Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Missing the Bullet and Frequency Entry

This is what it looked like out my bedroom window Monday night

Well ARS W9OY is still standing. As of 2 days ago I was not sure if it was going to stand or be burnt to the ground. My property was in the area of the recent "Iron Horse" fire in central FL. The fire burned to within about a mile of my property. The fire all told burned about 16K acres and at present is only 25% under control, fortunately I live in that 25%. I pre-evacuated all my records and important stuff and had the family down to a 5 minute evacuation but fortunately I didn't have to pull the trigger. I've been in a couple of these types of fire and basically the fire can be viewed as a huge mass of thermal energy that moves with the speed of the wind, and no pip squeak with a garden hose is going to do anything to combat the thermal mass. The thermal mass is essentially a chunky gas, and as such its temperature is unlimited on the upside. Point being when the call comes LEAVE.

I'm going to start a series on frequency entry for Flex radios. You may say "well that's pretty obvious just point and shoot" and for sure that is one method to get frequency data into the radio, but the radio is far more powerful than that.

Today there are a host of programs that interface with the Flex. At my station I always have DX lab suite and CW Skimmer loaded. I am a 99% CW op so I virtually never use point and shoot to enter freq data. I enter freq data from Skimmer. The reason being Skimmer centers my CW signals exactly to coincide with my side tone, and I use very narrow 12hz filters ALL THE TIME. Occasionally I will use a digital program like Ham Radio Deluxe or WinWarbler as the thing that controls my radio's frequency. If I am contesting I typically use the band map in N1MM to control my search and pounce operations. Part of what has been missing is the ability to control other functions of PSDR beside the frequency while PSDR is out of focus and another program window is in focus. To address that issue there has been under development for about 2 years a piece of hardware that lets you address up to 15 commands in PSDR and communicates with PSDR via DDUTIL.

This piece of hardware has a multi-function Knob which has its own switch, and 3 other switches. The switches can address up to 9 functions and the knob can address up to 6 functions. It is in my mind a tremendous advancement in the ergonomics of the radio, and it is the fulfillment of the promise that the radio is amenable to other people developing useful products to improve the radio's performance. I will get into the Knob and its development in a future blog post, as it is quite extensive in its capabilities. The reason I include it under frequency entry is it most definitely is a welcome hardware addition to the available modes of frequency entry.

Also working with Steve we have refined the usability of CW Skimmer in a pile up. Skimmer has the ability to I/O on two different serial ports called Radio 1 and Radio 2. What we did was develop a way so that VFO A data comes I/O on the Radio 1 port and VBO B or VFO TX data comes I/O on the Radio 2 port. What this means is you can use Skimmer to control your transmit VFO when you are in a pileup simply by clicking around on the Skimmer waterfall. I have found this to be an EXTREMELY effective way to work DX, and I will go through a tutorial on how to set this up as well.

First an overview of the native way to get frequency data into PSDR:

Here is a shot of the PSDR console I use every day

There normal methods to change freq are to "grab" the panadapter:

To get the little hand make sure the cursors are off, and left click the mouse. Moving the mouse left and right moves the freq down and up.

Next is the vaunted Point and Shoot method

to get here you first right click the panadapter to bring up the yellow cross hairs, and then move the cross hairs to the freq you desire to occupy and left click the mouse. BAM you are on Freq

Note the change in VFO A's freq

To change the transmit freq in cursor mode you right click again and red cursors pop up

Left click and VFO B (typically your transmit VFO when you are split) and shades of Emeril (BAM that is) VFO B is on a new freq. This is very useful for moving around in pileups especially if you don't use other software to control freq.

Another method is to use the mouse wheel like a tuning knob. When used in conjunction with the Freq Steps in the VFO area of the console

If you click the - or + it changes the freq step from 1hz to 10mhz in 14 step size variations

In addition you can highlight one or the other of the VFO's and either use the mouse to raise and lower and digit or you can keyboard entry the freq directly.

In Diversity mode the display looks like this

Notice a new display is under VFO A. I call this VFO TX . In this mode there are three independent processes that are active Receiver 1 is in the VFO A slot, Receiver B is in the VFO B slot, and TX is in VFO TX slot. In the case of the diversity mode VFO A and VFO B are slaved. The yellow cursor changes both receive VFO's and

note 14.013 goes to 14.009

The red cursor changes VFO TX

If VFO A and B are not synced then the yellow cursor in the correct panadapter field will independently change VFO A or B

In the next installment I will look at CAT commands and Frequency control. CAT commands are the heart of remotely controlling PSDR. Over the course of the last decade the CAT command set has grown from a very basic Kenwood set to a highly specialized set of extremely powerful commands.

I'm going to label these posts "frequency entry" for easy cataloging of this series