Category Archive: Uncategorized

Amateur radio needs to get rid of its whingers.

I swear, most hams would complain if they were hanged with a new length of LMR400 coax.

The eHam online site just upgraded to a newer version of the SMF forum software. Looks great in a PC browser, looks horrible on a tablet or phone. Which is probably because they’re still trying to get the kinks out of the upgrade.

eHam has needed to upgrade its SMF software ever since I’ve been a ham, but they’ve put it off because they have so many customizations that had to be re-done for the newer versions. So they finally pull the trigger and a bunch of old-timers are butthurt because it looks different and doesn’t work the same way as the old one. “This site looks awful, can’t we go back to the old one?” “eHam is no longer my go-to radio forum.” Blah blah blah.

Bunch of whingey old men. I would think ham radio people would be more open to progress. And you wonder why we’re making new Techs hand over fist but we rarely hear them on the air. You should listen to yourselves on the repeaters sometime, you might get a clue.

Go back to your straight keys, boys, the rest of us will move on.

Field Day

(Wow, has it been that long since I posted?  Arghh.)

As we are in Florida as we seem to be every year at Field Day time, I stopped in for a couple of hours today with the Amateur Radio Association of Southwest Florida at the Red Cross in Naples. They are running a 3F all-ICOM station for Field Day. While I was there, I made 4 QSOs for them on 20 meters (unfortunately I don’t recall with whom; I should have written them down for myself). Propagation was lousy, the band was noisy, and stations were stepping all over each other. I think the stations I worked were in Ohio, Louisiana, Texas, and South Carolina.

(Yes, they were all logged by the club, I just didn’t keep a personal log.)

I heard the guys working the 15 meter station make a few Qs with Indiana stations but I did not get the call signs. Wait, come to think of it, one of them was W9UUU, the Wabash Valley Amateur Radio Association (WVARA).

40 meters was not doing well but they figured it would pick up after sunset.

The ARASWF stations on 15M, 20M, and 40M are running under the call sign NV4Z and will be on the air all night and tomorrow morning till the end of the “festivities”.

The League is wrong on this one

I’m an ARRL member, have been ever since I got my ticket back in 2013.  And I generally support the League kind of like I support the NRA — I don’t necessarily agree with them 100%, but they’re out there doing the work I don’t have time to do myself.  In the case of the NRA, protecting the 2nd Amendment, and in the case of the ARRL, protecting amateur spectrum from being overrun by commercial interests.  Both organizations educate their constituencies and those who would like to be part of those constituencies.  Typically they do less harm than good, and to repeat myself, they keep a watchful eye on things I don’t have time to keep an eye on.

But the League’s new advocacy of expanded HF privileges for Technician Class hams is going a bit too far.

The League proposes to “expand HF privileges for Technician licensees to include limited phone privileges on 75, 40, and 15 meters, plus RTTY and digital mode privileges on 80, 40, 15, and 10 meters.”  Why?

“This action will enhance the available license operating privileges in what has become the principal entry-level license class in the Amateur Service,” ARRL said in its Petition. “It will attract more newcomers to Amateur Radio, it will result in increased retention of licensees who hold Technician Class licenses, and it will provide an improved incentive for entry-level licensees to increase technical self-training and pursue higher license class achievement and development of communications skills.”

Excuse me?  I thought that’s what incentive-based licensing was all about already.  You get a Technician license, rapidly discover (if you didn’t already know) that you’re limited to 6M and above except for a tiny phone segment on 10M and some CW frequencies on 15M, 40M, and 80M, and you’re supposed to be “incentivized” to study for and pass the General license exam so you can widen your horizons.  And then, if you’re really smart (or can study and retain the material long enough), you can pass the Amateur Extra exam and all of the keys to the amateur radio kingdom are yours.

The fact is, too many hams are stuck at Technician as it is.  Why would the League think it a good idea to expand their privileges rather than incentivize them to upgrade?  I’m living proof (even as an Extra) that you can get stuck in the digital modes for a long time without doing anything else in radio.  I don’t do code, I get tongue-tied on phone, and I’m not a repeater guy.  Plus I don’t have a lot of time to spend on the air, so I get on, make a few quick digital Q’s, and then I’m off to do something else.  That said, I got WAS in about a year mostly doing digital.  But that’s me.

