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   Home   Help Search  
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Author Topic: Getting started  (Read 6715 times)

Posts: 30


« on: October 02, 2012, 01:04:16 PM »

I want to get started using some digital modes and need a little help getting started.  I have an Yaesu 857 that I'll be using and a Toshiba laptop running Windows 7.  I currently have Ham Radio Deluxe installed on my laptop and I'm open to other software possibilities.

When I've researched forums on this topic all I get is problems people are having, not really much on getting set up in the first place.

First question is getting from the radio to the computer.  I know I need so sort of cable and I need it to have the ability for it to be USB.  I've understand there is a Yaesu CT-62 cable, and I read I might need an extra connector for that to be USB compatible? 

Second, I will need some sort of interface?  Rigblaster?  Signalink?   

Posts: 2808

« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2012, 01:46:53 PM »

You _don't_ need a cable that "connects the computer and the rig".

You _do_ need a device that:

. . .  lets the computer send audio to the rig,
. . .  lets the rig send audio to the computer, and
. . .  handles Tx/RX switching for the rig.

By most accounts, the simplest, most-likely-to-work-the-first-time interface is the SignaLink.

Read this, it may explain things better:

. .            Charles

Posts: 875

« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2012, 12:47:58 AM »

Ok we have almost identical stations.
I am using an FT897D and a toshiba laptop with windows 7.

Here are my recommendations, but first some caveats:

I am making a few assumptions - they are:

1. You want to get on common digimodes such as PSK31, Olivia, MFSK, etc.
2. You are not looking to use Packet, Pactor or ALE400 type "Ack/Nack" modes with this interface.
3. You are not looking at using this interface for "hard keying" a CW transceiver.

AND some background to the present state of play with digital modes on H.F.

- The most commonly used digital mode on HF is PSK31 - with RTTY and Olivia following behind.
- Many other modes are available, each with its advantages/disadvantages.
- You will get the most " instant gratification " with PSK31, which many stations use globally.
- 14.070 Mhz is probably the best frequency to monitor for PSK31 stations, so you can see how it works.

Now we come to the FT857.

The radio has two ports on the rear panel.
One is called CAT/Linear and is an 8 pin mini-din socket.
The other is called DATA and is a  6 pin mini-din socket.


The 8 pin mini-din marked CAT/Linear is for radio control, using it with a yaesu antenna tuner or control lines for a linear.

For example, if you were using a Yaesu FC40 remote ATU you would plug it in this port and adjust the menu to let the rig know it is hosting a tuner.

If you wish to use the CAT port for radio control you will need to adjust the menu in the FT857 to "CAT".
You will also need to set the speed and other serial port type parameters (stop bits etc) to match your PC communication speed.

You can only use this port for one purpose at a time - so its either a tuner/Linear/radio-control port as you wish, but not more than one.

IF you wish to use it with radio control software such as HRD, you will need an interface cable.
The Yaesu cable is model CT62.
What this does is convert between +/- 12Volts on the PC serial port to 0/5 Volts on the FT857 CAT port.
There are also third party radio control solutions available on the internet for less than ten dollars shipped which plug into a USB port on your PC.
The other end has an 8 pin mini-din ready to plug into the CAT port on the rear of the FT857.
This CT62 / OEM cable can also control the FT897 or the FT817 if you ever need to do that.

It is a very common newbie mistake that using digital modes and transceiver radio control are somehow related.
They are not - they are two completely different functions and not inter-related.
This is understandable because software such as HRD has these functions integrated in one software package.


Now to digital modes:

The other port on the rear is a 6 pin mini-din connector labelled DATA.
This socket has pins for transmitter input audio, receiver output audio and Push to talk control.
You can always make your own interface and just use VOX on your transceiver - which certainly does work.
You can just buy the Tigertronics USB-Signalink interface with the SLUSB6PM cable which is for the FT857/FT897/FT817 radios.
You will also have to either jumper/plug-in some wires inside the signalink for the FT857.
The documentation shows how it is done - it sounds more complicated than it is.

Once you have wired the header block for the FT857, you are ready to go.
Just plug the usb cable into the back of the Signalink, and the SLUSB6PM cable goes from the signalink to the FT857.
You will soon be using digital modes.
Two cables is all that is required.

There are many digital interface solutions available, from homebrew to "do everything for everyone" types.
But, for simplicity, trouble free, low cost, and good performance the USB-Signalink is hard to beat.
As a newbie, you don't want multiple problems - learning digimodes and trying to debug the interface - which is why I suggest the USB-Signalink.

Whatever interface you choose, read reviews, consider which modes you intend using, and then jump in.

Good luck es 73 - Rob
« Last Edit: October 03, 2012, 12:57:40 AM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged

Posts: 1209


« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2012, 10:27:46 AM »

While it sounds like you have an answer to the interfacing issue, I would like to add one point if I may. Once you are setup and operating on PSk31 (or any digital mode using MACROS) please do the other stations that you will work a big favor and tailor those macros to be short direct data elements. By this I mean setup a series of macros to do specific topics such as :

NAME only
QTH only
Short personal like AGE &, number year as ham
Short equipment string like "FT5000 and SteppIR beam"
Interface ONLY like "Running SignaLink" or "Using RIGBlaster" - no one really cares how much RAM you have in your computer!

