Category Archives: SmartSDR

Some Further FT8 Thoughts

Okay what is FT8 like after a bunch of QSOs?

Personally I cannot see FT8 being “my radio experience” by itself. The QSOs are fairly soulless and while technically fulfilling every aspect of a recordable QSO they lack the gravitas of a human-to-human QSO.

As we all use some aids to our radio efforts, whether Spots, Keyers, Memories, Macros and other QSO-flow-aids there is no point in getting self righteous about the highly automated FT8 QSO experience.

The hobby and regulatory consensus of what is a “true QSO” is easily met by FT8.

What does seem unusual is how absolutely minimalist the FT8 QSO experience is.

There doesn’t seem to be much that could be removed from an FT8 QSO if we keep to the consensus of what is need for a QSO. Perhaps the second confirm and sign-off steps could be eliminated, though that would be at the expense of reducing the two-way assurances that a QSO was completed.

Pretty much is bare bones even with the confirmation and sign-off portions. Not much to strip off.

And while FT8 has a “free text” opportunity I’ve seen it used twice in the last five hundred FT8 QSOs I’ve completed and I tried it but once. Realistically between “twitteresque” character limitations and the generalized lack of free text usage, there isn’t much to add either.

So is running FT8 “tasty” in terms of QSOs being “rich experiences” – not at all.

Kind of liken these FT8 QSOs as the “Ramen Noodles” of ham radio QSOs – better than not eating at all, but about as basic as basic can be.

All this said and I think I will be running FT8 regularly for some time.

Why? Because running FT8 QSOs is a satisfying background QSO-making activity when I would otherwise not be on my radio at all.

Presently I’m running remote to a Flex-6700 located at my old home QTH’s station.

Running SmartSDR for Windows and WSJT-X 2.0 on the desktop PC quietly in the background. The local PC is a bit marginal for this use, so I do lose connectivity periodically when the system runs out of resources.

All that said I’ve worked eight QSOs while typing this post – SP7AID, DL7XU, G3UAS, 6W7/ON4AVT, MI0NWA, DF1DN, DF8XR, and E76C. Those are eight entries in my logs that I would have never made using a less automated mode from by work desk.

I have to confess to being not such a great ham as if I am completely busy I disable the transmit and disappear off the band until another stretch of time where I can keep one eye open letting WSJT-X run again.

Using this background strategy, if a person could pick up say 40 QSOs a day for say four days each work week that quickly tally to more than 7500 extra QSOs a year that operator wouldn’t have made at all.

So on that basis I figure I’ll have FT-8 running in the background.

By the way that 7500 extra QSOs could easily be much more if one’s remote resources allowed running several bands at the same time. I’m guessing I could run more like 20,000 extra QSOs yearly if I wanted to tweak my setup a bit.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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FlexRadio Systems announces multiFlex in SmartSDR version 3

Today FlexRadio lifted the veils on multiFlex, a major feature for the new version 3 of SmartSDR.

Basically this is a way to share a single Flex-6000 between operators, who can be remote.

The entry 6300/6400 radios can be shared by two operators each with one panadapter and one slice receiver, sharing one antenna.

The king of the series 6700 have eight panadapter stories share with lots of slice receivers across two separate antennas.

Both of my 6700s have v3 as I’m a participant in the Alpha testing program.  From what I’m seeing it looks to be another “game changer” by FlexRadio Systems.

73

Steve
K9ZW

 

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

FlexRadio Systems Flex-6600M Transceiver and Power Genius XL Amplifier in early use

FlexRadio Systems extended me an opportunity to acquire one of the first production run Flex-6600M Transceivers and a few weeks back a PowerGenius XL Amplifier both early as a “Beta Team” participant.  (I’ll be abbreviate Flex-6600M as just “6600M”, Flex-6700 as just “6700” and the PowerGenius XL Amplifier as “PGXL.”)

As mentioned, I’d participated in a similar program when the Flex-6700 launched.

The “Beta Team” really couple be considered “Late Addition Alpha Team” or “Temporary Alpha Team” or “Little Alpha Team” team members, as to handle the information flow.

Quick disclaimer FRS is still working on parts of the product package for the new Radios, so while I will receive production hardware, the configuration and software parts are not in the final general release form. This again parallels the Flex-6700 program I had participated in.

