Showing posts with label Programming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Programming. Show all posts

June 24, 2016

Design your own language...

"If you decide to design your own language, there are thousands of sort of amateur language designer pitfalls." -- Guido van Rossum

June 17, 2016

Learning Python is a lot easier than C, C++, or Java

"Now, it's my belief that Python is a lot easier than to teach to students programming and teach them C or C++ or Java at the same time because all the details of the languages are so much harder. Other scripting languages really don't work very well there either." -- Guido van Rossum

September 5, 2015

A few favorite free amateur radio iPhone iOS 8 Apps and Podcasts

iPhone 6

The iPhone is one our favorite technologies.  It is so amazingly useful.  The iPhone is also an outstanding platform for amateur radio applications.  Here are a few of our favorite free amateur radio apps on our iPhone running iOS 8.

The Apple Podcasts application provides yet another vehicle for enjoying amateur radio through ham radio oriented shows.  Here is our list of favorite Podcasts programs:
  • Ham Nation
  • ARRL Audio News
  • Amateur Radio QSO Show
  • Amateur Radio Newsline
  • QSO Today

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

August 16, 2015

Program that HT and get on the air!

An amateur radio HT or handy talkie isn't of much use if you don't use it.  Perhaps it could be an unusual paperweight or interesting desk ornament.  They do look nice sitting on the desk in the shack in a sad inert, powered off, dust-collecting way.  Our two Kenwood TH-F6A HTs were mostly idle due to having relocated across the country to California.

The radio memories had been programmed chock-full-o-stations located on the East Coast (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and the Eastern Seaboard).  None of the repeaters in the radio memory were accessible from California.  Lack of useful programming was main reason our HTs weren't getting used.  Turn on the radio and there was simply no way to contact anyone other than via simplex communication.

The Kenwood TH-F6A is a compact and very capable radio.  It transmits 5W on 144/220/440 MHz and includes a wide-band receiver.  You can really pack the radio's memory with stations given its 435 PC programmable memories.  The radio has all kinds of really great features, and it has been reliable since purchased back in 2007.
Kenwood TH-F6A HT (Handy-Talkie)

We decided it was time to get our Kenwood TH-F6A radios back on the air and that meant reprogramming them with California stations.  The first thing we needed to do was to locate the radio's programming cable.  If you have ever moved, then you know how much fun it can be to locate a particular item in the new home.  The memory of where it was located at the old residence is usually vivid and the location in the new home tends to be a mystery.  Is it still in a box or in some drawer or perhaps in the attic?  After much searching in all the wrong places we found the cable logically stored on a desk near the computer.

TH-F6A Programming Cable

Lesson learned: always start the search with the most logical place to store the item.

The next step was to load the latest version of the free Kenwood programming software (MCP-F6F7) onto the PC.  This was very easy since the software is available for download on the Kenwood website.

Whenever reprogramming a radio, we always make a backup of the radio's memory first.  You never know when you may need to reference or revert to an earlier memory configuration.  This is very easy with the Kenwood MCP-F6F7 software.  We simply connected the radio to the cable and the cable to the computer and then read the radio's memory (from the menu: Radio --> Read --> All).  Once you have read the memory contents save it as a file on the PC (from the menu: File --> Save-As).

Our next step was to delete all of the undesired East-Coast stations from the memory we just read into the Kenwood MCP-F6F7 software.  It is much easier to delete the stations using the PC software than directly on the radio.  Just click on the memory item then right click and select, "delete" from the from the pop-up menu.  Memory items can only be deleted one memory at a time which worked fine.  It would be nice if you could select and delete a range of memories.  C'est la vie.

Once we had cleaned up our memory, we then resorted the remaining memories by name to organize them and make them contiguous from memory 1 (menu option: Edit --> Memory channel Sort --> Memory Name).  This provides a nice clean set of memories to program in the software.

The next step was to locate California area repeaters on the three bands that the TH-F6A can operate on (144/220/440 MHz).  There are a variety of repeater reference guides available.  We use the website and iPhone app.  The iPhone app is quite handy since it works with or without an Internet connection.  RepeaterBook allows you to search on wide area coverage repeaters.  These are particular useful repeaters, so we targeted these specifically.

Using we searched for repeaters in various areas that we frequent or intend to visit and programmed them each into the Kenwood MCP-F6F7 PC software.  This is really easy to do by double clicking on an empty memory and then filling out a simple form.

MCP-F6F7 PC Software - adding a repeater to memory

The TH-F6A has an LCD screen and allows for station memories to be named.  This is helpful though the real estate for a memory name is limited to eight characters.  Making eight characters understandable requires creativity.  A number of years ago, we came up with a coding standard for our station memories that is surprisingly simple and effective.  After programming, we handed the HT over to another local ham who was able to scroll through the memories and translate (name and city) all but one.
  • 2-digit state code (e.g., CA - California)
  • Use a capital letter to indicate the start of a new word
  • Eliminate vowels since it is proven that people can read most words effectively without them
  • Numerous California cities begin with the word, "San" so abbreviate this to a single letter "S"
  • In this example, "CASFrncs" denotes California, San Francisco
We were rewarded for several hours of station searching and programming with a nice long list of California repeater programmed into the MCP-F6F7 Software.  After programming, we sorted the list again by name so that all memories would be organized logically (menu path: Edit --> Memory channel Sort --> Memory Name).  We then saved the programming on the local PC under a different file name than our backup.  We use a simple and effective file naming convention to organize our files.  Each file name includes:

  • Name of the radio
  • State or location
  • Version (we only use this if there are several versions on a given day)

Applying this naming convention we named our file, "20150815 TH-F6A CA".  A little forethought saves time down the road.

