Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Quick Contest Demo Video and Rundown of My Present Contest Configuration.

A request was made on the Flex Facebook page for a demo video of a contest program like N1MM+.  N1MM+ is compatible with the 6000 series of radios but its connections are via CAT.  I prefer Writelog.  Ed W2RF has integrated WriteLog, CWSkimmer, and ve7cc cluster client into a tightly integrated contest suite which connects to the radio in a server/client fashion.  As such the behavior is far more robust and quicker than with CAT.  The trio of programs (WriteLog Skimmer, ve7cc) and SDR-Bridge integrate to give you a clear understanding of what is going on in the spectra received.  I have a 6300 with 2 panadapteres but with a 6500 or 6700 you can monitor the activity on up to 4 bands and you can populate up to 4 bandmaps.

The integration is as follows:

If you click the above pic all the way to the left are 2 skimmerfalls, one on 40 and one on 20.  Stations decoded by skimmer, that is stations I am actually receiving at my station are transferred to the WriteLog bandmaps.  If I had 4 waterfalls as in the 6500 I could decode 4 bands at once.  I also am decoding spots provided by ve7cc (the program in the lower right) and those spots are also added to the proper bandmap.

From this box I pretty much run the contest.  If I click on a callsign in the bandmap it is entered into the logbox.  I can then make the contact tab to the fields and enter the data, press enter and the contact is logged.  If I am running I enter the data by keyboard, and that station if not already there is added to the bandmap and his callsign is turned dark blue.  Any station I work is turned dark blue so I can keep track visually

The fact that I can populate bandmap with local signals is very powerful

I also use DDUTIL to control my FlexControl, AKA the Knob.  It makes for rapid ability to tune either VFO.  TX focus follows which "radio" is active.  In other words if the 20M window is active the transmitter goes with that window.  If the 40M window is active the transmitter goes with that window.  Window focus switches using the up/down cursor keys on the keyboard or by clicking the radio the bandmap or skimmer.  

I also control my radio using the Genovation keypad 

Both of these are always available in that I can be in any window and press a button or turn the knob and the radio will respond.  The keypad allows up to 47 key combinations which will fire macros contained in DDUTIL.  I can immediately change the screen width for example with a single button press.

One press centers the VFO in the panadapter and sets the pan to 19khz bandwidth.  

One press takes me to a 60khz wide shot, and one press takes me back to 19khz.  You can do many things at once.  I have a CWDX macro which locks VFOA on the DX, mutes VFOB, sets the bandwidth to 50hz, and the TX to VFOB for immediate use in a pileup.  There are literally hundreds of possibilities.  One button turns off the TX line to my amp, turns on tune at 10W allowing me to tune my tuner which will fire a tuning cycle automatically.  One more press of the same button undoes what the first press did, and I am ready to transmit a KW and I never worry about getting things out of sequence.  This works with all 4 of my amps no matter which I choose.  

This board allows me to pull BCD band data out of my radio which allows my smart amp and smart antenna switch to follow my radio's freq.  So when I choose 20M the amp and antenna are on 20M ready to go.  When I choose 40M every thing falls into place and I'm ready to transmit.  

Included is a little primer video I made to show some of this in action 

Best viewed in 720 or 1080.

The wires that connect all this are the I/Q and regular audio feeds from DAX 

With the software described everything is connected to the radio in a independent client/server fashion.  SDR-Bridge, DDUTIL and SSDR all have their own IP addresses and independently address the API of the radio.  This is why things run soooo smoothly.  There are no bottle necks and no crashes.  I could also adde other programs through SmartCAT

You can see the CAT program also connects to the radio in a client/server fashion.  

Here is a map of various ports I have presently configured.  These are real ports, usb ports (like winkeyer, Genovation keypad and my 2 flex controls I use one on the 6300 and one on my Anan 100D) and 5 virtual pairs which work with any program like DXLab and Winwarbler,

There are other ways to deploy the station but this is the configuration I am using this month.  Who knows what next month brings.  It's a very powerful system, well beyond what you can do with legacy radios.  This description does not address all of the subtlety of the programs and interconnections but gives a good flavor of what is possible.  None of this is in stone.  The program authors are very amenable to building a better mousetrap.    

73  W9OY

Friday, March 20, 2015

Back on 160

My 160 ant fell down a few years ago and at the time I was having significant back problems so I never really took the time to raise it.  I schemed on how to improve it.  It's basically an inverted L tipped a little backward

The ground is center of my 4000' of radials and the high point is a big old pine about 25 ft back from the center of the radials.  The horizontal connects to another pine about 70 north of the other tree 

EZ NEC predicts a good pattern

This is the actual SWR of the finished product.  Now to see what trouble I can get into on 160.

