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Author Topic: Thinking about going digital  (Read 6961 times)
KK4CPH
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« on: June 09, 2012, 05:08:41 PM »

Got the HF Digital handbook and sat thru a forum on digital modes/PSK31 at the hamfest today and really interested in going digital.  I'm looking at Rig Blaster and SignalLink.  Other than price, I don't see much of a difference between the two.  I have a Kenwood TS-440 and will be using FLdigi in Linux.  All opinions welcome! 

Eric


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VE3FMC
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« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2012, 07:05:06 PM »

Hello Eric

I have been using a SignaLink USB since Sept. 2007. Never had any problems with it and have had it on 3 Icom rigs and my current FT-950.

Friends of mine use the same model and have never had any issues with it.

I use the digital software which is included in Ham Radio Deluxe. Also JT65-HF software for that mode.

You will have fun with the digital modes once you get your station set up properly.

Good Luck 73, Rick VE3FMC
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KB6HOH
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« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2012, 03:58:15 AM »

Hello Eric,

        For the Money and ease of use I went with the Signalink USB.
I own 3 of the Signalink Interfaces and they have preformed flawlessly.
Also run FLdigi on Windows XPpro, Windows 7 Ultimate 32bit and even on Windows 2000 and on 3 Icom HF Radio, 703, 706MKIIg and a 718. Regarding the TS-440s great Radio when it cam out and still is. The only thing is NO CAT Control readily available on this Radio. It can be had but the costs would out weight the end results. CAT is great for Freq control and also when logging a QSO in the FLdigi Logbook. Hopefully a much later model Radio will be coming down the road for you. For now what you got will work. The Radio has a 13pin Din ACC port on the rear to interface the Radio and Signalink together so be sure to use that Jack. All connections are there, TX Audio, RX Audio PTT and Ground. Also using the ACC Jack it will disconnect the Mic Circuit during TX so as NOT to pickup any room back ground noise there maybe so NO need to disconnect the Mic itself from the Radio.
If you have any questions on the above just drop me a Email or we can even talk on the phone.

                                   73 de Steve KB6HOH
                              kb6hoh(AT)comcast(DOT)net
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KK4CPH
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« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2012, 06:23:53 AM »

Thank You both for the input.  Sounds like SignalLink would be a good choice.

For now what you got will work. The Radio has a 13pin Din ACC port on the rear to interface the Radio and Signalink together so be sure to use that Jack. All connections are there, TX Audio, RX Audio PTT and Ground. Also using the ACC Jack it will disconnect the Mic Circuit during TX so as NOT to pickup any room back ground noise there maybe so NO need to disconnect the Mic itself from the Radio.

I did notice the Rig Blaster goes thru the mic plug and I didn't want to disconnect/connect the mic whenever I wanted to switch back to phone.  That would be annoying after a while.  I did look at a few of the CAT radio's at the hamfest yesterday but didn't see too many choices.  There was a Yaesu FT-817 but it's only drawbacks were a small display and only 5 watts. At $650, I was tempted but wanted to do some research first.
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W8JX
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« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2012, 08:16:23 AM »

Signal link is not bad but unlike Signal Link the Rig Blaster Plug n Play has positive PTT control via software where Signal link it only via VOX keying in device itself for T/R time is too slow for a few modes. I use a cheap USB sound card with it so I can two separate sound devices in computer. I am not sure why Signal link does not add option of positive PTT control.
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STAYVERTICAL
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« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2012, 02:59:13 PM »

Hi Eric,

In my opinion, get the USB Signalink, it will work out of the box and you will be on digital modes quickly and generally without much drama.
This is especially true for a beginner into digimodes.
It is true that the inbuilt VOX ptt in the signalink is a bit too slow for modes such as ALE400, although I have had QSO's in ALE400 with it.

If you want to experiment later on, you can do what I have done.