The next step was to load the programming from the Kenwood MCP-F6F7 PC software to the radio.  Turn off the radio before plugging in (or removing) the cable to avoid damaging the radio (power is present on some of the jack connections).  Once the cable is connected to both the radio and computer, turn on the radio.

On the radio, use the menu to find the parameter, "SP/MIC Jack9" and set it to, "PC".  Exit the menu on the radio.

Next, from the Kenwood MCP-F6F7 PC Software select the menu option, Radio --> Write --> Memory.  This will initiate uploading the memories to the radio.  If you get a "Communication Timeout Error" then check your COM port settings on your PC.  The following settings generally work:
  • 9600 Baud Rate
  • 8 Data bit Rate  
  • None Parity
  • 1 Stop Bits
  • Xon/Xoff Flow Control
If you receive an error message, "The radio is invalid please check and try again" then check your cable connection into the radio.  We found that our cheap cable was a little finicky on one of our TH-F6A radios but not the other.  If we angled the connector out at the top a tiny bit it would work better than when fully inserted.  Results may vary.  Remember to power down the radio before inserting or removing the connector.

We gave both newly programmed TH-F6A radios a good testing on our local repeater by cruising around the area on a motorcycle with our HT to see if we could maintain contact through the repeater at various locations.  For safety purposes, we would stop and park the motorcycle before attempting the contact.  Test results:
  • Home - full quieting
  • Local grocery store - full quieting
  • State Park Entrance nearby - full quieting
  • End of the road in the State Park - DEAD SPOT - no area repeaters could be reached and no mobile phone service
  • Fruit stand in neighboring village 17 miles away - full quieting - a happy surprise
2003 Suzuki VL800

We had a lot of fun with our motorcycling HT/repeater coverage test.  We were very pleased to find excellent local repeater coverage at each destination with only one dead spot on the trip.  Most of all, we were thrilled to have our two HT's returned to full operating status instead of sad (though cool looking) inert dust collectors.

Do you have an inert dust collector HT on your desk?  If yes, we hope we have inspired you to take action - charged it up, program it, and get back on the air.  We look forward to our next contact with you either on an HT (or the HF bands).

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

June 12, 2015

One of the most difficult branches of applied mathematics...

Programming is one of the most difficult branches of applied mathematics; the poorer mathematicians had better remain pure mathematicians. -- Edsger Dijkstra

Photograph of Edsger Dijkstra
Edsger Dijkstra

May 24, 2014

Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #1 - How to program the radio

The Azden AZ-61 6m handi-talkie (HT) can be found from time-to-time at hamfests for a relatively low price.  Buying one without the manual; however, can be a rather frustrating experience since the radio's design is far from intuitive.  This isn't the kind of radio that you can put in your hand and program without looking at a manual.  Almost anyone who has owned one would agree that it is downright difficult to program the AZ-61 (even with the original manual).

Azden AZ-61 6m FM Transceiver
After searching the Internet, we discovered that there are rather few resources to guide the manual-less Azden AZ-61 owner in programming the radio.  As a consequence, there are probably more than a few fully functional units out there just sitting on a shelf collecting dust for lack of ability to program.  If you are one of those owners, we prepared this short tutorial on programming the Azden AZ-61 for you.  We hope it inspires you to dust-off your Azden AZ-61 (or snap one up at a hamfest), program a repeater or two, and get it back on the air.

How to program a repeater into the Azden AZ-61

In the following step-by-step example, we will program a local 6m repeater located in Ben Lomond, California (WR6AOK, output = 52.800 MHz, offset = -0.500 = 52.500 MHz, PL = 114.8) to the Azden AZ-61's memory address "MA0".

"MA0" is the main memory channel and can be recalled quickly via the dedicated MA0 button on the front left of the radio.  This is a pretty handy feature.

Step 1: Turn on the program mode

  • In order to program the radio you need to first enable the programming mode. 
  • Press "FUN" + "0" (at the same time) and hold for 1 second
  • The LCD display will show a blinking "PR"
  • Note: The programming mode is automatically turned off when the radio is left idle for 10 seconds or more.  This is an irritating "feature" since it forces you to repeatedly re-enable the programming mode (unless you are fast at going through the programming steps).  Be prepared to get a lot of practice on turning on the program mode.

