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

Month: June 2015

Back on the air using Remotehams.com RCFORB client software

IC-7200 controlled via Remotehams.com and tuned to 50.125

Here is another way to listen on 6 meters through 160 meters.  Transmit is available if approved – USA stations only, General class or above, please. (FCC rules do not permit non-USA stations to transmit unless they also hold a USA license.)

The WA0TDA IC-7200 is on line most days with no particular schedule and you can tune the receiver.  I am experimenting with a new way to control an HF radio over the internet. The radio, my main ham shack Icom IC-7200 with an LDG AT-200 Pro automatic antenna tuner, can operate on 160 through 6 meters, and yesterday morning I was hearing quite a few stations on bands as diverse as 75 meters and 6 meters.  One especially fun group to listen to is on 3.730 MHz AM between about 7:00 and 8:00 AM CDT.  The sound of amplitude modulation is so full and mellow compared to SSB – You’ll really be able to sit back and enjoy the sound quality.  You can access the WA0TDA IC-7200 and many other radios on line using the excellent free software at Remotehams.com. Register, download the RCFORB client software, install it and enjoy tuning any of a number of receivers and transceivers around the world.  To listen to the WA0TDA IC-7200, use the search function in the RCFORB client and type in WA0TDA.  If the radio is on line, it will come up in your search. Select and open the WA0TDA IC-7200 in the RCFORB client, and a graphical image of a radio will appear.  The radio image is actually interactive, so you can press buttons, change frequency, and change modes.  Sound in the RCFORB client is built in, so you don’t need Skype to hear the station.  Also, the software allows more than one user to connect to the station and listen at the same time.  As a courtesy, you should ask if it is okay to tune the radio, especially if there are other users already connected.

I know that some of you will wonder if the software is blind accessible.  The answer is, yes, probably.  I am only qualifying that with a “probably” because I have not heard from any screenreader users who have tried it, and I’d like to do so before I say one way or the other.  Here are some things I did find out, though:

  • Under “Options”, you can choose “text to speech” enabled.  This will cause the frequency display to be announced and other announcements to be made as you use keyboard commands.

  • ALT-Shift-F is a simple keystroke command to read the frequency anytime.

  • ALT-Shift-M causes the mode to be read.

  • ALT-Shift-B reads the buttons.

  • ALT-Shift-D reads the dropdowns.

  • ALT-Shift-S reads the sliders.

  • ALT-Shift-A sends an “Ask to tune” request to the software chat area.

  • You can focus on the direct frequency entry with CTRL+F.  Once there, simply enter the frequency in kHz, so for example 3.925 MHz would be entered as 3925 <ENTER>.  This will be confirmed by an audio announcement.

  • The mode does not change automatically as you change frequency, so you have to use CTRL+M to gain focus on the mode selection. Hold the CTRL key down while repeatedly pressing the M key to go through all the modes.  The mode will be read aloud to you.

  • CTRL+T toggles transmit.  If you have gained focus on the TX button, you can also use the spacebar to toggle transmit as you can with EchoLink.  You can’t transmit unless you have been granted permission to do so by the station’s owner.  Once you are granted permission, you can transmit any time you use that station.

If you can see the display, you will be looking at a virtual radio with the typical buttons, knobs, and frequency display.  The best way to learn how to use the software is to learn by doing.  Connect to different radios and give the tuning a try.  It is also a good way to find out what HF propagation is like by listening from various locations.

If you have tried the Remotehams.com RCFORB software and can comment on it, especially as a screenreader user, please send me an email.

The YL System Net is found daily on 14.332 MHz USB.  It is a good first stop on 20 meters as you check propagation.  You will find other Handiham members checking into the YL System Net, which is – in spite of its name – not only for “YL’s” – “young ladies”.  It is actually a fellowship net and everyone is welcome.  It operates every day of the year.

MIDCARS provides travel assistance on 7.258 MHz LSB.  This is a very active frequency year-round as the net has a wide geographic footprint in the USA Midwest.

SOUTHCARS, the South Coast Amateur Radio Service, provides regular scheduled nets, traffic information, and more on 7.251 MHz and has a large VoIP presence as well. There are two websites:

PICONET is on 3.925 MHz.  It is on daily except Sundays, and you will find HF-savvy Handiham members checking in. 

Breakfast Club Net is found on 3.973 MHz every morning from 4:00 AM to 8:00 AM USA Central Time.  Anyone can check in to this friendly social net to have a cup of coffee with your ham radio buddies and if you want, you can even be a club member.  An amateur may qualify for membership in the Breakfast Club by checking into the net 10 times, not necessarily consecutive or in any particular time period.

All five nets, YL System Net, MIDCARS, SOUTHCARS, PICONET and Breakfast Club, may be heard on the WA0TDA HF Remote.