The point here is that the macros you want to use should be short, sweet and to the point with the ability to link or chain them together as required to build sentences.

The one thing that turned me off TOTALLY to using PSK31 - and I have heard this from MANY others so I don't think it is just me - is the operator that answers a CQ with a 3 minute monologue macro of his entire life history, their medical procedures, the intricate details of the internals of all devices in his computer, the year he was 'created' (some sort of cutesy way to try and say when he/she was born  Roll Eyes ), the names and ages of all his pets, ad naseum, ad naseum, ad naseum. If you choose to follow this ideaolgy of PSK operating you may find that when you turn it over to the other station, there won't be anyone there. I, for one, tend to spin the dial when I happen to run into a MACROBLASTER.

I like to tell our club's newbie hams that want to get into PSK31, to approach this like they would if they met someone on the street and started up a conversation. Would they immediately start a monologue of their entire life history after the other person said "Hello, my name is Joe"? So far everyone has said "No they wouldn't". Wonder why its ok to do that on PSK31?

Gene W5DQ
Ridgecrest, CA - DM15dp

Posts: 875

« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2012, 02:30:22 PM »

Gene makes a good point.

What I would recommend is that you use the macros as they are really intended - as strings of characters to save typing.
Most macro's (HRD/DM780 for example), have a number of common attributes.

They will generally reference a page where you enter in callsign, QTH, Rig, Power, .... etc.
In DM780 take the tools->macros menu option.
You will be presented with all the macros available.
By unchecking the box on the left of the macro you will disable that from your macro bar.
Also, you can uncheck the send immediately and tick the clear TX window options if you wish.

If you have the send immediately checked, that macro will be sent when it is selected.
The clear TX window button avoids the problem you see with newbies, where everything previously sent is sent before your current text.

In DM780, if you right click on a macro button (in the qso windows), it will give you the contents, which you can edit.
Examine the contents, and you will see how it works.
It is ok to change the contents after right clicking, but before you do anything - save all your macros.
Do this by DM780-Tools-Macros-SaveAs : then give a filename for your saved macro file.
You can reload this macro file into DM780 by DM780->Tools-> Macros->Load.

In this way, you can generate your own custom macro sets for different purposes, or just to save a copy if you need to reload after changes.

What I do is tailor the macro's to just short entries which are put together like lego blocks.
I uncheck the send immediately option, and then press the macro buttons in order to generate my next message.
In this way, you save typing repetitive information, but have the option of inserting personal comments.
When the message is ready and the other station puts it over to you - just press the send button in DM780.
Keep in mind, if you want, you can just erase all the reference data in a macro and type in your own information.
If you uncheck send immediately, you will be able to construct your own messages without all the complications.

Macro's give a lot of flexibility, and save typing.
So tailor them to your own personal style, and you will have the advantages without the problems.

Good luck es 73 - Rob
« Last Edit: October 03, 2012, 02:32:44 PM by STAYVERTICAL » Logged

Posts: 30


« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2012, 09:22:09 AM »

Thank you everyone, some great information here.  I certainly appreciate these forums, they really help a new ham like men especially when you don't have an Elmer in the area.  I have a Signalink and a Cat cable on the way.  That should be a good start to get me going digitally.  And yes I will set up my macros accordingly and will try not to fall into the bulletins regarding every health problem I may or may not have.   Grin


Bill - KD8PZO


Posts: 875

« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2012, 01:26:34 AM »

Hi Bill,

Glad to hear you will soon be on digital modes!

I could not resist giving just one last tip.
With the CAT cable, don't "hot plug" it.
That is, don't connect or disconnect it with the rig turned on.

This is something common to RS232 connections not just the FT897.
I know technically the port uses 0/5V not +/- 12V , but I would not tempt fate regardless.
There is also 13.8V on this connector, so this may have some impact.

I am not saying you will have problems, and I have done it without damage, so don't think one oversight is going to give problems.
It is not likely to cause problems - just a perhaps over-cautious bit of advice.

Also, your CAT cable may come with instructions, but if not, the FT897 manual will guide you.
For a pointer to where you need to go:
Look at menu item 20: you will need to select CAT (options are CAT/LINEAR/TUNER).
Look at menu item 19: CAT rate - 4800/9600/38400bps RS232 interface speed -> match this with your CAT program i.e. HRD.
I normally use 9600bps, which I find is fast enough.
Once you have computer control of the FT857/897, you will find it almost unnecessary to use the menu's since much of it is available in HRD.

Finally, consult the manual (Digital mode operation section) for menu settings which aid in digimode use.
The main one is Menu 38 (Digi mode) and set it to user-U.
This will give the normal operation sideband for most digital modes when you select the "DIG" mode from the FT897 mode list.

Then set Menu 39 where you want the filter centered  (useful with the Audio DSP or narrow IF filters).
They suggest 1500Hz, but I would suggest 1200 Hz as more useful - you can always experiment and change it to taste.

Thats it - short it wasn't, but hope it smooths your way - we have all had to walk over the gravel barefoot one time or other.

73 - Rob

Posts: 30


« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2012, 08:09:19 PM »


Thanks for that information.


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