Radio Club have asked me to look into getting their FT-817 up and running
now that we finally have an internet connection. I have found loads of
stuff that will be useful. I am particularly interested in the FT-817
commander software interface, eSQO and echo-link, and I have found some
weak signal propagation reporter (wspr) software that looks very interesting
indeed. Things holding me back:- I need electrical isolation from the
PC to the rig.
There are a couple of ways to do this using either transformers or opto-
isolation. I found a couple of designs that would be interesting to build,
or perhaps the club will buy a PC-Radio-interface. Who knows only time
I initially took my laptop
into the club and tried the software out, using the adapter without installing
any drivers. The interface when started found the radio and it seemed
to be working, however when Tom (M5AJK) suggested try clicking on a band
to change frequency, the frequencies I tried were not being shown in the
display window correctly, for some reason they were displaying random
I now can confirm that the reason for this was because the USB –
serial adapter had not been installed properly!
Ok so after the initial getting over teething problems, i.e. my laptop
only has USB, VGA, SD and ethernet ports. So to use the CAT lead with
my laptop I have to use a USB-Serial-adapter.
Now we all know that Vista does not always play ball with certain devices
and on this occasion there was no change, I plugged the adapter in and
windows detected it and went through the process of trying to find the
driver then giving me the option to look for it myself, I had a USB-Serial-adapter
driver already downloaded so I quickly navigated to my Linux file server
where it was being held and chose the driver ser2pl.sys that was supposed
to be compatible with Vista
All seemed well while it was installing the driver then all of a sudden
“Blue Screen of Death”
(One good thing about Windows newer versions XP, vista, win7, they recover
from this sort of problem very quickly, it did a dump and rebooted back
to the login page.)
It took me a couple of attempts & re-boots to realise what was happening,
I then used the driver removal tool to get rid of the offending code.
Ok so once everything was stable again I had to search for a compatible
driver, and came across “PL2303_Prolific_DriverInstaller_v110”
now here’s the thing!
When I checked what was in the zipped folder the Vista driver was named
Alarm bells started ringing and I prepared myself for another disappointment!
I went through the same process of installing the driver however this
time to my great joy the driver was accepted and installed to COM 4; this
was verified by looking in device manager.
While I was trying to find
information about the driver I came across a useful tool that is built
into Vista called “Driver Verifier Manager” if you click on
“start” then type run and hit the return key the run command
line window appears. In here you need to type verifier and hit return.
This brings out the “Driver Verifier Manager” window. Using
this window you can test or verify all of the installed or not in use
drivers on your machine to pin point a faulty driver.
It’s a very useful tool indeed.
So at last I could get
to the good stuff and test out the FT-817 Commander software and rig.
Most of Saturday was spent playing around with the interface and getting
familiar with the controls and the numerous settings the radio has without
using the operating manual.
I got confident and started the PSK31 interface via the Commander interface.
I have no idea what I was really doing here though I remember changing
to a data frequency and also a setting to PSK31, I typed in “cq
cq cq m6mbm cq cq! and sent it, then to my surprise I started to receive
an unintelligible string of data back
Ok almost two weeks on
now and I am starting to understand why the hobby struggles to attract
The FT-817 is supplied
with a rubber duck antenna with 3 attachments. One is connected to the
radio this is obvious as it has a BNC connection. The remaining two pieces
one shorter than the other are screwed onto the first piece, your choice
of which piece to use dependant on what frequencies you intend to work.
So far my QRP experience
has been while using silent key Franks (G4CPT) TR2300 trio FM transceiver,
with 5w output (10 if you use the power amp he made with it) and a slim
The furthest QSO being made with Steve (M0GXN) based in Chislehurst. Since
I have been using Franks rig I suppose going on the best part of a year
now, I have found my local area to be very quiet, every now and then the
local amateur club, Barking & Havering have nets and a couple of times
I have taken part.
Unfortunately since I have been using the FT-817, 2metres has been really
When I listen to the band on 145.500MHz FM mobile calling, using the rubber
duck the s-meter gives me a very strong signal indication S9+20 or more.
When I switch the rig to the rear antenna with the slim jim attached the
s-meter reading gives me S7-S8, which isn’t that bad.
I tried putting out a cq call a few times without response so don’t
know how I sound.
