What is a digital voice keyer (DVK?
A digital voice keyer is kind of like an automated tape recorder, with control circuits available for for radio. With VKE, you can record a message, such as "CQ CQ Contest from N7QJP" to be used during a contest. When you play back the message, it keys your transmitter at the beginning of the message and unkeys it at the end. VKE allows you to repeat the message automatically, with a pause between transmissions so you can monitor for another station returning your call. When band conditions are down a bit, or the QSO rate is low, having a voice keyer do the CQing for you can be a life saver....ok, a voice saver. VKE also has special timing routines for 15 second meteor scatter QSOs. VKE uses your computer's sound card to record and playback any messages you need for contesting, meteor scatter contacts, or casual CQs and station IDs.
The primary design element in VKE, since the very first prototype, has always been "flexibility". VKE's control and interface options allow you to interface with almost any existing station setup. PTT can be done via two different serial port lines. If you wish to have a hardware interrupt for the PC, you can select from two more input lines. Although the design specs were originally drafted by a meteor scatter operator, the user interface was designed so that the contest operator, VHF rover, or casual user would feel right at home using VoiceKeyExpress. By using VKE Save Configuration option, you can create a library of 6 message setups. DX contests, VHF contests, Field Day, all of them are excellent candidates for VKE. Got a few meteor scatter schedules coming up during the next shower, not a problem! By recording your messages ahead of time and then saving them in the desired configurations, you can easily run back to back schedules without ever missing a transmit segment. Because no one has time to "mess with a mouse" when the QSO rate goes up, VKE's user interface was designed for one-key operation. Quick use of the function keys allows for one finger management of an entire meteor scatter QSO. In fact, one of the users reports that he can do work an entire meteor schedule and still read his favorite comic book! How much better can it get?
VKE is written with Visual Basic 5.0. Microsoft supported 16 bit operating systems, like Windows 3.x, up through Visual Basic 4.0. VB 5 can not produce an executable file that will run on a Windows 3.x PC. The programming languages are keeping pace with the operating systems, good, bad, or whatever. I'm sorry if you can't use VoiceKeyExpress on your PC. I had the same problem when I wanted to use WordPerfect on my TI-99/4A computer.
VKE's registration fee is only $10. It is probably the best $10 shareware investment you'll ever make! Upon registering, you'll get a registered copy of VoiceKeyExpress. The fifteen minute run-time limit is removed. You will also be entitled to e-mail support. Although there is currently no updates under way (there are a few requests/ideas on the back burner), future updates would be made available as well. The fee isn't that much considering the amount of time that was put into developing the software and this supporting documentation. Look at it this way, it will be one of the handiest and least expensive additions to your ham shack! Besides, you'll feel better about yourself when you pay for what you are using.
How do I register my copy?
Print and complete a copy of the registration form. The filename is REGISTER.TXT and it is located in the VKExpress subdirectory. Follow the instructions on the form and return it to Stu Olson N7QJP. You will receive, via e-mail or US mail if you have no e-mail account, a registration confirmation notice. Run VKExpress and go to the Help Menu. Select the "Register VKExpress" menu option and enter the data as it appears on your confirmation notice. That's it!
VoiceKeyExpress does not require a SoundBlaster brand audio card for proper operation. VKE uses hi-level media control interface routines that permit any Windows compatible sound card to be used. This makes VKE sound card brand independent. This also makes VKE the BEST digital voice keyer for notebook and laptop PCs.
Wow....that is a big question! The first thing is to read through the User Manual. It contains a wealth of information. After you have installed the software, be sure to pay close attention to the System Requirements and Setup section of the user manual. Make sure you have configured the VoiceKey.ini file properly. After that, you can start VKE and take it for a test drive. You don't have to have any of the PC control lines going to your radio in order operate the software. Of course, your transmitter won't automatically key, but you can still see how the software works. If you are unfamiliar with meteor scatter "protocol", get in touch with some of the local VHF guys and ask a few questions. There is a lot of info on the Web too.
Do I have to have a Pentium PC to run it?
No, you don't need a Pentium PC. While VKE was being developed, it was regularly tested on a 486 PC, just to make certain the application was not exceeding the PC's resources. VKE is not a highly MIPS intensive program, so it will run well with other applications, like your logging software.
The MsgX buttons and the corresponding functions keys seem to operate differently, why?
The active message buffer (message that is sent whenever you transmit) is selected by selecting one of the six "Msg X" buttons (where X is a number from 1 to 6). When the new message is selected (click on with the mouse), the STOP command is automatically actuated. Because VKE can not change to a new message in the midst of playing another, the STOP command is always executed first. After the STOP command is completed, the selected messaged now appears as the active message buffer. To begin transmitting the new message, click on the START button.
When operating a meteor scatter schedule, or when working one of the many HF or VHF contests, you may prefer to keep your fingers on the keyboard and avoid the mouse. To accommodate this, VKE uses function keys that have been pre-programmed with macros. (A macro is a sequence of mouse clicks or key presses that can be automatically executed in quick succession.) So, if you are transmitting Msg4, and you decide to switch to Msg6, you only need to press the F6 function key on your keyboard. When you press F6, VKE will execute a STOP command, switch to the active message buffer to Msg6, and then execute a START command. Of course, you don't have to wait for a message to finish before you select another. In fact, you can repeatedly select the same message multiple times in a row, which would repeat the first word or two (it depends how often you press the Fx key). If you had recorded a message that said "Repeat your gird" and had loaded it into Msg6, you could alter the outgoing message to say "Repeat Repeat Repeat your grid" by pressing the F6 key 3 times. You'll need to practice this a bit, getting the hang of when to re-press the key, but you should have no problem doing it after a few attempts.
