Ham radio and software……….

It would seem that software and ham radio can get along very well and there is an abundance of software out there to choose from. Some software is free other are available for a price, I have both here at VE3WDM. There seems to be some myths about both the free software and the software for a price. Regarding the free software I have read and heard.....
1.  It's no good as it's not supported.
2. Since it's free it must be very simple and buggy
3. I am sure it's not updated.

As for the software for a price I have heard and read......
1.It's way over priced.
2.Why pay when free software is out there?
3. Someone is just trying to make a buck.

I have both free and software I had to paid for and am very happy with both products. My software is not  the be all and end all but it's what works for me. There is some fantastic software out there that can make you grow in your ham radio journey. I hope to just excite  you to look to see what is out there.
Here is what I use and as most ham I know they love free stuff and here is the free software I use.

1. DXlabs for my every day radio adventures I am sold on DX Labs! This software has rig control, logging, world map view of DX, QRZ (and many more) look up feature and much more. With this software and with the click of a mouse able to use many features of my K3. At a glance I am able see on a world map DX spots, I am told if  I worked this country before....on what band.....and what mode. There is a huge amount this free software can do. As for updates it seems that it's almost daily this software is improving. Oh and as a side note updates are a breeze to instal and no need to jump through hoops to get the latest and greatest upgrade. If you are not sure about a feature or if the software does not seem to be doing what it should, support is fast and readily available on the internet.

 2. If you are into contesting (like me) then once again the free stuff comes to the rescue. N1MM seems to be one of the staples for contesting. Again it has rig control features, CW and SSB features, VFO A and B control, spotting networks this is just to name a few things this amazing software can do.
There are regular updates and bugs are very few and far between. Again if you have troubles the support is there and it's fast.
Ok lets talk crazy now.....paying for ham software

1. When contesting I said I use N1MM but I also use a rig control program by N4PY and it's not free but WOW does it enhance my contesting. (now this software is not only for contesting I just chose to use it this way) This program allows me to adjust most of my Elecraft K3 controls with the mouse or keyboard. I can used my K1EL keyer, this program allowed me to use my Flexcontrol knob.

2. Another program I dished out some coin for and never looked back is MRP40 cw decoding program. Now I know what your thinking "there are lots of free CW decoding programs out there" This is true I have tried them and they are good BUT MRP40 is GREAT. In contesting when the speeds get to what I call "crazy speeds" this program has no trouble at all decoding them. 

Lets say  you want to have multiple programs work together without a hitch.........

 3. Then LP Bridge or  VSP manager come to the rescue. These are free programs and will allow your computer to set up virtual ports thus having multiple programs working at the same time and talking to each other. These programs work like a dream and as far as my needs go no bugs at all.

4. If you are into the digi modes like I was and in the near future hope to be there is a free program called Quickmix. This program will remember all the audio settings you use for each digi mode, so for example when operating PSK and you want to now switch to WSJT-X which has new audio settings for you PC. You no longer have to remember them Quickmix can in the blink of an eye adjust the sound card to the new settings for the selected digi mode!!

Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].

11 Responses to “Ham radio and software……….”

  • Charlie Cartmel G4EST:

    Interesting article Mike.
    you have covered many areas that I am interested in and given me a starting point. I run windows 8 Pro 64bit here and have attempted to use DXLabs suite, however it seemed to hang on installation. No big deal as I use the free HRD software. The ‘enhancements’ for version 6 are of no use to me so the price for the upgrade is therefore unjustified as well as the annual support charge. I am mystified as to how they can charge to fix bugs in there software!
    As a user of WSJT-X the mention of QuickMix seems a good bet. I get frustrated when I have forgotten to adjust my audio out and either overdrive or not even modulate my signal thus losing a DX station or worse, splattering the band.

    73 and GL

  • Charlie Cartmel G4EST:

    ‘there software’ – brain freeze – ‘their software’ – need more coffee and breakfast to feed the brain…

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good morning Charlie, it’s great the post got you thinking and with DXlabs regarding the freeze up problem…..if you go on the Yahoo user group and post your question there I am sure either a solution will be given or it will be looked into. As for Quickmix it’s a great program and after setting it up no need to remember the sound card settings. I have found in the past that for some reason Windows now and then just likes to change up the sound card settings. With this program it’s not a big deal if that happens. If you download it and are using it email me and let me know how it works for you.

  • GB KC5GB:

    Hi, Mike…I agree re DXLabs. It’s the most complete and well thought out suite out there. Dave provides the best on-going update/additions I’ve ever seen. Plus the he’s always ready to help you, and his patience is amazing.

  • Andrew, W8FI:

    Let’s not forget about fldigi! It’s free, runs on just about any platform, and its engine is actually used by several other softwares to provide digital mode support.

  • Franky Marsh, KF7FEF:

    Do you still need a antanna plugged into your computer

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Good evening GB, thanks for stopping by the blog and taking the time to add a comment. DXLabs is my staple program but not for contesting as it is N1MM….if your into contesting that is…..and I am!
    Have a good week GB

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Hello Andrew nice of you to stop by and comment! Yes fldigi is a great program and I was just mentioning the programs I use here at VE3WDM.

  • Mike VE3WDM:

    Hey Franky nice of you to stop by….I jammed the PL 259 into the ISDN port…..ended up breaking the port…:)))
    Nice to hear the lighter side Franky thanks for the input.

  • Randy K7AGE:

    Does Quickmix work on operating systems newer than XP?

    Randy. K7AGE

  • Mike VE3wdm:

    Good evening Randy, I went to the download site and found under OS that is said “all windows”. My advice is to download it and see how it works with the version of Windows that you are running.
    Email me and let me know how it works for you at [email protected]

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