73  W9OY


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Genovation Buttons

A=116, SFI=115.  That means I'm not working any DX of note so I decided to hook up this keypad to my DDUTIL V3 program.  This is a Genovation 684-U V 6.0  keypad.  On the DDUTIL Yahoo group I mentioned my idea to Steve K5FR to develop a method to control my radio without regard to program focus.  I presented some cheap keypad alternatives but in the end it was this baby that was tagged to fill the bill.  The other keypads were basically treated by Windows as a entry method that was an extension of the keyboard.  In other words as a device to enter numbers into say a spreadsheet or database.  What I wanted was a way to press a button and have that button change my Ant selection from Ant-1 to Ant-2 to Transverter and I wanted to be able to do that immediately without having to choose a window on the desktop before the keypresses would have an effect.  

Steve came up with the Genovation 684-U which is a USB based 4 x 6 matrix of buttons.  Steve programmed for a total of 46 possible macro executions as the lower right button acts as a shift key.  Programming is in a few steps.  First load the driver and various genovation utilities from the CD.  Check the device manager to determine the port assigned

In my case COM 5   The keypad must be on a port between 1 and 16.

Next copy the file DDUsample.ckd which is in the DDUTIL directory into the genovation MacroMaster684 key pad editor's folder

The folder is located in documents.  The path is shown above.  This file loads data into the buttons which when pressed will cause DDUTIL to execute what ever macro is in the macro slot for that button.  This means you can customize your station to meet your exact needs to your hearts content.

Load the DDUsample.cdk file into the editor

Set the editor to write to the correct port and "download" into the memory of the keypad following the instructions.  

Next set the port in other tab of DDUTIL

I had to reboot DDUTIL to get things to "take"

Next put the macros of interest into the button slots on the macro tab in the DDUTIL setup menu

There are many macro commands dating back to the SDR-1000 days.  PowerSDR commands are some variation of ZZXX.  Some of the ZZ commands work with the Signature series some don't.  SmartSDR 6000 specific DDUTIL commands are some variation DD6XXX or DDXX.

You can write very complex commands that will do multiple things with a single button press.  I'm very pleased with this addition.  It works perfectly.

Here are a couple of macro examples:

I run a couple broadband Amplifiers that do not require tuning, and that do not turn on unless the TX line is enabled and a TX signal is sent from the radio down that line.  I also have a MFJ-998 tuner.  If I press button 47, the TX line becomes disabled and the radio goes into tune.  

The MFJ-998 sees about 12 W and enters a tuning cycle.  Once tuned, I hit button 48 which turns off tune in the radio and re-enables the TX line and I am ready to transmit at full power.  

Super simple and I am never hitting the MFJ-998 with amplifier power till it is ready to accept it.  It fool proofs the tuning experience.  The next 2 commands are for when I am running with the AGC off.  If a loud station comes on freq I hit button 45 and the radio immediately goes into AGC-fast, saving my ears.  Once the loud station stops transmitting I hit button 46 and revert to AGC-off.  I use AGC-off as a means to try and really dig the weak ones out of the mud.  With macros 43,44 I can turn the RCA tx line off and on.  But wait a minute, what I really want is to toggle these commands.  For that I use a macro for a macro, I use the Toggle macro DDTG

With this command I can combine several macros (up to 10) to fire in a linear step wise sequence with each button press.  In this case push 17 once and RCA tx off, TUNE on happens (the macro in 47) press 17 again and Tune off, RCA tx on happens (the macro in 48).  This makes for one button toggle!  Excellent!  There are tons of these kinds of sequences that can be concocted for a true customization that makes the radio behave exactly as you want.

I found out today I can use the USB-8 relay board with DDUTIL as a frequency agile BCD line driver. 

This board is on sale from Sain Smart SKU:20-018-908 I can use this as a method to drive my BCD lines that make my amp and antenna switch band follow without resorting to a LPT port.  I've been trying to figure out a cheap reliable solution this for nearly a year, and Steve already figured it out!  It's in the mail so I will report when I get that running.  I'm excited!!

73  W9OY

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


DDUTIL as the Icon suggests is the Swiss Army Knife that connects my Flex radio to the rest of the universe.  It connects to the Signature series through the Flex server/client API

Once connected it can perform a great laundry list of functions.  For example:  It can direct CAT traffic to many other programs 

In this case COM 19 connects me to the powerful DXLab suite of logging and cluster software.  If I click on a cluster spot that data is loaded into the log, and the freq and mode and split if any is loaded into my radio through DDUTIL.  If I click the radio, that data is transferred to Commander in the DXLab suite and is available to use in the logging program or in the digital mode client in that program (Winwarbler).  Up to 5 programs can be connected simultaneously, plus CWskimmer.  So you can click tune the radio from DXLab and also communicate with the radio and maybe a contest program.   Skimmer works a little differently.  If you have a second VFO active it can keep VFO A on the DX and click tune VFO B using the skimmerfall.  The point being you can have a much richer interaction between software and the radio using the multiple CAT feature.  

