Posts Tagged ‘Computers’

How one click can change the day


We all have read about backing up your PC in the event your beloved hard drive will just stop spinning out the information you have become accustomed to. I am sure most of us have added a few gray hairs when all our info vanished with the greetings of the blue screen of death (in the case of Windows) At that point in time the little voice in our subconscious whispers "just resort to the backup.....oh that's right there is NONE!! 

Well, I am here to say that I did not have a hard drive failure and if I did I have a dedicated drive with clone backups of my main hard drive and another separate drive with image backups. These backups are done on a regular basis and in fact, I have had to go down the restore road twice now and it has worked amazingly. 

My click of the mouse was during my just being bored and "clicking" around my logging program N3FJP logger. I still am not sure what I did but somehow I deleted my whole log...yup 16,000 contacts GONE! Well, not a big deal I thought as I also upload my contacts to LOTW, Club log, QRZ.COM and Eqsl. Soooo Eqsl I just could not figure out how you can even export contacts so that option was out. QRZ.COM you can export your log but first, you have to be a paid member and I am not. The free version only allows you to upload and I have no issue with that at all. I was then off to club log and for the life of me I searched everywhere and I could not find any link to download the complete log............having said that I know there is going to be a comment posted that explains it and I missed it. Well next is LOTW and again I could not find anything there. 

Now I did post a question on N3JFP's contest logger IO groups site and Scott (The developer of the software) got back to me right away. Before I go on yes Scott is the developer but not just him it's his wife Kimberly and his son Chris who work as a team it just happened to be Scott that got back to me. He gave me a suggestion that also got me to think. Long story short I did find out that within the N3FJP logger program you can request LOTW to download a complete copy into N3FJP. Excellent my issue has been resolved.........not so fast! 

It did download a complete copy of the log BUT the number in which the contacts were entered was reversed......so my first contact was numbered 16001 and my most recent was 1 ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!. 

It was time for tea and some relaxation as really in the big picture it's a hobby and not the code for a missile launch. The next day I was reading the email again that Scott had sent me and at the bottom of the email there was a link. It was a bot in which you entered your question and the bot did the search. Low and behold the bot gave me info on how N3FJP automatically stored a backup of the log. I found the backup and was thrilled. So I deleted the complete log again (on purpose this time) and restored my log using this back up and I was back in biz!! 

The lesson of the day is yes you may have a backup for your PC and I do BUT being a ham a log backup is also very important just in case like me you end up clicking your mouse one too many times and well.....you read the possible results. 

How one click can change the day


We all have read about backing up your PC in the event your beloved hard drive will just stop spinning out the information you have become accustomed to. I am sure most of us have added a few gray hairs when all our info vanished with the greetings of the blue screen of death (in the case of Windows) At that point in time the little voice in our subconscious whispers "just resort to the backup.....oh that's right there is NONE!! 

Well, I am here to say that I did not have a hard drive failure and if I did I have a dedicated drive with clone backups of my main hard drive and another separate drive with image backups. These backups are done on a regular basis and in fact, I have had to go down the restore road twice now and it has worked amazingly. 

My click of the mouse was during my just being bored and "clicking" around my logging program N3FJP logger. I still am not sure what I did but somehow I deleted my whole log...yup 16,000 contacts GONE! Well, not a big deal I thought as I also upload my contacts to LOTW, Club log, QRZ.COM and Eqsl. Soooo Eqsl I just could not figure out how you can even export contacts so that option was out. QRZ.COM you can export your log but first, you have to be a paid member and I am not. The free version only allows you to upload and I have no issue with that at all. I was then off to club log and for the life of me I searched everywhere and I could not find any link to download the complete log............having said that I know there is going to be a comment posted that explains it and I missed it. Well next is LOTW and again I could not find anything there. 

Now I did post a question on N3JFP's contest logger IO groups site and Scott (The developer of the software) got back to me right away. Before I go on yes Scott is the developer but not just him it's his wife Kimberly and his son Chris who work as a team it just happened to be Scott that got back to me. He gave me a suggestion that also got me to think. Long story short I did find out that within the N3FJP logger program you can request LOTW to download a complete copy into N3FJP. Excellent my issue has been resolved.........not so fast! 