If FT8 is such a big deal, and Technicians want to get in on the FT8 bandwagon, the League ought to be telling them to study up and pass the General — not giving them yet another excuse to put off (likely forever) an upgrade to a level where they have very nearly all privileges available.

Besides, what are they going to do with an HF transceiver once they get bored with FT8 and the other digital modes?  I mean, that microphone is just sitting there…and if you think they’ll confine themselves to 80, 40, and 15 meters, you’re dreaming.  I mean, the serious ones will (I would have), but soon enough, we’ll see the same issues across HF that we see now on the repeaters.  (As if we don’t already, but happily that seems to confine itself to a few watering holes rather than being spread all across the bands.)  To date, HF seems to have been less affected by that than the repeaters, for probably several reasons, such as cost of entry, antennas, etc.  But open up even a small part of HF to Technicians and the repeater abusers will undoubtedly come along — they’ll find a way.

“Now numbering some 378,000, Technician licensees comprise more than one-half of the US Amateur Radio population.”  OK — so tell them to upgrade.  But hmm, that isn’t the real problem, is it?

ARRL said that after 17 years’ experience with the current Technician license as the gateway to Amateur Radio, it’s urgent to make it more attractive to newcomers, in part to improve upon science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education “that inescapably accompanies a healthy, growing Amateur Radio Service,” ARRL asserted.

ARRL said its proposal is critical to developing improved operating skills, increasing emergency communication participation, improving technical self-training, and boosting overall growth in the Amateur Service, which has remained nearly inert at about 1% per year.

Then the ARRL isn’t doing something right.  There are lots of smart kids out there.  Almost all of them have computers (or at least access to them) these days.  There is so much going on in ham radio that uses computers.  It’s just another way to communicate without wires — and unlike your cell phone, you can talk to people on the other side of the world without having to rely on a technical infrastructure run by faceless corporations.  (Yeah, OK, hyperbole, and don’t get involved in DMR if you are looking for an infrastructure-free method of communications.)

Although, it’s possible that the ARRL is doing everything it can, but outside influences are preventing the expansion of amateur radio.  Fifty years ago, you could probably put up a 40-foot tower and hang big antennas off of it without causing anything more than maybe a little grumbling from your next door neighbor, or some bitching about RFI on channel 6 during Jeopardy.  Today, doing the same thing runs you into a maze of zoning laws and HOA rules and neighbors who know their rights and think you’re running down their property values.

Ground-mount verticals, stealth wire antennas, and even the suddenly-popular cobweb antenna might help solve that problem, but for the average new ham living in a HOA neighborhood, trying to get around the rules can be pretty daunting.  The Amateur Radio Parity Act tries to help, with a “reasonable accommodation” rule similar to the existing PRB-1 that mandates “reasonable accommodation” for TV antennas and dishes, but the Act is stuck in Congress and there’s a vocal group of hams who oppose it on the grounds that it constitutes an end run around HOA rules that you should have known about (and agreed to) when you bought your home — even if you weren’t a ham then and suddenly decided, years later, that you wanted to be one.

But these issues can be dealt with; join a club and use their station, operate mobile, use stealth methods and operate at night, whatever.  And they really don’t affect the ability to use the repeaters when you can put a J-pole in the attic or disguise one as a garden decoration or something like that, so there’s no real excuse even in a HOA to grouse that you can’t get on UHF or VHF.

No, I think the main problem is that ham radio has simply become overshadowed by newer and flashier technologies, and most people think of CB when you talk about amateur radio.  The reason for that is poor or (let’s be kind) ineffective public relations and marketing on the part of those who care.  And when I say “ineffective”, I don’t mean that the PR effort is either weak or no good, I mean that it simply tends to get lost in the noise.

For example:  During the recent natural disasters that have occurred over the past year or so, there have been some real gems come out, showing how important the Amateur Radio Service is during emergencies — particularly in Puerto Rico, but also in Florida and Texas, and in California during the big fires there.  But it doesn’t seem to me that this information got any major play.  It tended to get stomped on by the general human tragedy and the fecklessness of government, particularly that of Puerto Rico.  Because after all, ham radio operators restoring communications in the aftermath of a disaster doesn’t sell newspapers like stories about the suffering and deprivation of the region’s inhabitants, or stories about a corrupt commonwealth government that’s holding money and badly-needed supplies back from the professionals who can use them, to the point where FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers need to step in and be the adults in charge so power can be restored to the island.