DDUTIL can automatically control 7 frequency agile amps making your radio into a 1500w transceiver depending on the amp.

It can automatically set the drive level for up to 2 amplifiers

THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE FEATURES!  I have several amps.  One is an Alpha 78 which is a great amp but the squirrel nut (8874) tubes have only 5 watts of grid dissipation each  (15w total) and I sure as hell don't want to blow them out (major expense).  One of my other amps is solid state (ALS-1300).  If you hit this amp with too much drive it trips and turns itself off and you have to go through a reset dance.  Auto drive automatically sets the drive, as well as barefoot power level.  


Note the button in DDUTIL Auto Drive is yellow and says STBY.  As well the icon in the Taskbar has a prominent yellow dot.  With Auto Drive active 

Things go green.  Perfect!  Also a new feature is the ability to choose amp 1 or 2 without going into setup.

Check out these new buttons!  While he was at it Steve added some new macros and annunciators (note the color change when a button is pressed whether on DDUTIL, or a macro, or on the radio itself.  Makes it incredibly easy at a glance to determine the state of a slice!)  You can cycle through all 4 AGC choices, apf toggle, mute toggle, nb toggle, VFO lock toggle, RF (AKA ANT on the left flag which controls preamp etc all choices covered),  MUTE (which mutes the speaker in the upper right)  Tune which toggles the tune button, and AMP which chooses the Auto Drive power profile for each AMP.  Things in caps are applied to the whole radio like Speaker MUTE or RF.  Things in lower case are applied to a slice.  The slice can be chosen by clicking through the open slices 

In my case I have a 6300 so I have slice 0,1 as my choice and when I toggle through RF I have to go through all the choices to get my preamp to turn on and off.  Works for me and gives the boys with the bigger radios great Flexibility to set up a slice all with a couple clicks.  In addition Macros have been created for all of these functions and Macros means you can move all this off to the Genovation keypad or the FlexControl buttons.

I use the DDUTIL knob controlling software as opposed to the native SSDR flex control.  I was part of the development team for this device and find this software has a bit more depth and utility.  One thing it has access to are  the macro definitions.  

Slots TkSw1-9 or macro slots 30-38 attach to the Knob buttons 30 is one press on the left button, 31 is double press on left button and 32 is long press on left button.  The next 3 (33-35) are center button same press sequence and the last 3 (36-38) are right button.  

Lately I've been running my radio with the AGC off and I really like the effect, BUT if someone is loud my ears are blasted.  I have AGC-fast as my choice for 1 click on left button.  This immediately switches the AGC to "fast"when I push the button and it happens regardless of the program focus.  After Mr Big Sig ceases his assault on my ears I double click left button and go back to "off".  This gives a very fast muscle memory response to the dilemma as opposed to having to figure out what to do.  This is another great feature!  

I have my LP-100 watt meter connected to a serial port and the readings are repeated on the front of DDUTIL 

Several other meters are represented.  I find this very useful when I want a screen shot of power or SWR

Other gives access to some truly powerful station control.  You can control rotors, steppir antennas, station controllers, TCP servers, the Genovation key pad, etc.  I have a Genovation but I don't have it programmed yet.  

BCD is one of the most powerful aspects of station control.  When I had the F5K station going I had EVERYTHING running off BCD.  I could switch antennas on 2 different antenna switches, which would band follow the freq, I could band switch my ALS-1300 to the right band.  DXing or contesting was merely selecting the band via a cluster click and hitting the key.  The correct amp, antenna, path to the antenna and power was all automatic.  My present computer does not have the LPT port and does not have slots to install a card so presently I'm SOL, but if you have access to this do not miss!  

There is a screen which will drive the rotor to a given direction based on callsign/entity data and one that revelas all the macros

Macros can be strung together to do very complex tasks.  I had a macro which would switch the antenna I used for diversity, set the power, start tune on a tuner, then stop tune, reset the antenna back to diversity, and turn on diversity.   I also had macros which would configure PSK on 20M at one button press VERY POWERFUL and totally eliminated the idiot factor.  I never sent power down the line without first choosing the correct antenna path

Two more things I really like

The S meter readout in S units and dBm both average and peak displayed all the time and 

This stores up to 5 memories from whatever slice is chosen in a rotating fashion.  I use the heck out of this.  I can monitor some pileups switching back and forth.  I always memorize a DX station's freq in case I bump the knob or click the wrong thing.  I can switch to VFO and tune the band and immediately switch back to a memory.  If nothing is interesting on the memory channel I can hit VFO and continuing tuning up the band from where I left off.

There are some points I know I've missed.  It's such a comprehensive program it's hard to remember or discuss all the features without writing a book.  It is very mature and very stable and it just works.  Hats off to Steve K5FR for providing such a rich experience

73  W9OY