A virtual impossibility

If you have been following my attempts to set up beacon monitoring using a software defined radio (SDR) then you may remember that I had found that Omni-Rig, the radio control software used by Faros, the beacon monitoring software, would not talk to the virtual serial port created using VSPE in order to control the SDR-Radio software. I thought there was a problem with SDR-Radio’s emulation of the Kenwood control protocol. In fact, that turned out not to be the case at all.

A reader asked if I had tried DDUtil, a.k.a. VSP_Manager, a program by K5FR so I got hold of a copy. The instructions made my hair stand on end as it seemed very complicated. But I managed to set up a virtual port pair between COM8, the control port that SDR-Radio was using, and COM9 which would be used by Faros. VSP_Manager threw up a few error boxes but it still seemed to have done what I asked. I then tried setting up Omni-Rig. The first attempt failed, but I decided to try again as the help files actually showed VSP Manager being used with Omni-Rig and sure enough I had Faros changing bands and frequencies of SDR-Radio.

My joy was boundless, but not for long. I fell at the next hurdle which was using a Virtual Audio Cable (VAC) to pipe the audio from SDR-Radio into Faros. VAC also looked complicated to set up, but what I was attempting to do was the simplest application of it. I created a virtual audio port and set the SDR-Radio output to use it. As soon as I connected this to Faros’ input Faros began spitting out “divide by zero” message boxes so fast that I couldn’t close them quick enough to get back to the Settings window to change it back again. Another brick wall.

A separate issue was that of creating a serial port splitter to allow two applications to connect to physical port COM3 used by my Elecraft K3. VSPE could do that easily, but yesterday I discovered that WSPR would not talk to the virtual port created by VSPE. However, VSP_Manager does not seem to enable you to split a real port into a pair of virtual ones anyway, so I did not pursue this avenue any further.

If you are confused trying to follow all this you are not the only one! I have abandoned the idea of using an SDR for beacon monitoring and am breathing a sigh of relief that I never decided to go down the road of buying a Flex or other software defined transceiver. SDR will never catch on until connecting the software defined radio to logging programs or digimode software becomes as simple as plugging in a real cable.

Julian Moss, G4ILO, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Cumbria, England. Contact him at [email protected].

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