It did download a complete copy of the log BUT the number in which the contacts were entered was reversed......so my first contact was numbered 16001 and my most recent was 1 ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!. 

It was time for tea and some relaxation as really in the big picture it's a hobby and not the code for a missile launch. The next day I was reading the email again that Scott had sent me and at the bottom of the email there was a link. It was a bot in which you entered your question and the bot did the search. Low and behold the bot gave me info on how N3FJP automatically stored a backup of the log. I found the backup and was thrilled. So I deleted the complete log again (on purpose this time) and restored my log using this back up and I was back in biz!! 

The lesson of the day is yes you may have a backup for your PC and I do BUT being a ham a log backup is also very important just in case like me you end up clicking your mouse one too many times and well.....you read the possible results. 

It’s part of modern ham radio!

 


In today's modern radio shack, unlike in yesteryear, a PC is a connected part of the overall setup. It can simply be for sending and receiving QSL cards all the way to station automation and control. In my station, my PC is involved in QSLing, digital modes, logging, radio control and contesting. For this reason, it's important for the average ham to have more than a basic knowledge of computers. A few years ago while looking for some specific PC information I stumbled across a web page called "Askwoody"

 This site has endless gems regarding computing. The site is a bit limited unless you register. A simple donation is asked for full access to a wealth of information on the site. One aspect I took advantage of right off the get-go was Windows patching or MS-Defcon as the site calls it. You are advised when to install Windows monthly patches, basically once Microsoft irons out the glitches. The site guided me to a program that stops Windows from automatically updating. I can update when I want to and when the Ask Woody site recommends it's safe to do so. 

They have user forums on more topics than you can imagine. Here are some of the takeaways I found at Ask Woody.

- When upgrading my PC there was a wealth of information on how-to, recommendations on processors, hard drives and ram. Recommendations are not based on the fastest and newest but what overall was the wisest upgrade for your system requirements? 

- The importance of backing up and recommended (free) very easy-to-use backup programs. 

- Recommended maintenance that you should be doing to your PC. With very easy-to-follow advice, links, free programs and user forums for advice. 

- becoming knowledgeable regarding your router, internet connection and firewall. 

These are just very few of the gems I have found on the site. PCs have become a part of our hobby and I don't want to become a computer wiz but not PC illiterate either. This is one of the sites that can make my PC adventure a bit more comfortable and gain some knowledge. 

I encourage you to take the site for a spin and see what you think? 

It’s part of modern ham radio!

 


In today's modern radio shack, unlike in yesteryear, a PC is a connected part of the overall setup. It can simply be for sending and receiving QSL cards all the way to station automation and control. In my station, my PC is involved in QSLing, digital modes, logging, radio control and contesting. For this reason, it's important for the average ham to have more than a basic knowledge of computers. A few years ago while looking for some specific PC information I stumbled across a web page called "Askwoody"

 This site has endless gems regarding computing. The site is a bit limited unless you register. A simple donation is asked for full access to a wealth of information on the site. One aspect I took advantage of right off the get-go was Windows patching or MS-Defcon as the site calls it. You are advised when to install Windows monthly patches, basically once Microsoft irons out the glitches. The site guided me to a program that stops Windows from automatically updating. I can update when I want to and when the Ask Woody site recommends it's safe to do so. 

They have user forums on more topics than you can imagine. Here are some of the takeaways I found at Ask Woody.

- When upgrading my PC there was a wealth of information on how-to, recommendations on processors, hard drives and ram. Recommendations are not based on the fastest and newest but what overall was the wisest upgrade for your system requirements? 

- The importance of backing up and recommended (free) very easy-to-use backup programs. 

- Recommended maintenance that you should be doing to your PC. With very easy-to-follow advice, links, free programs and user forums for advice. 

- becoming knowledgeable regarding your router, internet connection and firewall. 

These are just very few of the gems I have found on the site. PCs have become a part of our hobby and I don't want to become a computer wiz but not PC illiterate either. This is one of the sites that can make my PC adventure a bit more comfortable and gain some knowledge. 

I encourage you to take the site for a spin and see what you think? 

