Okay, FT8 is a notch above watching paint dry after all…

After sorting Windows 10 update induced DAX troubles I ran the home station running FT8 QSOs for a bit.

Not the best use for a 4K 40 inch monitor and a Flex-6700

Not super exciting but was a way to make QSOs while doing other shack chores.

Without the computer helping facilitate FT8 QSOs the reality is my QSO count for this period of time would be exactly Zero.

In several instances their was nothing to be seen on the waterfall but WJST-X pulled out minimalistic QSOs from the seemingly empty ether.

I cant help thinking FT8 isn’t much more than what happens when one fax machine negotiates a connection with another fax machine, excepting of course that FT8 does it on the air.

Heard that MacLoggerDX will have FT8 integration in the next release which could mean that I could run FT8 QSOs while I’m doing other work on my iMac at home.

I’ll also take a look at how to run QSOs from my work PC.  Might be a way to log more QSOs by doing someth8ng with some of those dead moments during the day.

Can sure say the radio gear isn’t exactly overtasked doing FT8.

Almost bordering on embarrassing the level of investment behind my FT8 efforts.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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If your SmartSDR DAX Drivers Puke or Get Scrambled

What to do if your SmartSDR DAX Drivers Puke or Get Scrambled?

Windows Updates have been playing havoc with SmartSDR for several years.

Certain Updates (1803, 1811) have jinxed a large percentage of users machines, but other seemingly routine updates can make things act funny too. Some cases you can fix this stuff yourself. DAX drivers are the usual victim of these Windows Updates.

There are some ways to do your own first aid to fix the DAX problems, but they are not just a double-click on a fix-it-program.

Always, if you really get stumped you can open a Help Ticket at FlexRadio ( http://www.flexradio.com – then go to Support, then HelpDesk).

This compilation is cut & paste mashup from the FRS (FlexRadio Systems) Website, Community Forums and Emails. It is current as of SmartSDR 2.4.9 on 20 January 2019.

YMMV on how effective this all is, and again remember you can ask FRS for help if you’re not comfortable trying self-help.

 

Simple DAX Naming Sickness can be cured by renaming DAX drivers:

FRS Published some notes on how to do this:  https://community.flexradio.com/flexradio/topics/most-common-fix-for-dax-driver-errors-in-windows-spring-update-1803-you-can-do-this

 

Bad DAX Stuff Might Respond to a DAX Removal and Reinstall process:

Sort of middle ground fix is to remove SmartDAX and Reinstall it on its own.

Again FRS offers some notes: https://helpdesk.flexradio.com/hc/en-us/articles/204017069-How-to-Manually-Re-Install-DAX-Drivers

ADDED 20 JAN 19

DAX removal and reinstall is pretty straight forward.  The FRS HelpDesk Article does have all the information, but it can be distilled down into something understandable, rather than doing it by rote.

You also can do this from the normal Windows GUI rather than pretending you still remember the DOS file structures and navigation.

Here is the GOAL – for each version of SmartSDR you need to get to the DAX drivers directories, and run two batch files.  There are four DAX driver directories for a version of SmartSDR.  One batch file removes that part of DAX and the second batch file puts a new copy of that part of DAX in place.  Best to run these as Administrator (the Right Click thing) and you repeat until your have erased and replaced all the DAX parts.

Step-by-Step:

  1. Export your profiles and make any backups you might feel needed.
  2. Remove any unused versions of SmartSDR, and select DAX removal when you do it.
  3. Now you should be down to just the versions of Software you are intending to use.  In my case it was SmartSDR versions 2.4.9 and a test version I wanted to keep.
  4. Using file explorer navigate to the 64-bit Drivers directory for the lowest verison but highest release numbered version you are keeping. (Like Version 2 but but then 2.4.9 was the highest point numbers.)  You don’t have to worry so much about the issue of various DAX version levels if you don’t want to run Version 1 software and/or are not part of the test team.
  5. There are FOUR sub-directories that are going to be touched:
    1. IQ_DAX
    2. RXAudio_DAX
    3. TXAudio_DAX
    4. MICAudio_DAX
  6. Navigate to each of these four sub-directories and RIGHT-CLICK to “Run as Administrator” in Uninstall then Install order:
    1. Uninstall Batch File
    2. then the Install Batch File
  7. When you have run the Eight (8) Batch files for the version of SmartSDR you MAY have to repeat the exercise for the highest point numbered SmartSDR of any other major version level you intend to run.  In fact you just might have to repeat for ANY additional versions of SmartSDR you are keeping, as the dependencies of DAX versions to SmartSDR versions isn’t exactly easy to sort out.
  8. Reboot your machine and test the results.

YMMV but it worked the treat on the Win10Pro box that I let get screwed up, though I did have to repeat the exercise when I deleted unneeded SmartSDR versions after the first time I fixed things, as those deletions seems to re-scramble DAX again.