What PC control lines do I need to make VKE key my transmitter?
You need just a single control line. Here is how it works. By entering the correct value in VKE's initialization file (VoiceKey.ini), you select 1 of 2 different pins on the comm port that you will use to control your xmitter. You can use either the DTR (Data Terminal Ready) or RTS (Request To Send) pin to acuate the PTT circuit in your transmitter. The user manual has a good diagram that should be able to help you. When VKE switches to transmit, it changes the state of the pin on the serial port by applying +12V to the pin. In reference to the diagram in the user manual, this would cause the reed relay to close, and force the transmitter's PTT circuit to switch over to to xmit.
Does VKE work for CW meteor scatter schedules?
It can certainly be used for CW MS schedules. Here is how it works. Record
your message files using the sidetone of your electronic keyer or rig (or even a code
practice oscillator for that matter). Load the message files into VKE, and if you
desire, save the configuration using the File|Save Configuration option on the menu.
When it comes time for the CW schedule, put your rig into the SSB mode instead of
CW. Select the "MS
Timing" checkbox on VKE's screen, indicate which segment you are
transmitting in ("Xmit 1/3")and
away you go! Using VKE to send a recorded CW audio signal is the same practice that
the HsMs (High Speed Meteor Scatter) operators use when use a program like MS_DSP to send
thousands of characters per minute.
How do I make VKE use my favorite audio recording software?
You can configure VKE to always launch your favorite audio recording program. To do so, edit the "Recorder" entry in the VoiceKey.ini initialization file. Use a text editor such as NotePad. (If you use a word-processing software, such as WordPerfect or Microsoft Work, be sure to save the file as a text file when you are finished.) Edit the "Recorder" entry so it contains the path and filename of your favorite program. A typical entry might look like "Recorder=C:\AudioWiz\AWRecord.exe". After you save your changes to the .ini file, restart VKE. From now on, when you press the "Record" button, your favorite audio recording software will start up.
What happens when the VKE is sending a message and I want to use my mic?
Not a problem. VKE was designed to support such a need. VKE can be configured to monitor a specific serial port pin. This is done by editing the "PTT Int" entry in the VoiceKey.ini initialization file. Two serial port pins can be monitored, either the DSR (Data Set Ready) pin or the CTS (Clear To Send) pin. To make this all work, you need to send a +12V level to the appropriate pin on your PC's serial port. This is usually done using the PTT circuits in your transmitter. When you key the mic on your transmitter, it basically applies +12V to this pin. When this happens, VKE will immediately STOP, unkey the transmitter, and wait for you. When you wish to resume use of VKE, you can restart it by pressing the START button, or you can press the appropriate function key too.
What are the .vkc files that I read about in the user manual?
VKE uses a configuration file that has a file extension of .vkc (it stands for VoiceKey Configuration). A .vkc file is created when you select the "Save Configuration" option from the File pull down menu. This file contains the 3 properties that a message buffer requires; the filename, the delay value, and the loop value. When you use VKE, you can load your wave files with the Load button. After you have loaded several wave files, and set the delay and loop values as desired, you can save this entire configuration using the "Save Configuration" option. The next time you use VKE, you can instantly reload your previous settings by selecting the "Load Configuration" option from the File pull down menu. You'll quickly discover that this save and load feature allows you to set your MS schedule messages up prior to the sked, and then instantly load them as needed. Likewise, contest operators can set up a complete set of contest configurations, each one customized with the appropriate information exchange, etc. Operators who wish to use VKE for casual QSOs can benefit from the configuration file. A .vkc file consisting of station ID and CQ messages can be saved and later used during any QSO. VKE expects to save and load the .vkc files in its own subdirectory. There is no limit for the number of .vkc files that you can have.
Are there any upgrades for VKE in the works?
None at this time.
What are the version numbers and applicable release dates?
|Version||Realease Date & Time||Comments|
|1.3.0||12/13/98 0400 UTC||
|1.3.1||12/19/98 2100 UTC||
|1.3.2||12/22/98 1900 UTC||
|1.3.3||1/23/99 1700 UTC||
|1.3.4||2/2/99 0315 UTC||
|1.3.5||4/5/99 0100 UTC||
|1.3.6||7/26/99 0300 UTC||
|1.3.7||8/15/99 2130 UTC||
|1.3.9||11/19/99 0330 UTC||
|1.4.0||12/25/99 0001 UTC||
|1.4.1||2/15/2000 0100 UTC||
|1.4.3||06/27/2000 0100 UTC||
|1.4.4||5/7/2001 2300 UTC||
|1.4.5||5/11/2001 2100 UTC||
How about European MS timing intervals?
Version 1.3.0 allows selection of either the North American 15 second timing interval, or the European 1 minute timing interval. You can set your default preference in the VoiceKey.ini file. After the program is running, you can switch back and forth by selecting the interval from the Options Menu. Version 1.4.0 added 30 second and 2 minute intervals.
I can't get VKE to detect TRX-Manager.
You must start TRX-Manager before you start VKE. Also, be sure that you have the OLE option in TRX-Manager enabled. Also, the monitoring window in TRX-Manager must be open. For more info on using VKE and TRX-Manager together, see the TRX-Manager Notes section in the User Manual.
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