Take This Command and Shove It…

While he may have been channeling his inner Nashville self, those are the exact words KJ4VU used to describe his tool to facilitate use of the Elgato Streak Deck in your ham shack. Telling attendees at last Saturday’s Cycle 25 Tribe Zoom meeting about his macro.exe software tool, George KJ4VU aptly described the engineering design of his latest tool for the Stream Deck. The reference was to sending a command out of the serial port, in case you were wondering.

macro.exe allows the user to send serial control commands to radios and other station accessories in
multiple data formats, baud rates, destination addresses and com ports. Commands are triggered by
invoking the program and sending a set of parameters on the command line. A command can be simple
individual command like set my radio to CW mode or it can trigger a sequence of commands called
macros.

OK. So how’s this different than the famous Hello, World! thing in most programming languages? Actually, it may be a big deal.

One of the steps along the way to organizing the Stream Deck’s built-in functions to automate amateur radio software is to engage the existing software that controls rig devices on the PC. He’s building out some of the CAT commands for Icom and Yaesu radios initially as shown on his blog page.

The structure of the macro.exe program is to take conventionally stated options to the program as illustrated below, as taken from the PDF guide by George.


When the mac program is invoked, the parameters on the command line are parsed and executed.


Command line options include:
-t Define data format type
-p Com port number
-b Baud rate
-d Device address
-m Macro name
-c Command string to be sent
-w Wait for x seconds


In most cases, not all parameters are used. Some parameters have default values if they are left off and
default values are loaded from the macro.env configuration file.


Most experienced computer users will follow this flow and control lingo easily. There’s a lot more here for stacking multiple commands to, say, set up a given rig for CW operation with one button and so forth.

Those who like turning knobs, winnowing down through stacked menus (Yaesu lovers: I’m talking to you, lol!), and generally playing Mr. Fixit while operating their radios won’t be interested in automating mundane tasks so they can focus on direct operation fun. That’s ok. There is a big tent in amateur radio. But for those who do want to automate things (like making sure your amp is on the right band when that DX entity pops up on your monitor and you’re too excited to notice), you might follow George’s blog at the Ham Radio Workbench website.

From there, you too can just take this command and shove it...out of the serial port!

Interested in Amateur Radio Digital Mode FT8 Operations?

A VISUAL + AUDIO AIR CHECK OF DIGITAL MODE FT8 QSOs, ON THE 30-METER BAND

Here is a video capture of the reception and transmission of many digital FT8-mode amateur radio high-frequency (HF; Shortwave) communication signals. This video is a front-seat view of the software operation performed at the radio room of amateur radio operator, NW7US, Tomas Hood.

The software packages demonstrated are installed and operational on a modern personal computer. The computer is connected to an Icom IC-7610 radio transceiver, controlled by the software. While there is no narration in the video, the video provides an opportunity for you to see first-hand how typical FT8 operations are performed. The signals can be heard.

The frequency used for the FT8 communication in this video is on or about 10.136 MHz, in the 30-Meter shortwave amateur radio allocation (or, band). As can be seen, the 30-Meter band was active at this time of day (0720 UTC, onward–local nighttime).

In this video you see (and hear) NW7US make two-way contacts, or QSOs, with stations from around the country and the world.

There are amateur radio operators within the amateur radio community who regard the FT8 digital mode (FT8 stands for “Franke-Taylor design, 8-FSK modulation“, and refers to the mode created by Joe Taylor, K1JT and Steve Franke, K9AN) as robotic (automatic, automated, and unattended) computer-to-computer communications, and not ‘true’ human communications–thus negating the spirit of ham radio. In other words, FT8, in their opinion, is not real amateur radio. While they pontificate about supposed automated computer communications, many of those holding this position have not installed and configured the software, nor tried communicating with the FT8 digital mode. They have perhaps formed their anti-FT8 opinion in a vacuum of knowledge. (This writer has other issues with FT8, but not on this point–see below)

As you watch the video linked in this article, consider these concepts:

+ A QSO is defined (as per common knowledge–see below) as the exchange of at least the minimum information needed as set by the requirements of a particular award, or, as is defined by law–for instance, a QSO would have at least an exchange of the legal call sign assigned to the radio station and/or control operator, the location of the station making the transmission, and a signal report of some kind about the signal received from the other transmitter at the other end of the QSO.