Make yourself a simple PC-soundcard based interface with a couple of potentiometers and two little audio transformers.
For a serial port based PTT/CW-keying interface there are dozens of simple circuits around, and will cost less than ten dollars in parts.
I use a serial port based PTT/CW interface which has two optoisolator chips, two resistors, four diodes and one female DB9 connector.
This can be used for both PTT on the serial port RTS pin and CW sending on the DTR pin.
This is supported by almost all the digimodes software out there, except FLdigi for serial port CW unfortunately.

The USB signalink will not support hard CW keying of your rig (except in a compromise PTT), and relies on using a single audio tone
to produce a CW signal, similar to AFSK RTTY.

As usual, its a matter of compromise, but if you are like me, you will be using the USB signalink 95 percent of the time anyway.
It is always possible to find situations which are not handled well, but you have to think what the real world actually uses - not may use.
In the real world of ham radio, PSK31 is by far the most popular digimode, and except for ACK/NACK modes such as Packet or ALE400,
my USB signalink has performed flawlessly.

Welcome to digimodes,

73 - Rob





« Last Edit: June 10, 2012, 03:14:30 PM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged
KK4CPH
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« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2012, 04:48:25 PM »

STAYVERTICAL,  glad you mentioned the USB as I was looking at the SL-1+.  Just looked at the operating manual for my TS-440 and noticed that I would have to run a separate power supply to the SignalLink.  There's not enough voltage supplied thru the 13 pin acc.  And now that I see I can run Multimode on my Mac, I'll probably go with that.  Don't have a lot of room on my desk to set up my Linux computer. 
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AH6RR
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« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2012, 06:03:25 PM »

Aloha Eric,
I also agree that the Signalink USB is the way to go it uses the computer to power it and no external power supply needed. If you had a Windows machine you can run it in the demo mode and enter the frequency that way. Also the DM780 (HRD's Digital program) is he best one out there I have tried them all the free and pay for and DM780 is the Best.
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W8JX
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« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2012, 07:07:16 AM »

In my opinion, get the USB Signalink, it will work out of the box and you will be on digital modes quickly and generally without much drama. This is especially true for a beginner into digimodes.

The Rig Blaster Plug n Play it truly plug and play. As far as simplicity for beginners it is easier than Signal link in that it is possible to set wrong default sound card with a Signallink vs if you use Plug n Play and computers built in sound card there is no room for error. 
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KG6AF
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« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2012, 12:28:19 PM »

In my opinion, get the USB Signalink, it will work out of the box and you will be on digital modes quickly and generally without much drama. This is especially true for a beginner into digimodes.

The Rig Blaster Plug n Play it truly plug and play. As far as simplicity for beginners it is easier than Signal link in that it is possible to set wrong default sound card with a Signallink vs if you use Plug n Play and computers built in sound card there is no room for error. 

If you have only one sound card, you have to be careful to disable all other sound sources before transmitting, lest you transmit those other sounds.  If what I hear on the air is any indication, newcomers find that a challenge.  I'd vote for the Signalink USB.
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KK4CPH
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Posts: 154




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« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2012, 07:00:44 PM »

Aloha Eric,
I also agree that the Signalink USB is the way to go it uses the computer to power it and no external power supply needed. If you had a Windows machine you can run it in the demo mode and enter the frequency that way. Also the DM780 (HRD's Digital program) is he best one out there I have tried them all the free and pay for and DM780 is the Best.

I have a windows computer.  My laptop is a Compaq Presario R3000.  I have it set up as a dual boot (XP and Linux Mint 10) and I might try it out but my main computer is a Mac.  Just have to play around with all 3 operating systems and see what works for me.  I ordered the SignalLink USB so I should have it sometime next week.  And, yes, I'll disable all other sounds on my computer.  Wouldn't want my MagicJack ringing while transmitting!!  Grin
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KG6AF
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« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2012, 08:19:26 PM »

Aloha Eric,
I also agree that the Signalink USB is the way to go it uses the computer to power it and no external power supply needed. If you had a Windows machine you can run it in the demo mode and enter the frequency that way. Also the DM780 (HRD's Digital program) is he best one out there I have tried them all the free and pay for and DM780 is the Best.