I have never had the opportunity
to try the SSB frequencies on HF as I know these are really dependant
on having suitable antennas however the manual suggests that the FT-817
rubber duck antenna is designed to cope.
So I gave it a bash, scanning the bands manually and also using the built
Now I think I have heard
very faint morse or a sound of that nature, because when I try and lock
in on any signal it eventually starts to sound like a data noise.
So I switch to one of the data programs I have installed, first I try
Commanders PSK31 and didn’t see any data being decoded on screen.
I then watched a video on youtube about PSK31 to see what it was I may
have been doing wrong.
My hunch was correct, even though I had a CAT lead this only control’s
the PTT and the controls to the rig. I still needed to interface to the
PC sound card and the DATA port on the rig. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQpBGh9RMEQ
video made by Randy K7AGE was very helpful and got me up and running without
going to any expense of having to purchase a data lead.
He shows how to set up another program called DigiPan from this site http://www.digipan.net
All that is needed is a pc mic plugged into the laptop mic input and you
place the mic on top of the FT-817 near the speaker.
Once launched the digipan software was very easy to get to grips with,
especially after the very informative explanation given by K7AGE.
I was soon starting to see garbage coming in on the interface; I took
a few screen shots of what was happening below.
I transmitted CW using the interface without much success, however I do
stress I realise this is highly likely to be due to my antenna setup and
using the rubber duck for these initial tests.
top and the commander software in the middle & bottom.
a cq call out.
to multiple signals.
K7AGE method and Digipan
I think it is looking good
for success with getting a few QSO’s with PSK31.
Another promising program
that I never really got much response from was the weak signal propagation
reporter (WSPR) pronounced whisper. Although maybe I was and didn’t
understand what was going on.
The program is all about sending & receiving signals that are barely
audible, and I am starting to think that you use it like a beacon, in
that you just let the program run all the time or just when you are operating,
to send out signals and to listen for signals.
You can find out who is operating near you through this website, if you
become a member you can use the site chat room to arrange schedules with
other operators and perhaps do antenna checks. http://wsprnet.org/drupal/wsprnet/map
So far it hasn’t
been very rewarding however I really believe this will prove very fruitful
once I have a good antenna system in place. I cant wait until I have a
go at the club using theirs.
as I had hoped tonights on air session at the club has proved very fruitful
Myself and Peter (G4KSE) had a scheduled QSO with the person with whom
I had my first ever HF QSO, his name is Peter (G4IUV) who is based up
in Norfolk. We made contact on 80meteres but only just, as conditions
tonight were exceptionally bad. In fact another station 2E0EKG Nigel based
in Chichester could hear us and Nigel kindly acted as a relay.
the HF rig away and got the FT-817 out and setup the laptop and rig. I
gave Pete a quick run through of the controls on the actual rig and then
started the Commander interface for him to see.
It was getting late it was already 11.40pm so I quickly selected one of
the PSK31 frequencies stored on commander , 7 MHz and straight away we
had strong data type activity.
I started the PSK31 interface through commander and to my great joy we
actually started to see
CQ CQ CQ de coming up on the screen. YES I was over the moon.
We had a quick
look at the PSK31 interface then I tried digipan, this seemed not to be
working aswell, I’m not sure I had the interface setup sufficently
so rather than
waste time I shut it down and went back to PSK31 and this time tried to
transmit a CQ call.
Pete noticed that we were not seeing any power output , and I quickly
tried to remember what it was that had caused this problem when I had
first tried. I thought it may have been a setting had changed while I
was showing Pete round the menu’s, but it just turned out to be
in the wrong mode.
Using the commander pre settings for the frequency that we were currently
using and hearing data tones on (7.035.150MHz) changed the mode to digital
(strange that in this mode when you use the PTT the radio complains of
high swr and you do not see any power output.)
So I changed it to LSB and tried again this time it worked fine.
So my earlier comment regarding a data lead or mic being needed seems
maybe not so necessary after all. Peter and I were both tired so we called
it a night.
Operations will definately have to continue tommorrow, Pete has kindly
loaned me his MJF ATU. I intend to rig up a long wire to see what I can
pick up on HF.
73’s for now
been in touch with Nigel (M0NDE), it was really nice to catch up
with him again, It was worth me waiting to see what developed with