+ Just how much human involvement is required to make a full FT8 QSO? Does WSJT-X software run all by itself, with no human control? Is WSJT-X a robot, in the sense that it picks a frequency, then initiates or answers a CQ call automatically, or is it just powerful digital-mode software that still requires human control?

The video was captured from the screen of the PC running the following software packages interacting together as a system:

+ WSJT-X: The primary software featuring the digital mode, FT8. (See below for some background on WSJT-X software.)

+ JTAlert: Provides several audio and visual alert types based on decoded Callsigns within WSJT-X.

+ Log4OM, Version 2: A full-featured logging program, which integrates well with WSJT-X and JTAlert.

+ Win4IcomSuite: A full-featured radio controlling program which can remote control rigs, and provide control through virtual communication port-sharing.

+ Com0Com: The Null-modem emulator allows you to create an unlimited number of virtual COM port pairs and use any pair to connect one COM port based application to another. Each COM port pair provides two COM ports. The output to one port is the input from other port and vice versa.

As mentioned, above, the radio used for the communication of FT8 at the station, NW7US, is an Icom IC-7610 transceiver. The antenna is an off-center fed dipole that is over 200 feet in total length (end-to-end measurement).

Some Notes:

About WSJT-X

WSJT-X is a computer program used for weak-signal radio communication between amateur radio operators, or used by Shortwave Radio Listeners (SWLers; SWL) interested in monitoring the FT8 digital communications between amateur radio operators. The program was initially written by Joe Taylor, K1JT with Steve Franke, K9AN, but is now open source and is developed by a small team. The digital signal processing techniques in WSJT-X make it substantially easier for amateur radio operators to employ esoteric propagation modes, such as high-speed meteor scatter and moonbounce.

WSJT-X implements communication protocols or “modes” called FST4, FST4W, FT4, FT8, JT4, JT9, JT65, Q65, MSK144, and WSPR, as well as one called Echo for detecting and measuring your own radio signals reflected from the Moon. These modes were all designed for making reliable, confirmed QSOs under extreme weak-signal conditions. JT4, JT9, and JT65 use nearly identical message structure and source encoding (the efficient compression of standard messages used for minimal QSOs). They use timed 60-second Transmit/Rreceive (T/R) sequences synchronized with UTC (Universal Time, Coordinated). JT4 and JT65 were designed for Earth-Moon-Earth communications (EME, or, moonbounce) on the Very-High Frequency (VHF), Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) and microwave bands. JT9 is optimized for the Medium-Frequency (MF) and High-Frequency (HF) bands. It is about 2 dB more sensitive than JT65 while using less than 10% of the bandwidth. Q65 offers submodes with a wide range of T/R sequence lengths and tone spacings.FT4 and FT8 are operationally similar but use T/R cycles only 7.5 and 15 seconds long, respectively. MSK144 is designed for Meteor Scatter on the VHF bands. These modes offer enhanced message formats with support for nonstandard call signs and some popular contests. (The MSK in MSK144 stands for, Multiple Frequency Shift Keying.)

FST4 and FST4W are designed particularly for the Low-Frequency (LF) and MF bands. On these bands, their fundamental sensitivities are better than other WSJT-X modes with the same sequence lengths, approaching the theoretical limits for their rates of information throughput. FST4 is optimized for two-way QSOs, while FST4W is for quasi-beacon transmissions of WSPR-style messages. FST4 and FST4W do not require the strict, independent time synchronization and phase locking of modes like EbNaut.

As described more fully on its own page, WSPR mode implements a protocol designed for probing potential propagation paths with low-power transmissions. WSPR is fully implemented within WSJT-X, including programmable band-hopping.

What is a QSO?

Under the title, CONTACTS, at the Sierra Foothills Amateur Radio Club’s 2014 Technician Class webpage, https://www.hsdivers.com/Ham/Mod15.html, they teach,

An amateur radio contact (called a QSO), is an exchange of info between two amateur radio stations. The exchange usually consists of an initial call (CQ = call to all stations). Then, a response from another amateur radio operator, and usually at least a signal report.

