Monday, April 27, 2015

Another Interface

A recent thread on the Flex Community page discussed other possible interfaces to access the radio.  DDUTIL has a very powerful alternative interface and I thought I would do a quick primer for those interested in giving it a whirl

This is how DDUTIL looks as it normally resides on my desktop

You can notice several extra screens are present.  On the top is the Quick Memory device which I am always using to scratchpad memories as I work people.  Below are 3 screens combined on one title bar

Misc is the highlighted screen and is this

It gives me access to auto drive, my LP-100A wattmeter, the S meter in digital format, and a brand new feature called Annunciators.  These are buttons that allow you to control radio functions and when active "annunciate" by a color change.  You can see nb is turned on.  The color will change regardless of what switch turns nb off and on. be it this switch, my Genovation keypad, MacButtons, the switch on SSDR or if I have the nb macro entered into the FlexControl.  I can also use the keyboard F buttons like F1 F2 etc, so I have 5 ways to turn on nb and 2 of them are focus independent (keypad and FC).

The other screens are for the FC

And MacButtons

MB is a 48 spot matrix of buttons that allow you to fire Macros stored in those slots  

Here is a shot of part of the macro database (slots 29-42)

30-38 are special

These map to the FC

So if I single click left macro M30 fires.  M30 or DD6SAR0:1; turns on REC on slice 0.  Double click left fires DD6SAR0:0; and recording shuts off.  Middle has playback.  Single middle DD6SAP0:1; turns on playback.  Double click middle and playback shuts off DD6SAP0:0;  The third button has a toggle function.  It will toggle 2 other macros.  So if I single click Right DDTG00:030:031;  will first fire M30 or which turns on Rec.  If I single press again M31 will fire and turn off Rec.  Likewise double click Right and M33 will fire turning on PB.  Double click again M34 fires and PB shuts off  DDTG00:033:034;

I included the macros so you can cut and paste for a quick experience.  The macros are unforgiving to syntax errors.  If they are not entered exactly correctly they will not work and an error message will ensue.  Also if you try to fire an empty slot a error message will ensue and the thing locks up till the error message is cleared 

Here I pressed button 26 which is empty.  If this message somehow disappears below another screen you will be scratching your chin until you press OK.  The toggle effectively expands the number of commands available to 18 on the FC buttons and everything is toggled.  You can stick the toggled commands elsewhere and the DDUTIL database is expandable by double clicking the last entry.  This preserves button space.  Here is an example of some of my macros  

These are all part of a toggle pair and reside in slots not connected to a button.  I do have some button commands that are not toggle and just long strings of macros


This sets the active TX slice to 1, mutes slice 1, locks slice 0, set filters on both slices to 50hz centered on 0.

This is how I like to run pileups.  So I tune in the DX hit my CW macro and proceed

In order to use the FlexControl you have to disassociate the control from SSDR and hook it to DDUTIL

Another feature of the FC is the ability to adjust Audio and AGC-T

A long press on the shaft encoder moves you to the B controls.  Another long press moves you back to A.  The audio and AGC controls follow the yellow triangle (see above) so I can adjust both slices.  DD6SSRx; sets the active RX slice so you could set up a toggle in long left to switch that back and forth... and so on and so on and scooby dooby dooby (to quote Sly Stone).  The record and playback functions are a good place to start if you want to play with this takes you to SSDR and DDUTIL specific commands  Things with a 6 are SSDR 6000 specific things without a number but begin with a DD are like CAT commands for DDUTIL.  takes you to PSDR CAT commands many of which also work with SSDR some do not.  They begin with ZZ

73  W9OY   


Here is a really handy set of macros;

7 VFOB Split   DD6SPL01;DDME80;DDME8;

8 CW Macro   DD6SSX1;DD6AUM1:1;DD6FIL0:2:+0000:00050;DD6FIL1:2:+0000:00050; 

80 Set Split DD6SPL01;

Macro 7 (VFOB Split  will turn on VFO B in a slice, separate VFOB from VFOA by 1 khz, set VFOA and VFOB filter bandwidth to 50hz, mute VFOB   This is useful if you tune onto a DX station engaged in a pileup who is working split  DDME is a command that calls another maro.  So 7 turns on VFOB, and then calls macro 80 which separates VFOA and VFOB by 1khz and sets VFOB to the TX VFO.  It then calls Macro 8 (DDME8) which mutes VFOB and sets both filters to 50hz.  You just then have to tune VFOB to the spot on which you wish to transmit  

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Robot Radio

Know what you get when you combine

Flex 6300


Modified RCS-4

Unified Microsystems BCD-10

Sint Smart USB-8 Denkovi relay knockoff

99 cent 12v to 5v DC to DC voltage converter


You get a 1200 watt 160-10M band following, antenna following DX/Contest dream machine.   In the old days of the Flex 5000 I had my radio station set up with 2 channels of 1 KW band switching radio.  I had more antennas and was playing around trying to turn the F5K into a SO2R in a box radio station.  It almost worked.  The biggest problem was a contest program that would control the radio properly.  I had the hardware pretty much working,  I contacted the boys at N1MM and they basically told me to pound sand so the project languished.

