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VA3HD Canada flag Canada

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Thanks so much for stopping by my QRZ Page. If you are interested in operating your amateur station by remote, as inexpensive as possible, you have come to the right place! See down the page for details and check back periodically for updates. VA3HD callsign was approved on Nov 11 / 2013. Previous active call was VA3VEC, see my other QRZ page for previous operations at former qth.

QSL cards, Please do not send me US Stamped return envelopes, just your return address (SAE). US postage stamps do not work going out from Canada unfortunately.

I will answer any QSL Card ,EQSL or LOTW. For Mail QSL Cards, please send $1 and I will pay the difference back to you.

Hello all from Colborne Ontario, Canada Grid FN14bb. Enjoying HF, VHF & UHF SSB weak signal skeds. Catch me on 144.205 Mhz at 08:00 (Eastern) when Im not working, using the Kenwood TS790A , 2M SSB antenna is 17B2 and 160W amp. On 432Mhz,  running only 30W QRP barefoot for now, usually listening on 432.100 using 719 Cushcraft antenna and on 1296.100, running barefoot 7W using a 45 Element Looper.

I was originally Licenced in 1992 under the call VE3YUF (which I still have and use for packet / APRS) .

Below: House 50Ft tower - 17B2 Cushcraft 2M SSB antenna, 719 Cushcraft 432Mhz SSB antenna, Triband 6m/2m/70cm vertical. 1296 beam will be replaced with a 45 Element Looper which I have on a temp mast, shortly. Coax Fed 80 Meter Windom and rx antennas also below top of tower.

 

HF & 6 Meter Tower

 

Upstairs Shack Setup

Upstairs Shack Consists of the following:

Base Setup:

Icom 746 Pro - 100W 160-2 meters all mode 

Kenwood TS790A 2meter all mode, 70cm all mode and 23cm (1296) all mode Module installed

Mirage 2518 Amp 50W in 180 Out

ID800H Dstar Dual Band FM

Yeasu FT8900R Quad Band FM 

Kenwood TMD700A APRS Dual Band Radio

Uniden BCD996T Digital Scanner

Base Antenna Setup:

KLM / Mirage KT34A Tri Band 4 Element Beam

Coax fed Windom 80-6 meters

Imax 2000 10-20 Meter Vertical

A505S 5 Element 6 meter Beam

17B2 17 Element 2 meter SSB Beam

719 - 19 Element 70CM SSB Beam

45 Element "Looper" 23cm Beam

GP15 x 2 Triband Vericals - 6 meter, 2 meter 70cm Omni

JTB4 x 2 (copy of GP15) 

 

REMOTE CONTROL

 I have been working on remote control of my shack radios since 2013, adding control equipment as I learned more about how to do it. It is so neat and have been asked  to share the details, and if I can help others do the same, just drop me a line.  I am pleased to report that I am 98% complete with remote antenna switching to be added soon to make it 100%.

The idea of remote control came to me when at our summer cottage after seeing a presentation at our local club a few years back, and the thought of installing another station at the cottage just seemed to be redundant with the technology available today, thus was the starting point of my project. Im remote controlling two rigs and two rotators. Why control two rigs you may ask? In my case I was looking for multiple antennas for HF, 6M & 2M FM (IC746pro) and 2M, 432 & 1296Mhz SSB (TS790A) It just made more sense to me since I had the rigs when I started on the project, and it gives me the ability to operate 6 antennas remotely.. In the future I may replace the two rigs with one remote rig such as a TS2000 or IC9100, but unless I can switch between at least 6 antenna ports (or with remote switches) it wont be happening on one rig. If you are going to go remote control you likely want to operate one rig to start to keep it simple.

What is required for remote control? Two or Three Control items depending on what bands and modes you wish to operate, and what your home station consists of rigs antennas etc. My list is............

1) Rig Cat Control

2) Rig Audio Control In and Out (if the remote control program doesnt handle audio such as in the case of HRD5)

3) Antenna Rotator Control*

*(if you are into 6 Meter, VHF/UHF ssb and weak signal work this is a must, but if you are using a dipole on HF, rotator obviously will not be required)

External equipment and software needed (that I use)

CAT Control --> Home Shack control computer - Pentium 4 Duo Core using Windows Vista and high speed internet (im pretty sure Windows XP or above will be fine)-  Ham Radio Deluxe Version 5 (last release of version 5) **I strongly recommend using a UPS on the Shack Computer, that way you dont have to run home to reset the system when the power goes out! My Remote Computer - using Small ASUS Netbook (see pics below) tethered via my smartphone. I can also control the station via smartphone alone with theTeamviewer 9 App. Can log into the remote server computer from anywhere with high speed internet as long as Teamviewer 9 installed on that computer.