I have a windows computer.  My laptop is a Compaq Presario R3000.  I have it set up as a dual boot (XP and Linux Mint 10) and I might try it out but my main computer is a Mac.  Just have to play around with all 3 operating systems and see what works for me.  I ordered the SignalLink USB so I should have it sometime next week.  And, yes, I'll disable all other sounds on my computer.  Wouldn't want my MagicJack ringing while transmitting!!  Grin

That's just the point: if you use a SignaLink USB, you don't have to disable system sounds!  All system sounds go to the computer's sound card, while any going to and from the transceiver pass through the SignaLink USB's own sound card.  Just remember to set up whatever digital modes program you use to take its rx input from and send its tx output to the SignaLink USB.
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KK4CPH
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« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2012, 08:00:36 PM »

Well I got the SignalLink today.  I wasted $$ on the jumper module.  Hooked it all up and it wouldn't transmit.  It turns out the TS-440 is one that the module won't work on.  Had to remove the module and put the jumper wires in along with one that has a diode in it. Went into system preferences and changed the sound to USB CODEC and it works.  I can say that options for digital on a Mac are pathetic.  I'm not paying $89 for Multimode.  I'm using cocoaModem 2.0 but it's choices are limited and it dumps all my settings when I close it.... have to re-set everything.  Looks like I'll have to make room for the Linux laptop.
While reading the QSO's on PSK-31, I have noticed that there doesn't seem to be a particular format.  Some are typed out like a "regular" conversation while others are in CW format.  And some are just Name, QTH, RSQ, 73's.  I'm assuming I should go with the format of the sending station?
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STAYVERTICAL
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« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2012, 10:53:15 PM »

Hi Eric,

Glad you are now digimodes ready.
Yes, the Mac digimodes programs are limited, but not being a Mac guy, I am not sure what other options are out there.
I used to work a guy using Fldigi on a Mac, maybe he was using a windows emulator, but I didn't ask him how he did it.
Linux will give you more options such as Fldigi, which should give you a very comprehensive digimodes program for free.

The format of PSK31 stations is pretty diverse but basically guys use the same sort of format you see on CW.
Normally domestic stations will give you a ragchew, and so the format is about the same as CW.
DX stations, in many cases, will give you the stock macro-generated qso.
Most stations on PSK31 (or other digimodes) have macro's setup for name,qth,etc.
Then a brag file about your station and so on.
Then finally a 73 macro with a stock goodbye.
One tip though, make your brag file short and pertinent, otherwise the stock macro may take 5 minutes to finish itemising everything, including your cats name.

Macro's have their place, and are great to give the basic information without having to repeatedly type it out.
Then, like CW or other modes, it depends on your contact as to whether it ends up being a ragchew or just a "touch and go".

If you contact me for example, you will get roped into a ragchew while conditions permit, while many DX stations will just
hit the relevant macro buttons and move on to the next qso.
The band you are using is very relevant in the type of qso you will experience.
40m will give you more chance of ragchewing compared with 20m for example, as in other modes.

20m 14.070Mhz is probably the most diverse PSK31 frequency to give you a good idea of what the protocols are.
Being a newbie on digimodes, I will say if you are like many other new users, don't worry about typing speed or making errors.
We all have the same butterflies in the stomach on the first qso's, but it will pass.
Also, with so many new guys trying digimodes, you will have lots of company.

So welcome to digimodes again, and 73 - Rob
« Last Edit: June 16, 2012, 10:57:14 PM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged
KK4CPH
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Posts: 154




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« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2012, 06:20:20 AM »

One tip though, make your brag file short and pertinent, otherwise the stock macro may take 5 minutes to finish itemising everything, including your cats name.

Funny you should mention that.  I did see one where the guy gave all his info: rig, antenna, computer, clubs... all but the cats name.  Grin
I won't worry about typing errors.  It seems like QSB will take care of that for me.  Wink  I didn't even think about macros.  I'll have to set them up.
Thank You for the info and advice.
73's
Eric
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