Step 2: Select the memory address to program

  • For our example, we are going to program the memory address "MA0".
  • Using the up or down arrow buttons (located to the right of the LCD), select the memory address, "MA0".
  • "MA0" will appear in the upper left hand corner of the LCD when selected.
  • Press the "#" key

Step 3: Enter the receive frequency

  • For our example, we are going to program a receive frequency of 52.800 MHz.
  • Note: The AZ-61 does not have a decimal key.  Instead, use the "*" to denote the decimal when entering the frequency.  
  • Enter the frequency by pressing the keys, 52*800
  • Press the "#" key

Step 4: Enter a receive CTCSS frequency

  • For our example, we do not want to use a CTCSS frequency (not sure if the repeater transmits the CTCSS) so we are going to program this memory address to disable that feature.
  • Using the up and down arrow buttons (located to the right of the LCD), select "C00:"
  • Press the "#" key

Step 5: Enter transmit frequency

  • For our example, we are going to program a transmit frequency of 52.500 MHz.
  • Note: The AZ-61 does not have a decimal key.  Instead, use the "*" to denote the decimal when entering the frequency.  
  • Enter the frequency by pressing the keys, 52*500
  • Press the "#" key

Step 6: Enter transmit CTCSS frequency

  • For our example, we are going to program a transmit CTCSS frequency of 114.8 Hz.
  • Note: The CTCSS frequencies are stored in the AZ-61 in a table.
  • Using the up and down arrow buttons (located to the right of the LCD), select the "C16: 114.8"
  • Press the "#" key
Voila!  We have programmed a repeater into the Azden AZ-61 in just six easy steps.  Armed with these steps you can repeat the same procedure to program any of the other 40 memory addresses.  Hope this article has inspired you to put  your AZ-61 back on the air.

Considering its age, there are a surprising number of other features that can be programmed into the Azden AZ-61.  Perhaps this is a good example of how more can be less.  In the case of the AZ-61, more features seems to have led to less usability / programmability.  We may cover additional programming topics in a future article if there is interest.  Drop us a line and let us know.

Good DX and 73, NJ2X

Other related articles on NJ2X.COM:
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #1 - How to program the radio
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #2 - disabling "the beep"
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #3 - 1993 review article
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #4 - rebuilding the battery pack
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #5 - how to reset the radio
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #6 - Automatic Power-Off
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #7 - VFO Mode
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #8 - Frequency Step
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #9 - Scanning
Azden AZ-61 6m FM HT - Tip #10 - Dual Watch

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

December 23, 2011

HRD DM780 Macros: Curse or Blessing?

The Ham Radio Deluxe DM780 software is unquestionably a wonderful product - large number of digital modes, powerful features, and easy to use.  There is no mystery as to why DM780 has such a strong following among hams.

Monitoring 40m PSK31 activity with DM780

One of the convenient features of DM780 is automation of the QSO with macros.  You can think of macros as an automated form letter.  This allows for quick exchanges of routine information.  There are several very good reasons for using macros in DM780 or any other similarly enabled ham radio software:
  • Macros relieve the burden of typing the same information over-and-over again.  No fun typing CQ CQ CQ .... over and over again.
  • Speed up the QSO and allow the operator to multitask.
  • Provides an assistant to people with physical disabilities which limit their use of a keyboard.
  • Provides a structure to the QSO.
  • Macros are very useful with the hyper-fast modes like PSK-125.  Most people simply can't type fast and accurately enough to keep up with the mode.
  • Macros are a great way to make an exchange in a language you don't speak (see our article, "HRD DM780 - variations of the 73 macro").
Some hams are put off by macros.  Some even to the point that they avoid using digital modes like PSK31 due to what they perceive as inappropriate overuse of macros.
  • Some hams feel that macro driven QSO are like form letters lacking the human touch.
  • Some hams prefer a short efficient QSO.  They don't enjoy receiving macro-driven unsolicited extensive information about the contact's station, detailed accounts of the weather, long lists of awards, ...
We really enjoy using digital modes and macros definitely have a place in our operation.  We enjoy using digital modes for rag chewing and award hunting.  Sometimes we use macros, other times we don't and sometimes we combine both macros and typing.  It all depends on the context of what we are doing and who we are communicating with.  Here are a few tips for macro use:
  • Don't send station details, weather conditions, or award information unless asked for this information.
  • Keep macros lean and efficient.  Avoid loading them up with unneeded information.
  • Consider combining both macro and typed information together to give the exchange a human touch.
  • Don't use macros for very simple exchanges.  For example, the minimum exchange for a SKED is often call sign and report.  We typically choose to simply type the exchange during a PSK31 sked QSO.
  • Avoid the use of macros during a rag chew QSO and give your communication the human touch.
  • As an alternative to providing unsolicited details, consider sending a simple Internet link to your information.  This allows people to decide for themselves if they want to learn more about your station, awards, etc. by following the link.
We don't agree with those that abandon digital modes because of a few well-intentioned hams who overuse macros.  The art of amateur radio is communication.  We are in the glass-is-half-full camp thus we believe the art will continue to improve as we all gain experience with digital modes and grow with the hobby.  Also, operating digital modes are simply too much fun to just stand on sidelines.  It is much more fun to fire up the rig and get into the middle of the game.

See our related articles:
HRD DM780 Calling Macro
HRD DM780 - variations of the 73 macro

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.