Sunday, October 16, 2011

AP Sprint (Fall, CW) @Futtsu Point

I made a short trip to Futtsu Point, Chiba to kick ass in AP Sprint CW (20/15m). This is a mobile action.
Futtsu (pronounced like Footz) Point is located along the inner coastline of Boso Peninsula. It is some 50km away from my Tokyo home, but it's a comfy one hour driving via Aqua-Line Way.
The point is at the tip of shallow sandy land which has almost no elevation, and most importantly, open for nearly all directions. The best place for ham radio!
Apparently it's a place for surfing.
Straight to the west, you can even see Mt. Fuji (shady at the center of the picture).
Parked my Alfa 156 near the shore. The antenna is base-loaded whip by Diamond (MD-200). The element length is about 2m.
From another perspective. Radio sporting with Alfa Romeo. That's hot!
There is a huge, frame-built observatory overlooking Tokyo Bay at the tip of the Point.
At the controls. IC-706 control head is installed on its side to save the console's real estate. A paddle is located near the shift knob.
I use TR4W for most occasions.

And here is the result.

  AP Sprint 2011 Fall CW (20/15m)
  Call: JG1VGX/M, Location: Futtsu Point, Chiba
  Band  Qs  Pfx
  15CW  17
  20CW  19
  Total 36 x 21 = 756 points

This is not especially a spectacular result, but perhaps a good one for a mobile. Not many stations were around. I have enjoyed anyway. Thanks guys for taking up my weak signals.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Setting up DVK via USB for TS-590

Digital voice keyer (DVK or DVP, digital voice processor) is a mandatory part of SSB contesting.
TS-590's USB audio I/F eliminates the need for an extra analog audio I/F for digital modes and DVK operation, which is a good news. We will be freed from worries like audio isolation, hum etc. However, setting it up is not so straightforward. Here's how.

  • (Optional) Install the Virtual COM Port Driver if you want to use CAT as well.
  • Hook up TS-590 with a PC using a USB cable. Generic USB audio driver is then automatically installed.
    • Please remember that Kenwood-supplied ARUA-10 (USB Audio Controller) software is NOT required for this operation. It's intended for audio routing within a PC and used for other purposes like remote control.
  • Set Menu 63 Audio input line selection for data communication to USB.
    • This is confusing because Kenwood likes to use the word 'data' for any audio communication through the back ports (USB or ACC2) while you can actually pass anything like voice.
Initially I thought this was enough and I'm ready to go for DVK. PTT can be triggered through CAT. On testing, reception was OK but there was no audio transmission even though PC Audio OUT is correctly set to USB Audio CODEC. Why?

4.2. Setting Transmission Methods for Audio Input to the Rear Terminal  
The [SEND] keys on the PTT of the microphone connected to the TS-590S, and on the TS-590S control panel, are the method for transmitting audio input to the microphone connected to the TS-590S, so even if these operations are implemented, audio entered as audio signals from USB cannot be transmitted.
 It continues (abridged):
To transmit audio input as audio signals from the USB, select one of the following methods.
● Transmitting using the ARCP-590  
● Use the ACC2 Connector’s PKS port to transmit. 
This setting allows you to transmit audio received by the rear terminal by setting the PKS port in the ACC2 Connector on the back of the TS-590S to “Low.” 
● Use the PF key assigned to the DATA SEND function to transmit.
By assigning the PF key to the DATA SEND function, the PF key can be used to transmit audio received by the rear terminal.
Apparently, Kenwood separated Data PTT from Mic PTT for some reason. I don't know why this was done. As a fail-safe method? And what PKS stands for? PacKet Send, perhaps?

Now I'm not going to use ARCP-590 and the PF key thing is impractical, so we have only one option to choose - PKS keying. However, homebrewing a COM-ACC2(PKS) cable (perhaps with an opto-isolator) only for this purpose and hooking it up using a USB-COM converter is not nice. It will spoil the beauty of single USB connection so much.
Postscript: Ian G3NRW has taught me that each of the two methods of PTT (mic and data) mutes the other audio path, thus to avoid mixing up unwanted audio. This now perfectly makes sense to me.
Keying the PKS
I've found two other options to key the PKS without the need for a dedicated ACC2 cable. You need either one not the both.
(1) Use Data VOX.
    • Set Menu 69 VOX operation with data input to ON.
      • This VOX properly triggers PKS, which usual mic VOX won't.
    • Problem with this method is that any PC sound may trigger the VOX and will be transmitted, such as beeps and Windows startup sound.
(2) Assign PKS to DB9 port.
    • This is not in the Menu. By powering on while holding on FM/AM you will momentarily see the message 'PSQ/PKS' in the display. Now PKS is assigned to pin 7 of the DB9 back port which you can trigger using RTS from PC software, much the same way as usual PTT. See TS-590 Instruction Manual for details.
    • With this method unnecessary transmission is less likely but we need a second cable between the PC, which is a little undesirable.
Either way, DON'T trigger the usual (mic) PTT too. It will mute the back port audio (USB/ACC2) even if you use Data VOX or PKS. In most control software, 'PTT via CAT' must be DISABLED.
There is a PC control command that triggers the PKS (data PTT) instead of mic PTT. So if software properly supports this for DVK function, then we can achieve real 'single USB cable DVK'.
Anyway now you are ready to go for DVK. I have tested this with N1MM and TR4W and it worked great!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

