience is with XP Home.  I want to do PSK31, I'd like to try receiving (and maybe transmitting) RTTY, and perhaps even complete station (radio) control for my TS-450SAT and FT-897D rigs using HRD or something similar sounds fun.  I am open to any suggestions so long as you are speaking from experience.  I dont want to spend money on a shack computer and then have it do like my compaq 2100US does.

Thanks.  This is a great forum.

Wayne, keØms

p.s.  Oh yeah, I'd like to listen to get DX-spots via packet also... is there a site that does that online vs packet?
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KE4DRN
Member

Posts: 3734




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« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2009, 06:47:58 PM »

hi Wayne,

I use older ibm thinkpads no problem for
sstv, psk31 etc.

Even field day our club digital station was
'powered' by IBM thinkpads running Digipan and
N3FJP logging software.

Take a look at Spot Collector from DX Labs
http://www.dxlabsuite.com/#SpotCollector

73 james
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AA6YQ
Member

Posts: 1852


WWW

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« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2009, 12:47:20 AM »

More recent Lenovo Thinkpads are also clean, e.g. the  T42p, T60, and T61p. All three of these provide internal soundcards that work fine with digital mode software with nothing more than audio transformers for connection to your transceiver. None of these have built-in RS232 ports, however, so you'll need a good USB-to-serial adaptor.

If you're interested in DXLab, take a look at

<http://www.dxlabsuite.com/dxlabwiki/GettingStarted>

    73,

       Dave, AA6YQ
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KE0MS
Member

Posts: 9




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« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2009, 10:34:10 AM »

Is most of the software used for PSK31 and RTTY nowadays all Windows-based?  I remember the packet stuff from long ago was DOS=based and the instructions almost ALWAYS told you to use DOS as an OS (not to trust DOS-windows in Windows to work)... Even the latest purchase I made a year or two ago for a new BAYPAC-2M (multimode) tnc warned not to even THINK about using Windows.

It seems to me that using Windows is the only really SANE thing to do nowadays.  Anyone have opinions on that?  Is using an old computer worth having a REAL serial port for?

Thanks all.  Sorry if these questions are dumb.

Wayne, ke0ms
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AA6YQ
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Posts: 1852


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« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2009, 03:03:05 PM »

There are good digital mode applications available on MacIntosh and Linux as well as on Windows.

"Real" serial ports are available on Windows machines.

Pretty much all legacy technologies are in use by someone somewhere. There are plenty of 1970s-vintage minicomputers still crunching away, so there are certainly lots of active 1980s-vintage DOS systems. People use what gets the job done and fits their budget.

    73,

       Dave, AA6YQ
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KA1MDA
Member

Posts: 543




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« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2009, 12:39:24 PM »

"Is using an old computer worth having a REAL serial port for?"

For around $25, you can get a PCI card with 2 real serial ports. For a little more, there's a PCI card with 4 real serial ports. You just plug the card into an open PCI slot and bingo- you've got real serial ports! I'm using 2 such cards to add 6 serial ports to my shack PC, giving me a total of 7 serial ports to interface to may various station equipment.

As for EMI, I have had good luck with some older Sony Vaio laptops. And although I'm not a big fan of Dell, their desktop cased seem to be extremely well shielded. I've used a number of old Dell desktop machines here (all were throw aways), and never had an EMI problem with any of them.

One thing to consider with computer noise is the I/O cabling. Many times, most of the interference is being generated through the AC adapter/charger cable (in laptops), or through the LAN, monitor, or mouse cables in desktops.

Tom, KA1MDA
www.ka1mda.org
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WS4E
Member

Posts: 236




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« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2009, 06:18:01 PM »

I got a old IBM Thinkpad R31 off of Criagslist from someone local for $90.

Its as quiet as can be..I can hardly detect any RF out of it at all unless the CDROM is spinning.

I have to put my RF detector (old handheld shortwave radio tuned off freq) VERY VERY CLOSE to pick up any RF from the thing.

It sits mere inches from my FT-897D and has zero effect on the rig.

Its got 1+Ghz P3 mobile, a GIG of ram and runs HRD + DM780 + Logbook + extras just fine.
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N0FPE
Member

Posts: 370




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« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2009, 08:48:16 AM »

I use an old IBM ThinkPad 560X. I just had to replace the grip on the hand crank so it would keep working. There is no RF hash at all, even when I am cranking fast for those big contest pileups!!

Smiley

Dan
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KE0MS
Member

Posts: 9




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« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2009, 09:26:22 AM »

Thank you everyone for your answers... I see a recurring theme here; that is, for almost every reply, I heard that IBM (Lenovo) thinkpads are RF-hash-free.

Based on my own similar findings after posing this question, I am now running an older IBM Thinkpad T43.  I set up HRD and DM780 and successfully got my feet wet for the first time on BPSK-31 and RTTY this past weekend.  The Thinkpad definitely has a great (quiet) power supply.

Thank you so much for taking the time to reaffirm that my intended course was a good one.

Thinkpads ROCK. Smiley

73, Wayne
keØms
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KE4DRN
Member

Posts: 3734




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« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2009, 07:08:49 PM »

Hi Wayne,

very good setup!

check out the ARRL RTTY Roundup this weekend

http://www.arrl.org/contests/rules/2010/rtty.html

digital modes (Baudot RTTY, ASCII, AMTOR, PSK31,
and Packet—attended operation only)
on 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meter bands.

73 james
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