Operate an amateur radio station from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Category: Technical

Update: W0EQO transmit button change test

W0EQO test: The TX transmit button had been removed and replaced by the Txd button.  This affects primarily Windows app users.  Android app users used the PTT button as usual.

The Tune button had been added in order to make this function work on the Android app.  It activates the antenna tuner briefly, which allows a previously stored antenna tuning memory to be selected.  For a longer antenna tuning, use the Txt button, which allows more time for the SWR to drop down to its minimum at the displayed frequency.

Results:  Users reported that audio was not transmitted over the air, although it was loud & clear in “test” mode (VoIP talkaround).  As of now, we have had to restore the TX transmit button, which restored the audio out over the air.  Further tests pending.

Please report any problems to admin at wa0tda@arrl.net.

WARNING! Version 0.8 will stop working! Time to update your PC Client to the latest version

Version 0.9x screenshot showing radio controls

New RCForb software

Please update your PC client to the latest 0.9x version because support for version 0.8x, which uses Flash, is going away.  Windows will no longer support Flash and your old RCForb client software will quit working.

Find the download on the Remotehams.com website or use the link in this story.

Here is a link to the Remotehams Forum discussion of the new software.

Once you log in to the new software, please have your Remotehams.com username (your callsign) and password ready.  You will need to log in the first time you use the new version 0.9 software.  Once you login from the new software interface, you will not need to do so again.

Experiment: FT8 remotely on Chromebook

Screenshot from Lenovo Chromebook showing FT8 running on a remote controlled W10 PC.

Screenshot from Lenovo Chromebook showing FT8 running on a remote controlled W10 PC.

I have a station that I use pretty much “locally” – by actually sitting at the operating position in the ham shack.  It’s a deceptively simple-looking setup; just the control head of an ICOM IC-706M2G mounted to the edge of the side desk at a convenient angle.  There is an automatic antenna tuner, an LDG IT-100,on the desk.  The rest of the radio(s), all the cabling, the rig control computers, and other supporting hardware are behind the wall in my server room, leaving the shack looking pretty clean and clear.  The antenna fed by the IC-706M2G is out in what we call “the outback”, the back part of our big backyard.  It’s an “enhanced” Butternut HF9V vertical antenna, ground-mounted with lots of radials and underground hard line coaxial cable. It is “enhanced” by the addition of quarter wave wires fed in parallel from the vertical’s base – for 160 & 80 meter resonance.

Recently I acquired a new rig control cable and set the station up to run digital modes, PSK with the HRD Digital Master program and FT8 with WSJT-X on my shack computer, a Windows 10 gaming PC.  The logical next step was to see if I could run that PC (and thus the ham radio programs) remotely with a Chromebook.  I chose “Splashtop” as the remote desktop app, but could have also used the free Chrome Remote Desktop feature already available on my Lenovo Chromebook.  There is no need to port audio remotely, so that feature should be disabled.

It works!  You can operate digital modes, even FT8, remotely.  Operating modes that require precise timing – FT8, I’m talking about you – is simply not possible if you separate the radio and the software from each other and then try to connect them via the internet.  This is because latency in even the most solid internet connections over the most favorable paths introduces unacceptable delays in communication between the software and the radio.

The way around this is to keep the radio and the rig control PC together in one place, making the connection between the two by local hardware only.  With the timing problem thus solved, you then operate the rig control PC remotely with some kind of remote desktop software.  Yes, there is latency between the remote station’s control PC and your Chromebook (or other device), but that kind of latency doesn’t really matter as it does not affect what is actually happening between the radio and the rig control computer back in the ham shack.

The down side?  Well, this kind of remote HF operation is necessarily for your private use of your own station rather than for a public station.  Think about it – You set up software like WSJT with your callsign, grid square, and so on.  You wouldn’t want to have other users operating with your call!  And even worse, think about the hassle of allowing other users to control your shack PC.  They might wander out of the ham radio software and go through your documents and email, or see what they can find on your network.  No thanks to that; it’s a huge security risk.

A possible way around the security issue might be to set up a station and single-purpose digital modes rig control computer with a club callsign, sandboxed from the rest of the network and with club members getting logon credentials with no admin privileges.

Whatever you do, try to stay on the air – remoting your station can help you do just that!

HF9V vertical antenna in the winter

HF9V vertical antenna in the winter