Thursday, March 5, 2009


I'm on vacation this week, and that means I actually get to experience the grey line. Usually I'm out the door and the thing fly's over my head as I'm walking into work (at least this time of year). Unfortunately not too much has happened on my grey line watch this week. There is a V63 floating around on 160, and my band noise on 160 this morning is -125dBm which is excellent, but no peeps out of Micronesia today.

You have seen the SDR largely through the eyes of a weak signal CW op, so you have been exposed to a great deal of the CW feel of the radio, just through my operating practices. I thought it worth while to actually look at some of the CW features of the rig.

The CW controls are in the mode specific control area of the console. As you change modes these controls change with the mode change, so only controls useful to controlling that mode are displayed. No need for speech processors on CW. PowerSDR has a built in keyer and you have front panel control of the speed up to 60wpm. If your a true high speed bully you'll need something outboard. You can also set up the QSK delay. I set mine to a 60ms turn around. I virtually always run power and I don't care for the machine gun nature of QSK. This speed gives me between word breakin instead of between character and I find it entirely adequate for DX-ing and rag chews. The rig will go down to about 15ms, which is fast enough to things like AMTOR ack ack. A lot has been done to improve CW performance over the iterations of software development and it is very good. The CW character of the rig has been one area where I have participated in the development of the software.

You also have control over the pitch from the front panel. This controls the offset and your sidetone monitor note I usually run 350hz but you can go as low as 200. I think noted contester and DXer W4ZV runs around 250 and he says it makes for him to be able to hear things he otherwise can't hear, and I think he won the miles per mw contest a few years ago so it must be true. I never found that much difference, but I like the lower pitch because it makes the noise lower pitched too which is far less fatiguing.

The other controls allow you to basically turn the keyer on and off. If you uncheck iambic then the key jack on the radio will not go through the keyer software and will just key the rig. This is one way therefore you can use to get an external keyer into the radio, plugged in the key jack, iambic off. I have had it set up so a keyer and a seperate paddle plugged into the key jack on the radio and I could switch between the internal and the external keyers just by changing keys and unchecking or checking iambic, but I changed to a different method:

This is a shot of the CW screen in set up. Here all the controls are displayed. Included in the paths into the radio is a path trough the COM port on the host computer. Therefore you can hae your cake and eat it too. I have my outboard keyer (presently a WINKEY USB) coming in on COM-1, and a paddle plugged into the radio. No need to check or uncheck anything. You can also set up the keying waveform in this screen with the weight and ramp controls. The options allow for various options to be chosen like reverse paddle. The HI RES allows computers that have high precision timers to use those in order to control character formation and space formation. I think this started with Pentium 4 computers and P-3 and lower didn't have this feature. I have run PowerSDR on a P-3 laptop but it takes every last resource so I wouldn't recommend it. I don't know if there is a way to remote com ports. It seems to me I have seen software that allows for that. There is a way to use a paddle on the comport as well, so if you can make comports remote y0u may be able to run a paddle remote base. That would be cool, DXing by the pool.

The way I have things set up today is I have the paddle going into the key jack on the radio, and I use the external keyer and its memories in pileups. I had a switch block made for me, to match my Graciella by Begalli years ago that allows me to access the keyer memories from the desktop Here is a pic

and I got used to using this switch block in the heat of battle. I recently had this key made by N3ZN (whom I highly recommend). We collaborated on the design.

It is a single lever magnetic paddle and it is a dream to use. Over the years I have totally abandoned Iambic paddles. I think the whole argument is stupid. With all those movements in an iambic paddle you are just begging to make mistakes. A single lever on the other hand has less degrees of freedom and therefore less chances to make mistakes when you send. All the truly high speed ops I know who use keys and not keyboards use single lever. The notion that it is somehow easier because it takes less effort is just silly. If you make one mistake all that "effort" you save is lost to correcting your mistake. But that's just my opinion.

Anyway I dig this key. So I use the internal keyer for paddling and the external keyer for memories, but that's just my quirkiness. The radio does have memories and a keyboard built in:

If I want I can use these memories. You can see the fancy light show in the upper left, The red light tells you it is transmitting and the yellow shows each individual character. Here is a shot of some text in the keyboard area

It will send if I uncheck pause or hit F1. I have used the keyboard to make CW contacts while running the rig remote base, but other wise I don't use it. They keyboard will go to 99 wpm so if you're a high speed keyboard bully you're in luck.

Here is a shot of the DSP screen:

It is here that the slope of the filters are set up. What this does is set up the number of memory "bins" that are used in creating the filters. The more bins the steeper the filter, HOWEVER there is a trade off, the more bins the more time it takes to fill (and unfill) them. So if you run highest on everything, you have the most lag. I find with my rig set up like this I get best results for my style of operating. With 512 on the TX on CW there is no discernible lag in the side tone and with the RX set to 4096 I have the most brickiest wall filters on receive, which suits me just fine.

So there ya go! Hope to see you on the band sometime


RE QSK True QSK in the old days happened when there was a transmitting plant that was far away from the receiving site and both were running in full duplex. No half duplex transceiver of today does real QSK. Its all shades of semi-breakin and advertising. Once again the ARRL has mis-shaped our understanding with their advertising. Lemme see "this new antenna has 50 dB of gain" (in the small print "50 dB over a dummy load at 1000th the power")