Contacts can be limited to just a minimal exchange of call signs & signal reports generally between amateurs previously unknown to each other. Very short contacts are usually done only during contests while longer, extended ‘rag chews’ may be between newly met friends with some common interest or someone you have known for a long time.

Wikipedia has an entry for QSO, too.

My Issue With FT8 and WSJT-X

I have written in the past, on this website, about an issue that came about during the course of the development of the WSJT-X software package. The development team decided to widen the slice of ‘default’ (pre-programmed) frequencies on which to operate FT8. The issue was how the choice of new frequencies was made, and what choices were implemented in an upcoming software release. Read more about all of this, in these three articles:

+ Land (er, FREQUENCY) Grab (Part 1)

+ One Aspect of Amateur Radio: Good Will Ambassadors to the World

+ In Response — Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Has this issue been resolved? For now, yes. There appears to be more coordination between interested groups, and the proposed new frequencies were removed from the software defaults in WSJT-X. At least, up to this point, at the time of publishing this article.

..

Mac and cheese me off!

A failed attempt and the adventure begins! 

As the contest season approaches, I wanted to once again warm up my CW contesting abilities.  One of my go-to programs is Morse Runner   and now it's available for Mac as well as Windows. About 6 months ago my faithful Mac PC informed me there was an OS upgrade I could do call Big Sur. Soon after the upgrade I found out that some programs no longer worked under this OS. One program that failed to work was Morse Runner. I did some online reading about the steps to downgrade to a previous Mac OS X and at the time I just did not want to end up spending hours at the PC trying to get things working again as these adventures I have found never end up being fast and easy. 

Well this weekend I found myself looking at the non functioning Morse Runner desktop icon on my Mac and I decided to take the plunge and downgrade! I decided to try what seemed to me to be the easy way which was to restart the Mac while holding down Option + Command + R keys and wait for a "spinning world globe" on the screen. Well the globe showed up and it was spinning with the words "internet recovery" I sat back and thought I was on my way. After a long time of globe spinning I was given the message "internet recovery failed" I tried again and was given the same message and I thought "here we go....." 

It was time to take the full plunge into the dark waters of erasing the hard drive......what could go wrong??? So off, I went to restart the Mac and held down the Command + R keys and I was greeted with the Mac OS utilities screen. I mouse clicked all the way through the hard disk erase process and then restarted the PC. I was greeted with a black screen (a black screen is never a good thing) with a do not enter symbol under that was a link for Apple support.  I restarted again just hoping that would do the trick but the same screen greeted me. I was told this screen (via the internet) is informing me I either have a damaged hard drive or my Mac is unable to boot up. 


It was time to go on my Windows PC and search the internet for answers. I did locate many posts of people who encountered the same result as me.  Apparently I did not complete some important steps when I erased the drive. It was time to restart the PC and hold down Command + R keys again to get back to the Mac OS utilities.  I then had to choose the disk utilities tab I then had to choose file formate (APFS) and choose partition map (GUID) and then finally under partition I chose 1. I then clicked continue and everything was ok. 

It was time to move onto the next step and install the OS, to this it was time to restart AGAIN while holding Command + R keys and then when the Mac OS utilities popped up choose "Reinstall Mac OS" and see what happens. This time I was greeted with the Mavericks OS and it was in the process of installing. Finally all done.........well not really! 


Once I entered all my information when prompted the OS finally started and I began to load my programs. The first was the antivirus and I was told the Mac OS version was out of date and the antivirus would not be installed. Great, another road block......The scuttlebutt on the internet informed me to go to the Apple Apps store and look for the OS I wanted to install then click on it and it will install. Well the only OS I could find was Big Sur and for sure I did not want to go down that road again! 

I found a link to the OS Catalina and I tried that but it eventually failed to download. I then found the Mojave OS  and it too failed to load. After some internet searching I finally found a link to the Mojave OS that according to user feedback was working as of just a few days ago. I tried it and it worked so I have Mojave 10.14.6 on my PC.  I am happy to report that all my programs are happy now and my copy of Morse Runner for Mac OS now works just fine. 



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