USB <=> TTL <=> RS232C(Serial, COM)

While I was thinking about homebrewing PC control cables for various TRXs, I became quite confused so I made a schimatic to help me understand the issue.
In today's serial communications, there are three 'states' which are 'USB', 'TTL(UART)' and 'RS232C'. The source of the confusion comes from the fact that each maker employs a different method to hook up their TRXs to a PC.

ICOM's CI-V certainly is a nice idea, but it requires a rather proprietary adapter (CT-17). Kenwood/Yaesu fixed TRXs are more handy as they have a DB9 port so can be hooked up with a generic cable (plus a USB-Serial adapter).

It is known that CI-V and FT-817/857/897 cables are easily homebrewed using a USB-UART conversion IC such as FT232R or even utilizing an old mobile phone cable.

As to the GPS sported VX-8G, direct RS232C level signals apparently come out at the data jack. Yaesu sells CT-143 cable for connecting it with a PC, which perhaps is merely a direct wiring to a DB9 connector, not like the CT-62 level converter cable.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Review of Cloud File Syncing Services

I've been a big fan of Microsoft's Live Mesh beta until its scheduled cease of service on March 31, 2011. Microsoft suggests users to move to the new Windows Live Sync service (not beta) which won't support XP anymore. I can't step on to that because XP is still my OS of choice.

So I did an extensive search for replacement FREE file syncing services. Here is the summary of that.

SugarSync - 5 stars
This is currently my service of choice. It gives you 5GB for free which is the same as Live Sync beta. Even you can upgrade it to 10GB after many referrals to your friends. Feel free to use this link if you are interested to join in since it gives you a bonus storage for both you and me.
Incorporation with Explorer is perfect and you will have a folder named Magic Briefcase under your Documents folder. The speed of syncing is FASTEST. The state of syncing is color-marked for each file which is very comprehensive. Feeling of use is most similar to Live Mesh beta. Reliability seems to be very good after a few weeks of extensive use.

Dropbox - 3 stars
You get 2GB for free. In addition you can earn bonus spaces by making referrals up to the maximum of 8GB. Incorporation with Explorer is good as it has a real Explorer folder named My Dropbox under your Document folder. The speed of syncing is fast enough though not the fastest.

ZumoDrive - 3 stars
For this one you get 1GB for free initially but you can easily upgrade it to 2GB still free after you had done its learning tour called Dojo. (This service has a touch of Japanese martial arts like Judo and Sumo.) Anyway, this 'mandatory' upgrade tour was a little tedious.
Incorporation with Explorer is good enough and you will have a new Z: drive under My Computer which behaves exactly as a real drive. Syncing is fast enough though not the fastest. Some files which are not yet loaded onto local drive are served on demand via streaming.

Sky Drive (Microsoft) - 2 stars
It has a generous 25GB which is one of the largest among the services. For incorporation with Windows Explorer, you need a third-party tool like SDExplorer. Although it tries to imitate explorer, it's not a 'real' one. You cannot open or move files quickly. It is painfully SLOW. This service is only good for storing files which you rarely access and use.
I found the frequent updates of SDExplorer very annoying. This is inevitable because it's a third-party software which needs to catch up with minor server-side changes of the interface by Microsoft. There may even be a small lapse of service until the necessary update will be made.

Syncplicity - 1 star
It gives you 2GB free, has nice user interface and is syncing quite fast. However, it syncs ONLY TWO computers which is unusable. Even paid version (personal) syncs ONLY 5 PCs. These days PCs, especially small laptops, are so cheap that I usually sync between more than five PCs (work desktop, work laptop, home desktop, home laptop and so on). It is regrettable because other features are so great. - 1 star
Gives you 5GB for free. There is NO incorporation with Explorer. You have to do it through web browser. This is unusable for me because incorporation with Explorer is so important to me.

ADrive - 1 star
Gives you 50GB (wow!) for free. However, this is also not my choice because there's NO incorporation with Explorer. Lots of ADs in browser interface. Not workplace quality.