Sunday, December 09, 2012

Flex 5000 Diary - HRD, Virtual Stuff, and Digital Modes

I'm so sorry... I have not been diligent on updating the blog or reporting on the continued progress of the Flex 5000 Diary.

Well maybe I'm not sorry? Maybe the reason I haven't done an update is that I've been having so much damn fun learning and doing new things.

Things like...
  • Testing my summer antenna projects with a Rig Expert antenna analyzer.
  • Joining the Executive of my local ham radio club (Vice President).
  • Connecting my Flex to Ham Radio Deluxe via virtual serial ports and virtual audio cables.
  • Getting things setup for digital modes and making a dozen or so contacts via PSK31.
  • Voicing a news story for Amateur Radio Newsline Episode #1831
  • Installing a Kenwood dual band mobile in my car and moving my ham plates onto the car.
With all that said the notable new stuff for my Flex 5000 Diary HRD connectivity and digital modes.

Ham Radio Deluxe is a CAT control program meant for a serial or USB connection between your CAT compatible transceiver and your computer. I was a big fan of HRD prior to the Flex when it was paired with my Yaesu via serial port for CAT control and logging.

With the FlexRadio the PowerSDR software already controls the radio and adding a second control application on the same PC creates the question 'how does a computer connect to itself via a serial port' Can you have one app using serial port COM1 and then a cable looping back into the same PC on COM2? Well that sounds silly and there is a much better solution Virtual Com Ports.

I used a program called vspMgr to create a phony pair of serial ports inside of Windows. These two virtual com ports appear to the system as two normal com ports, but in reality that are paired to each other. One sends it's traffic to the other, and the other sends it traffic back to the first. So it's the same results as two seperate com ports looped to each other, but without any cables! In this case I created a pair of ports COM7 and COM8. In PowerSDR the software from Flex I configured it to use COM7 for a CAT communication port. Then in Ham Radio Deluxe I configured it to use COM8 to connect to the radio. BANG! virtual serial port connections between two applications on the same PC.

Next step is audio links between the same two applications. This would traditionally be done via audio cables between the radio and the soundcard in or external to your computer. But using another application called VAC (virtual audio cable). I'm able to create audio links that operate exactly like the virtual serial port pairs. PowerSDR and Ham Radio Deluxe are sharing audio back and forth within the operating system with no 'real' audio cables.

Just to be clear the only physical connection between the radio and the computer is just the firewire 1394 cable, no 'real' serial cables or audio cables.

So with that completed I can fire up the Flex 5000, then load up PowerSDR software.

Then I can load up HRD to access all my saved favorites, the built in logger app, and digital modes app.

Some have commented that I don't need all of HRD and I can get away with smaller lighter applications that just do logging and digital modes, but right now I'm sticking with the app that feels familiar. This is already a lot of learning I'm doing on my own, so forgive me if I take it one step at a time.

With all these connections working it was time to load the Digital Master 780 application within the HRD package and get onto PSK digital mode for the very first time as a licensed amateur.

As you can see from the QSL cards posted below I was working Hawaii and Switzerland in the first weekend with about 30-35 watts!