In my case this new Flex-6600M it will temporarily displace a Flex-6700 at my main home QTH.   I’m definitely planning to retain that Flex-6700.  I have configured the station temporarily to allow fairly quick A/B switching from the 6600M to the 6700.  I have enough W2IHY switchgear to potentially hardwire the A/B setup, but for now the intent is to do plug and play.

My shack is compact – and is especially compact as the sanctity of my radio shack in the old wine cellar room has been encroached  upon severely by buying too much wine in Italy and from a long time Alpha team’s family’s California Vineyard, all arriving as I decided that personal health triumphs.  So those cases have filled what extra area the shack had.

To make room, after my personal testing of the PGXL I’ve decided to remove the Alpha 9500 Amplifier and the Expert SPE 1KW backup Amplifier physically from the operating area, putting them on my “shack reserve shelving” for the moment where they join my fail-safe Alpha 78 Amplifier and a 6M King Conversion Amplifier.  Actually I enlisted some help from my youngest son, Victor KC9NWB, as any college kid home for winter break should get a chance to lug his Dad’s ham shack gear around, right?

I still need to figure out where to move a few items to, especially the audio-amplifier that was going to help tweak my main Shure SM5B microphone’s voice signal but has ended up set so flat that it is really just isolation and audio signal gain.   That said, here is the 6600M/PGXL as of January 6th 2018:

K9ZW 6600M and PGXL Overview

K9ZW 6600M and PGXL Overview

 

I’ve found the 6600M/PGXL combination really awesome to use.  Reports “out of the box” have been so good that I’ve not spent much time optimizing settings yet.

My station is pretty simple, smaller scale, and gets ends up effective.  The6600M/PGXL combination have in two simple pieces of gear have noticeably improved my station.

I was having so much fun working DX on 20m, that I forgot to snap a photo to share until propagation changed enough that 80m was the lively band.  My present home antenna situation is limiting on 40/80/160m bands compared to 20/17/15/12/10 and the UHF/VHF bands.  So I turned things back on a shot a quick snap will running 80m figuring you all have seen a full panadapter screen before!

So here a quick “station selfie” snap:

 

K9ZW 6600M and PGXL Up Close

K9ZW 6600M and PGXL Up Close

As previously mention that like both of my Flex-6700’s, this new Flex-6600M was ordered with the GPSDO option.  If software eventually allows I hope to use the accurate time stamping on a station-mixing basis.  If that doesn’t happen the extra accuracy never hurts.

 

My “Late Addition Alpha Team” status came with my agreeing to not speculate and to not detail the exact Alpha Team’s progress & problem solving details, but I am pretty sure it didn’t have any agreement preventing my speaking to how absolutely engaged the FlexRadio Systems, 4o3a Team, and the Alpha Testers really are.  The efforts, feedback/update speed is truly impressive!!

More later this week, and as a teaser I’m going to add two more photos that I will explain in-depth in a later posting – with the SmartSDR versions improving I’ve run into a band situation where 160m was unworkable until I engaged the FlexRadio Systems exclusive WNB (Wide Noise Blocker).

 

SmartSDR no filters and a bad 160m band

SmartSDR no filters and a bad 160m band

 

SmartSDR with WNB making the 160m band okay

SmartSDR with WNB making the 160m band okay

Pay attention to the waterfall difference – the noise is gone I was in business, if RX a bit faint (55 to 53 – clear but weak).  As for the source of the noise, I’ll have to see if it reappears and track it down.

Much much more to follow!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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What is that holding up my Power Meter? FlexRadio Systems 4o3a Power Genius XL Amp!

 

Alpha Power Meter Stand?

Good News:  My FlexRadio Systems Power Genius XL Amp has arrived and is working great!

Not So Good News:  I am having so much fun that I won’t have much extra time to blog about the experience until next weekend.

I’m doing a lot of exploring with the new amp, given my time limitations.  As you can see in the picture there is no problem putting out the power.   I’ll post some statistics once I have a good systematic run through the bands.

I’m thinking I will also have a Flex-6600M very shortly to pair with the Power Genius XL Amp!

More when I get time.  Kind of wished I had more free time this week, but alas something has to pay for radio pleasures.

73

Steve
K9ZW

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