Audio In / Out --> Signal Link USB x 2 (one for each radio) by Tigertronics hardware and Team Viewer Version 9 software and/or Skype software installed on remote and local computers and/or cellphone 

Rotator Control --> ERC Easy Rotor Control x 2 (one for each antenna stack). check out the website for more info at www.easy-rotor-control.com . I bought the ERC Version 4 USB version of the control card. You can also buy a version that works with Azimuth and Elevation rotators for those into EME.  They are easy to assemble, easy to install in any rotor control that has a voltage feedback (displays position of antenna on controller). ERC also supplies a calibration program, rotor control program and they have excellent tech support.  I am using two of the ERC Version 4 cards, one in the rotor box for the HF & 6 meter stack with the T2X hygain rotator and one in the rotor box for the VHF/UHF stack with the Hygain Ham 4 rotator.. Note: Power for the ERC cards requires 12VDC external (since most rotators operate at 24V or more) so make sure the rotor cards are powered by pure DC from a good DC supply like the one you power the radios from, cheap wall adapters will cause the cards to act irratic (I know from experience) and I made up some good DC cords that terminate on the 30A PSU with the radios, and properly fused for the current draw for the rotor cards.

My Project Start

CAT Control - "The beginning of remote control for VA3HD":  Rig control is an excellent place to start and this is where I started on the project. It began with getting more familiar with Ham Radio Deluxe Version 5 and all its features. This is a free version of HRD and I cant say enough about it. There are several other programs that will work for Rig/CAT control including Kenwood & Icom software which works great as well from what I have seen . Some of the other remote control programs will also handle the audio porting as well, but you will likely have to pay for the program. HRD5 , Teamviewer & Skype are free, and I was aiming to do the project as cost effective as possible. Ham Radio Deluxe allows you to remote control many features, especially on newer rigs including: change frequency and (In my case with the Icom 746Pro) can control other items such as power level, RF gain, squelch, filter width,  tune the radio tuner, and most importantly save all your favourite frequencies and modes.. In the case of my older radio that I use for VHF/UHF SSB, the TS790A Kenwood, I can only control the frequency in VFO mode, the mode and some other minor features, but not power levels, squelch, RF Gain etc.  Most Older CAT featured radios didn't offer these features in CAT control yet. For SSB though you dont require squelch control and in most cases I want my power to be 160W through the Mirage Amp hard keyed and driven by the TS790A and its 40 W SSB, so this is not an issue for me. I have been using HRD for a fairly long time now, much longer than i was considering remote control . Even now when Im at the home station, most of the time I control the rigs locally in the house using HRD instead of being right at the rigs, it just seems to make HAM radio more fun to operate for me, to have the mobility to operate the station from anywhere..

Audio:  Below - picture of the signallink that controls the TS790A audio in and out, also shown is the Hygain rotor controller that has the ERC controller installed (not shown)

Next I started working with the audio porting through the computer to and from the radios .....I use two Signal link USB units made by Tigertronics - www.tigertronics.com , Also Rigblasters are another option and work just as well. The Signal Link SLUSB units I use are very nice independant units with sound cards built in and plug right into the USB port on the computer. Very Slick. You can make up jumper cables for the interface between the radio and Signal Link, or order the unit with the cables already made, and then you simply have to install the jumper wires inside the unit for the specific radio....close it up and its done. The signallink units have audio in and out gain controls on the front, and delay for ssb. I also use these same interfaces for Digital modes, and the cables (depending on the radio and what configuration you wish to use) plug into the back of the radios not to disturb microphones in the front. Also real slick! You can see one of my signallinks mounted above the rotor control box in the above picture of the remote shack.

Below: Picture of the windows audio console for changing the audio settings in Teamviewer to the two radios. This can also be selected specific in the Teamviewer options like in Skype but since dont use VOIP as much and  I use two rigs,  I choose to do this in windows sound.

You can see I have labelled the USB audio according to the radio its routed to. 

There are two different ways I control the audio to and from the radio. You need to set up Team Viewer and Skype on both computers and your cellphone (if you wish to use one), I labeled audio ports in and out in the audio menu on the station computer to match each radio, to identify them easily when operating remote, but this is not required if only operating one radio. I have to switch the audio back and forth between signallinks, depending on the radio I am using at the time.  Team Viewer Version 9 works ok for audio, but does not have as much dynamic range as Skype. I prefer to use skype to handle the audio in and out through my cellphone when operating via remote. You create two different skype accounts and call yourself on the home computer. Set it to auto answer on the station end.  I find the audio just sounds like im on the phone when I use it and if I didnt tell other HAM's I was remote they likely wouldnt know as long as the internet connection is good.. Below you can see the setting for the audio path on the home computer for Skype, this is in the options menu for Skype under audio settings. I am using two radios, so I have to make sure Im on the correct audio path for that radio before I transmit. Again you can simply Label the USB Codecs for each radio to make it easy as I did.