You can Remove a version of SmartsSDR from the Windows control panel, as in the end it will call exactly the same script that would have been used if you did the Command Window routine.

Oh, as an example of just one of the directories you will be running a batch file would be:

“C:\Program Files\FlexRadio Systems\SmartSDR v2.4.9\64-bit Drivers\IQ_DAX\”

An example Uninstall Batch file is “SmartSDR_IQ_DAX_uninstall.bat”

An example Install Batch file is “SmartSDR_IQ_DAX_install.bat”

FlexRadio’s naming conventions are consistent.

For Really Bad DAX Stuff it is Deleting the whole SmartSDR ecosystem that is usually the fix:

(Remember to Export Profiles and copy down your CAT/DAX Information)

The FRS Guide to Completely Deleting SmartSDR (along with SmartDAX, SmartCAT and VSP) is:
https://helpdesk.flexradio.com/hc/en-us/articles/204975589-How-to-do-a-Complete-uninstall-of-SmartSDR-for-Windows-from-your-PC

(Treat this routine like a Checklist and follow it carefully)

There are two sub-routines to this process which are at:

First Sub-Routine – Deleting SmartCAT and VSP (Virtual Serial Ports):
Download the SmartCAT Manual from http://www.flexradio.com/downloads/smartsdr-cat-user-guide-pdf/
(What you need is on Pages 4 through 7, and if you have a legacy CAT version on your machine Page 46. I printed out only those pages.)

Second Sub-Routine – Dealing with (any) Ghost Ports:
https://helpdesk.flexradio.com/hc/en-us/articles/200883925-Removing-Hidden-or-Ghosted-Com-ports
(If you Print you only need Page 1)

What to do Next:

Not explicitly covered is after a Reboot, use the normal SmartSDR Install Package (download from http://www.flexradio.com ) to reinstall all the parts of the SmartSDR ecosystem (including VSP, SmartCAT, SmartDAX and of course SmartSDR itself).

NOTES:

  • Process is for Windows.
  • VSP is a background service you wouldn’t otherwise get involved with.
  • Some Antivirus & Firewall setups cause problems, so you may need to disable them.
  • Everything looks to work well on Win7/Win10, but you may have varying levels of problems with 2000/Win8/Other Windows versions.

SPECIAL NOTES:

  • Consider creating a Restore Point.
  • Some folks report good success using software like REVO to clean up their registry while doing these processes.
  • Also FRS Recommends a Complete Uninstall before letting Windows do Updates.

 

GL & 73

Steve
K9ZW

My Flex-6000 Software – a Dynamic Listing

Created another Page for this bog at Flex-6000 Software where I will be listing what software I am using with my Flex Radios, the current version, and how to get your own copy.

I won’t be listing anything that isn’t General Release, so you will see the latest SmartSDR products rather than any Alpha Team versions I may be testing for FlexRadio.

Hope you find this a useful reference.

73

Steve
K9ZW

A bit of FT8 – first runs

At my Island QTH I set up a Flex-6700 to run FT8 and ran about 30 QSOs.

My first FT8 QSO was W3BZT

My first FT8 DX QSO was F1RUK

Wasn’t exactly wowed by the experience.

Software setup was fiddly. Like really fiddly.

In many ways the GUI was a 1980’s dial-up modem connection sort of thing, and the experience was somewhat the same as dialing into a BBS to do an email exchange & run routine.

Seemed my operator’s input was pretty much limited to confirming completed QSOs for logging and then re-enabling TX.

I’m not quite certain whether the experience was productive or not.

In the past I’ve always held back making my mind up until I have a couple hundred QSOs in a new digital mode.

I’ll wait until the same couple hundred QSO point to solidify my thoughts on FT8.

But again I can relate it sure wasn’t “Wowzy, how did I miss out doing FT8 until now” as my response to the first 30 QSOs.

73

Steve
K9ZW

New Main QTH – Ponderings

New QTH has space but also has its challenges.

The site is seventeen acres, though largely wooded making antenna placement difficult. With the leaves down I am spending much time outside evaluating potential antenna and tower locations.

The property has extensive groomed trails where the previous owner loved to ride his grandchildren about on his golf cart.

Here is are some typical scenes – meandering small streams and trails with mature woods that need some catch-up attention:

 

The property has many streams and roads.

An example of the roads. Most are further covered with canopy.

 

I’ve decided to locate my radio room in an outbuilding.  Originally a pole-building a 14 ft x 30 ft shop had been basically built inside the pole building.  In the next picture anything with a yellow highlight is what I am adding, as I am moving the “Rough Workshop” to newly constructed 18 ft x 22 ft work space, and adding a new 12 ft  x 10 ft closet & toilet for the original work space, now radio room.

