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Author Topic: Old Hams - New Technology  (Read 1321 times)
WB5LAI
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Posts: 5




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« on: October 04, 2010, 06:40:18 AM »

Licensed (Advanced Class) in '74 I became inactive in '86 due to work demands. I haven't seen or read a thing about Ham Radio until last May, so, I am waay behind as I now try to get back into it.  All the local hams I know are too busy doing other important things related to their interests for me to ask them to stop and help me. My question is this: How / where do I find simplified instructions for using the new computer software for radio control, operate in new modes, and all the stuff my modern day traneiver can do? Undecided Huh Smiley
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AA4PB
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Posts: 12905




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« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2010, 06:51:38 AM »

ARRL has a book on digital modes that will pretty much give you a "one-stop" overview of the various digital modes. The same information is available for free on the Internet but you may have to do a bit of searching to find it. I'd start with looking into PSK31 as it is the most popular of the new digital modes. Basically most of the modes use the same configuration - a computer sound card interfaced to the audio input/output and PTT of the radio and software running on the computer to do the encoding/decoding of the digital signal.

Remember, this interface is different from "rig control" which amounts to having the computer send commands to the radio, ususally via a serial interface of some type, to change things like frequency, mode, filter selection, etc.
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WB5LAI
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« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2010, 07:26:42 AM »

Thanks - I have purchased a Signalink USB but haven's got it to work yet. I also got a rig control interface to use with Ham Radio Delux but am still trying to learn it too!!!  I'm going to the internet to see what I can find on PSK31. If not I will see what ARRL has that I can order. Thanks a lot.
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STAYVERTICAL
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Posts: 875




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« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2010, 12:18:32 AM »

Here is a quick primer on modern ham radio digital modes ( excuse the necessary brevity):

1. Modern transceivers are a "shack in a box" generally covering 160m to 6m and many times to 70cm, all modes and 100Watts output.
2. Modern transceivers have software menus to navigate - needed to avoid hundreds of buttons to control all the features.

3. The USB signalink you bought is all you need to run most digital modes, including digital voice and CW (Audio frequency keying).
4. A PC onboard soundcard is used by most digimodes programs to generate and decode digital signals - the USB signalink is a box with
an external USB soundcard inside and a Push To Talk circuit driven from its internal soundcard - good choice.
The USB signalink is plugged into a USB port on the PC where it generally becomes a second soundcard.
It may configure as the default soundcard on windows so you may need to change the setup in windows control panel if that happens.
Otherwise, in your digital modes program, go to the soundcard option and select the USB Signalink as your input and output device - generally it comes up as USB audio codec.
From the "radio" port on the USB signalink use the cable appropriate for your transceiver and plug it into your transceiver.
Thats it - your done.

5. PSK31 is by far the most popular digital mode and the most popular PSK31 frequency is 14.070Mhz on 20m.
6. PSK31 users generally use from 20 to 50watts - any more and a modern transceivers IMD starts to suffer causing signal widening.
7. PSK31 using soundcards has a reasonably limited dynamic range so an excessively strong signal will wipe out your waterfall for other
signals. If possible get a rig with some ability to use a low bandwidth with PSK31 otherwise if you use the standard 2.5Khz SSB bandwidth, you may find yourself watching a white waterfall frequently.
Other popular modes are Olivia and then various other modes such as hellschrieber and SSTV.

6. Ham radio deluxe is the premier digimodes program and its free, followed by Fldigi which is simpler but very versatile (my opinion).
7. Ham radio deluxe should be thought of as not one program but a suite of different programs which are connected together
by network connects locally on your PC. In this way they communicate with each other, and you can just use what you need and
leave the others for another time.
8. HRD is the module which enables rig control. It will communicate with your rig via its dedicated rig control port
(called CAT on the Yaesu rigs and CIV on Icom rigs) and send commands and retrieve status information such as frequency and S meter reading etc. Each model of rig has an entry in a file somewhere which describes the command format and capabilities for that rig.
Sometimes newcomers confuse rig control with the digimodes functions, so just remember that the rig control has nothing whatsoever to do with the audio tones being sent to and from the rig. This is a separate issue and completely divorced from rig control.
The only caveat is that sometimes the rig control can be used to initiate PTT by software instead of hardware control.

If you use other digimodes programs from HRD, they each have their own method of rig control support.
Some use inbuilt databases of rigs they can control and some use ancilliary rig control programs such as Omnirig or Commander.
Both Omnirig and Commander are rig control "plugin" programs which can supply rig control to other programs supporting them.
This is not an exhaustive list of rig control and digimode programs and every ham has his/her favourite - but they all tend to
give the same functionality, albeit in a slightly different way.

9. The module in Ham radio deluxe which is used for digimodes operation is called DM780, it produces the tones, interfaces with
the soundcard and is where you type and receive transmitted text.
You can use this module, like most others in ham radio deluxe in stand-alone mode without having the HRD module running.
When trying to fathom out ham radio deluxe just remember that all the programs you see on the menu line are really separate
programs which you can either use or ignore. Also remember that they communicate by setting up network ports locally on
your PC to exchange data (for example between the logbook application and DM780 or HRD).
Ham radio deluxe seems daunting, but remember one simple fact and you will find your way around:
- The  "Option" button in each program gives you a menu where you have access to all the setup parameters and is generally self explanatory. So use the "Option" button and you should be able to setup ok.

10. Don't be afraid of using digimodes if you are not a fast or good typist, this is one of the most common qualms that I have newcomers to digimodes say to me, believe it or not.
Just start typing and you will get there and most hams are not speed typists anyway, so you will be in good company.

11. On operating: Most digimodes programs have what are called "Macros". These are pre-defined "canned" text and can be sent
by pressing a button on the keyboard or clicking with a mouse onscreen.
I would advise you to setup macros to suit your personal style, but in any case set one up for CQ otherwise you will get sore fingers
before even making a contact.
How you use macros are up to you and much discussion has surrounded these critters, but I use them all the time as building blocks
for a qso, station details etc to avoid getting RSI from typing the same details again and again.
Many non english speaking stations will also use macros to be able to work DX without the language barrier.
So expect to get the standard macros from many DX or award seeking stations, and know it is a normal part of digimodes operation.
You will also find many ragchewers on digimodes and I have worked ops from 18 to 93 years old on digimodes, so don't think age is
any barrier to digimodes.

Well, I hope this was a bit helpful and welcome to digimodes - it is my primary mode and there are so many options (such as soundcard Slow scan tv for example) that it is hard to run out of interesting modes and people to encounter.

73s and good luck.
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WB5LAI
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Posts: 5




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« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2010, 07:00:08 PM »

Stayvertical - I love the handle!  Thank you for the primer.  That is exactly the kind of information I need. I'd like to sit you down in my shack for about a week have you coach me on operating my rig on different modes. I know I have a lot to learn over as well as a whole lot to learn in developments over the past 25 years. I once had an "Elmer" who taught me and led me through until I got my Advanced Class license. He was in his 80's then. I sure do miss him. I'm going to print out your notes in order to have them more accessible. Thank you very much.
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