Rotator Control: As I mentioned above, I ordered the ERC Ver 4 from ERC in Germany. it took 7 business days to arrive at my door.  All this after waiting 3 weeks for Idiom Press in Oregon to NOT get back to me after 5 emails and 3 calls over 3 weeks. Read more about other HAMS bad experiences with Idiom on EHAM and QRZ, but I wouldnt recommend them for their terrible customer service and the fact Idiom cards are more expensive than ERC. ERC lets you turn the existing rotor into a Yeasu GS232B protocol, and the program they provide is just point and click, or you could use the HRD internal program if you wish. They both work.To control both rotators, I simply switch com ports on the little rotor control on the left from one to the other, no need to open a new window. As soon as it connects to the card it will tell you the azimuth of the rotator.

Station Remote Control  Screen:  I use a 90" screen and HD projector at home and use remote control even now when at home.  You can see the rotator control program open on the left, and HRD on the right with two tabs open (one for each radio)

Remote Control Using Team Viewer 9:

As you can see in the photo, I have created several profiles , one for each of my computers, and renamed them according to their purpose. I also operate an APRS Igate and Digipeater here and want to be able to turn it off and on remotely, so its also on the list.  You simply click on the computer you wish to control and it will log you in. Once logged in you can operate the computer remotely. Everything is password protected for security.

Now on to operation in the mobile.......

Picture: Radio stack as it looked before I started with remote control. Most of this equipment could likely be removed now as its redundant, though its good for backup & testing. The stack the radios are mounted on is made for emergency vehicles, which I purchased in the 90's and have had in four pickups so far, just upgrading the radios as I went.

And what it looks like now.

Mobile Remote Control:  **Check your local laws as its illegal in many areas to operate other than hands free on a cellphone, and this is one of the reasons I operate using the bluetooth headset. Using the computer while driving is illegal in my Province **

Nonetheless, even with the restrictions, this is really neat when it works, as you will be dependant on a good cell signal.  I use either my cellphone and/or my laptop tethered to my cellphone. TeamViewer as mentioned allows you to see exactly what is on the screen at your home computer (see above and below), and thus operate several programs at once if need be including digital programs, rotor control etc. HRD does have its own remote control module built in, but this only operates HRD, and not the other programs. HRD also requires some ports on your router at home to be opened, where Teamviewer does not.  HRD 5 also will not operate on a cellphone (yet) but Teamviewer 9 will using the App. so you can just operate HRD on the smartphone running teamviewer as the client. .  Teamviewer 9 will let you receive and transmit audio through the Voice over IP VOIP module (but not in the Smartphone app), you just have to turn this feature on, on both computers and you will have sound as well. I still prefer to use Skype when available though,  as metioned earlier. 

Here is some pics of my radios with the remote operation also in operation in my F150 pickup truck. You can see my smartphone attached to the mobile Cell booster mount running Skype app.on my radio stack for easy screen access, and my Netbook on the centre counsole in the truck connected to the home station computer through Teamviewer 9. I use velcro to keep the laptop from moving when driving. Also attached are DC cords so mobile use will not drain the batteries in the units. I wear a bluetooth headset when Im driving, and just mute the mic on the smartphone screen when Im not in transmit.

 

Cellphone Booster for Smartphone. I purchased the Wilson 4G-C Cradle. It comes with external magnet antenna and the booster unit the phone drops into. Its adjustable for various phone sizes. Unit is powered by a USB cord 5.5V. Accessory kit is also available for base station use which will come in handy at the cottage. Accessory kit also comes with extension mount as shown in the picture below. I can report an improvement in signals on 4G, and will be testing this product and report back with my findings later.

 

Cost of the Project (over and above regular station equipment)

Signallinks $100CDN each x 2 = $200

ERC cards $ 66 euros or around $100 each x 2 = $200

Mobile Cell Booster and Accessory kit $250CDN

Total of around $400 CDN to make the station remote control. and another $250 for cell phone booster.

Of course if you need to upgrade rigs, antennas, rotors or computers etc this will cost more, but the rest in my case was existing equipment. Software is free!

More to come as this is an ongoing project. As mentioned I want to thoroughly test the cell phone booster at the cottage and either add another radio for my dipole antenna and HF vertical or buy a remote antenna switch for port 2 on the Icom 746 Pro.

This page is always in work, check back periodically for more to come - for now.......

Please also check out my VA3VEC page for info on my other home and mobile station setups previous. Please see the VE3RTY page for info on the two repeaters operational at the site.

73 for now

De Sean

VA3HD

1245255 Last modified: 2014-09-07 15:16:53, 19509 bytes

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