1 year ago Greg K5GJ called me up and asked if I wanted to try out a new radio they wanted to release at Dayton.  I had some money in the bank so I said sure what the heck.  I had been off the air for about 4 years.  I had a lightning strike in 2010 and started a new business and had teen age daughters so I had been plowing other fields but after 4 years it was time to give the "new SmartSDR architecture" a whirl.   I was pleased to get literally one of the first 6300's about 6 weeks before Dayton.  The rest is history.  I've been very pleased with the radio.  But I missed the old F5K radio robot I had designed.  I eventually knew I would make the 6300 get up and tap dance like the 5K.  

This weekend I finished putting together all the pieces.  My biggest hurdle was getting Yaesu BCD out of the radio to control the rest of the station.  Previously I had used a LPT port to export the control data but my new computer had no LPT and no way to install one.  I fooled around with some kludgey attempts but you need a real port which acts as a printing terminal not a USB printer dongle to get the job done.  I noticed DDUTIL could address a Denkovi relay board.   A Denkovi was developed as a means to have a computer control the outside world.  The board plugs into a USB port and via software you can control 8 relays one at a time up to all at once.  NOW THAT'S THE TICKET!  I also saw Steve K5FR had made the board to follow the band data of the Flex 6xxx according to Yaesu BCD.  What the hell is Yaesu BCD??

Yaesu wanted to use BCD to control peripherals so they cam up with this code.

So what I needed was a way to send 4 bits of 1's and 0's down the line to my peripherals that spoke Yaesu BCD.  One peripheral is my amp 

There is a band switch position called REM   


When in this position, this box tells my amp how to act when presented with BCD.  This box is modified slightly and would allow the amp top be placed in a closet and still be reset if there was a default.  For my purposes I need this to connect the radio (actually voltages from the USB-8 board) to the amp.  I also use voltages from the USB-8 to drive the Unified Microsystems board 

If you look closely to the bottom you see the tell tale DCBA BCD input.  So if I shoot 0011 into this board the relay that is connected to my 40M 1/2 wave vertical will turn on.  0001 gives me 160M, 0010 gives me 80M etc.  I use a modified RCS-4 to translate 0001 into something that actually turns on my 160M antenna.  

I get a lot of requests on how to modify the RCS-4 and I had a schematic once but it's lost on some long defunct hard drive.  It's pretty strait forward however.  The way the RCS-4 works is it sends 4 signals down the coax  +V, -V, AC, and 0V.  Diodes and relay coil choice steer the correct antenna port.  What I did was to lift the center (wiper) of the switch and run that signal through some relays and then to each of the poles of the switch.  The wiper is what sends the signal to the coax to be sent down the line and the poles have the signals so by using the outputs of the BCD-10 (160-10) I can choose which relay I want to fire and therefore send the correct signal down the line to be decoded by the relay box.  I used double pole relays, and send the correct LED signal to the control box as well so when I switch on 40M the LED labeled 40M on the control box lights up and tells me what antenna was chosen.  I made all of this switchable so I can toggle back to the normal manual mode or into auto mode.  It actually works great and someday when I get a chance I may do an article on how to modify the switch.  It is very strait forward however.

Finally how do I make 0's and 1's?  This is my favorite part.  A 1 is really 5 volts.  A 0 is 0 volts.  I could probably have picked up 5 volts from the USB line on the USB-8 but I already have like 8 things plugged into my USB ports on my computer so I decided to break up a 12V cell phone charger and scrounge that for my 0's and 1's.  The board goes to the 12V bus and yields 5.1V at about 2 amps.  I simply route that through the 4 relays of the USB-8 that turn on and off to according to Yaesu BCD and voila' I have my 4 bits.  DDUTIL takes care of which relays turn off and on and the 4 bits gets shipped to DCBA on the Unified Micro board and into the correct pins on the radio jack of the ARI-500  RJ-45 jack  

There is other magic you can do.  I use my 80M vertical on 80, 30, 17, 15, 12, and 10.  I have specific high performance antennas for 160 80 40 and 20 but the 80 M antenna works pretty well through a tuner on the other bands, well enough to work 6 band DXCC in 6 months on 80, 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, and I have 89 on 10M.  So by paralleling some jumbers on the BCD-10 as I switch through the bands I get 160, 80, 40, 80, 20, 80, 80, 80, 80.  A quick tune with my MFJ-998 and I'm ready to go on the non resonant bands, or I can use the MFJ to switch to the dipole and tune that up.  Tuning is a one button affair using my Genovation Key Pad through DDUTIL.  My tuning macro turns off the amp keyline, turns on tune, then turns off tune and turns the amp keyline back on.