I did a sketch for the XYL (and no we don’t have a mini van or mini cooper or tiny tractors, but that was what was available in the modeling software):

 

iPad Sketch – the Yellow is new happenings

 

Here is a quick shot of the 14 x 30 radio room at the start of remodeling:

Future Radio Room (notice the Flex-6600M and PGXL under the bench – in boxes, alas…)

 

And here is an early shot of the partition wall for the new Rough Work Shop:

Building the new Rough Shop Area where sawdust won’t be such an issue.

On the plus side the new radio room has both 120v and 240v power, natural gas heat, air conditioned, seasonal water, phone and internet.  It is about 200 ft from the main house.

On the downside the insurance company made me remove the woodburner when I bought the property, the water is seasonal which means the pipes will freeze if not blown out for winter, and the only way to put a toilet in was to install a combustion toilet.

I’m working on a layout of the inside, as I would prefer to leave doors and windows as they are if possible.

I’m expecting to also use the Radio Room for some of my other hobbies.  Expect there will be some instrument repairs, electronic kit building, and possibly some general tinkering in its future.

Because I need ready access to water and drainage, and more controlled temperatures, my Kombucha Brewing will end up in the main house.  Finished bottles along with brewskis will of course be a staple offering in the new Radio Room.

Also in the main house will a remote operating station in my office – though as the two buildings are on the same LAN it isn’t really all that remote is it?

The big challenge is figuring out antenna and tower locations.  The most open spots would be in conflict with aesthetics and utility.  The largest open  space had been an orchard which I had help plant 40 years ago, and will be replanted.  I’ve picked out two areas where I could thin the woods enough to create the space needed, and not be too far from the radio room.

Thought you might like to see what is happening.

73

Steve
K9ZW

Can I get into FT8?

Can I get into FT8?  Technically for sure, but as an intellectual engagement I’m stuck in a quandary.

It is not that I lack the gear or the experience to run another digital mode – I’ve tons of contacts on PSK31/PSK63, Hellschreiber, and most of that wave of modes including Throb.  Then I played with some Olivia/Contessa type modes.  I’ve only dabbled with the semi-automated modes which include FT8.

In the day I even completed the ARRL’s online classes for digital, and ever took first place in one obscure digital contest – most likely because I was the only one who read the rules realizing that the multipliers were too generous compared to pure raw numbers of QSOs.

A lot of my digital radio time was through necessity.  While my voice is not a “radio voice” it would travel through the house if I went on the air SSB once our young children were put to bed, the majority of the time I had available for radio was late after the bands shut down for SBB, and I didn’t have very good antennas available – so digital was my solution.  I even bought a “no-click keyboard” keep from disturbing the house when I was operating, as I’d learned our small children would grasp at the noise as an excuse from their evening routines and sleep.

But over time the kids got older – they became the evening/night noise makers keep us from our sleep!  The bands became marginally better.  And I invested in a tower and decent antennas.  Oh, and I figure out how to use the equipment & later software better so my voice worked as a “radio voice.”

And I found I preferred talking over typing.  Actually more accurately I found I could do a voice QSO at the same time as doing emails or other typing.

When I started working PSK it was hand-typing everything.  Avoided Macros and used the typing as a way to keep my keyboard skills up.  I even ran some PSK63 events hand typing, but started using Macros to run faster versions of PSK and because I wasn’t all that satisfied with my PSK QSOs.

It is hard to get your personality to come over typing.

I started running more Hellschreiber largely because I thought the mode was cool & retro, and different enough to be interesting.  Not the best mode to run though as unless there is a published event few hams monitor for a Hellschreiber CQ.

Staring into the increasingly automated modes didn’t last long for me.

While I was technically fascinated the QSO’s became more about Macro’s, computer clock timing, and then even character limited.  FT8 is of course just a flavor in the continuum.

While I have a Twitter account I never spend any time on Twitter, though I do let announcements of my radio postings “tweet” automatically.  Have to admit that part of the account is to “control” the user name that matches my call sign.  A good hacker or any other technical glitch could end that of course.

So back to FT8 – while I have had the software up and running, done a few QSOs and figured out how to get all the software I’d like to run playing well with each other, I didn’t get “the buzz.”

Letting the machine manage a series of FT8 contacts feeling like pushing the graph command back in Lotus 1-2-3 days – the “gee-wiz” fades to a “meh” after a few repetitions.

Wonder if I am alone on this or if I’m just missing something?

Thinking I will set everything up to run FT8 again and maybe set a quick goal of an FT8 WAS (Work All States) or take a stab at a  FT8 DXCC to see if I’ve stopped running FT8 too quickly and before the “bug sets in?”

Or I may find that already know the answer – that I need to do QSOs on modes where more personality is shared.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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