So that's my deal this month.  My amp and ant band follow through the magic of DDUTIL and a few off the shelf boxes.  The USB-8 was $30, the BCD-10 $19, the RCS-4 was $75 used and the 5 V converter was 99 cents.  The experience of making my radio do exactly what I  want, priceless.  There is even more flexibility here, like the ability to custom tune a antenna for the top and bottom of the band, but it's too much to go into at this setting.  I'll perhaps describe that another time.  Here is a rough schematic of the 6300 station at W9OY

73  W9OY 

Friday, April 3, 2015


I was looking at possibly incorporating  a loop style antenna into my station.  The Flex 6300 has a transverter input which will QSK at 100+ wpm silently.  I discovered this while watching N4LQ's video describing QSK in his 6300.  I had been thinking about how to proceed on a separate RX antenna and of course the Flex boys use Waldo at all the hamfests

It's a running joke perpetrated by W5GJ and W4TME "Where's Waldo" followed by a pic of Waldo out behind the convention center somewhere.  Waldo is a Pixel magnetic Moebius loop antenna which is largely impervious to noise and works quite well at the hamfests.  I did a little research and found the competition was loop antennas made by Wellbrook in England.  So what to choose?  There are a couple of fairly extensive shootout tests exploring the behavior between the 2 antennas.  In some Wellbrook seems clearly superior and in other tests Pixel is the winner.  So which did I choose?   Neither.  Both the Wellbrook and the Pixel loop antennas are quite expensive in the $400 -$500 dollar range and both seem to need a rotor.  Just in general it offends me to pay $500 for a receive only antenna.  

Wellbrook has some other options, a medium aperture and large aperture device.  I looked at the large aperture device, the ALA100 and it hooks to a 20M loop (as in 60ft circumference) which is pretty big.  I next looked at the medium aperture device  the ALA100M and it hooks to a loop between 3 and 10M in circumference.  Now your talking.


My 23ft circumference loop

The ALA100M is a preamp, a power injector which ships power down the coax and a little brick supply.  If you choose to supply your own voltage NOTE, the center pin is neg and the outer ring is pos so be careful.  

The loopwas made from a couple of 3/8" 8 ft pieces of fiberglass from Maxgain ($5.50 per acquired at Orlando hamfest) and the center these arms are zip tied to Is a thin light $1 piece of circuit board material (1ft x 1 ft) obtained locally at a surplus store.  The wire around the perimeter is some #14 bare copper I had laying around.  So the loop cost me $12 and the ALA100M was $232 plus shipping, half of the $500 price tag and I can see no need for a rotor.  The whole loop is about 2 lbs.   I had a 25 ft fiberglass post in the back yard so I secured the loop with a couple of hose clamps and away we go!

Loop on 160

Lightning noise source off the FL coast of my house

160M inv-L

The little program on the left is DDUTIL and gives a readout of peak and ave S meter readings.  Also you can see which ANT is being used as it reads out in red in one of the system boxes in DDUTIL.  Bottom line much lower noise both to the offshore lightning and the local line hash -85 dBm vs -105 dBm  Big improvement!

80M full size vert


On 80M the difference is -91 dBm vs -113 dBm on the loop

These are shots of V6Z on 40M this morning  

V6Z on 40M 1/2 wave vertical 

V6Z on Loop

-98 dBm vs -118 dBm notice the intensity of V6Z's signal on the second shot vs the first.  In the first I could tell he was there but he was not copy-able.  On the second shot he was Q5 even though still very weak.  I tried the loop all the way up to 10M where I was greated by a VK6 perfectly copy-able on the loop but uncopy-able on my 55ft dipole on that band.  

I made a little demo video, worth a look if your considering a RX loop antenna.  I would consider phasing a pair of these on the diversity receiver of a 6700, if I had a 6700.  I'm very pleased.  I made a toggle macro between ANT1 and XVTR on my Genovation keypad so all I have to do is push one button to compare.

73  W9OY