The Force of 50?  What’s the Force of 50?  No habla inglés, señor.

If amateur radio can’t get a boost out of stories like the Force of 50, what the hell can it get a boost from?

I can tell you right now, expanding the privileges of the Technician license is not going to cause that many more people to wake up one morning and decide, hey, I think I’ll study up and get a ham radio license.  As far as privileges go, there is already so much that a Technician can do at VHF and above.  In the modern era, the one thing that really gave ham radio a bump came in 2005, and that was the FCC dropping the code test requirement.  People like me — who had thought about getting into ham radio for years — no longer had to learn code, and frankly, that was my big stopping point.  Well, that, and the high price of entry; we didn’t have the money when I was a kid.

There is no comparable “bump” left, short of dropping the testing altogether.  But at that point, we’d all become glorified CB operators.  Luckily, I think the FCC, while it would love to rid itself of oversight of the Amateur Service, would still find itself bound by the IARU agreements that require amateurs to be licensed by their government.  Frankly, I think that’s the only reason we still have testing, but the FCC already handed that part off to the VECs years ago, and don’t involve themselves in that aspect.

So, whither amateur radio, in a world of cell phones, the Internet, and satellite TV?

I mean, even a TV sitcom with a popular actor (who happens to be a ham) about a father and family man (who happened to be a ham) that uses ham radio as a major plot device didn’t manage to turn that many new people into hams, did it?

There are all kinds of celebrities out there who are ham radio operators.  Does that get the interest meter off the zero peg?  Nope.

So what I’m going to tell you now, after all that’s gone above, is that I don’t have the answer.  If I did, I’d use it to double the membership of my Scottish Rite valley.  And I don’t think the ARRL has the answer, either.  But I know at least part of the answer is going to involve a lot more concentrated PR effort than I’ve seen since I became a ham five years ago.  Ham radio just isn’t a piece of the culture like it was in the mid-20th century, when it often appeared as a matter of course in movies and science-fiction novels, and the Radio Merit Badge was a big deal in Scouting.  I don’t even know if it can be taken back to that level, and frankly, I doubt it.

But one thing I do know is this:  There is not a single high-school amateur radio club in any of the nine school districts comprising Marion County, Indiana.  And if you don’t get them young, good luck getting them when they’re older.

Masonic Nets and other things

It being Christmas Eve, I figured I had some time to tune around, and thought I’d see if the Ohio Masonic Fellowship Net was still meeting on 3865 as advertised on the Hiram’s Hams website.

Just before 0230 UTC, I heard K8DHC identify way down in the noise.  Of course part of the noise was a couple of yahoos yakking on 3863, so they were bleeding over into 3865 for me and pretty much ruining the entire experience, but my punky antenna and the general condx may have had something to do with that, too.

So I don’t know if the Masonic net went off or not, but I didn’t hear much after that one identification other than somebody tuning up and someone saying something along the lines of, “Goodness gracious!” without identifying.  (They were, however, 5 and 9 from Indianapolis.)

It gives me a bit of a thrill, though, to think there might actually still be an HF Masonic net running on Sunday evenings.  I’ve never heard the one that supposedly runs weekdays at 1600 UTC on 14328.

So, are there actually any other Masonic HF nets running?  I’m not talking about on Echolink — that’s not radio.

Earlier in the evening, I heard K6MYC booming in from California on 7134ish, talking about antennas.  I suppose he would know, I went and looked him up on QRZ and he’s quite the interesting fellow.


Wherein I pause for a moment to remember Robert F. Albright, KC9DN, who passed away last night at the ripe old age of 94.

Bob had been my stepfather since 2014, and was also a Freemason.  He held an Extra license and was a ARRL VE for a number of years.  He was (obviously) originally licensed under a different call, but I don’t have that handy, and it was so long ago that the change doesn’t show up in ULS.

Resquiescat in pace, my brother.

Tree trimming day yesterday

Yesterday, with the help of the boy, I finished some tree trimming that I started last week.

When I hung my G5RV back in 2014, I had a lot of trouble with the trees that overhung the side yard.  Mostly they were the neighbor’s trees, and while he didn’t have a problem with me trimming them back at least to the fence line, there was probably $500+ worth of trimming to be done if I had a professional tree company do it.  So that project hung fire for three years.  And since the side yard was the only decent place to hang a 102′ wire antenna, I made do…but about the most I could lift the midpoint of the antenna before the wire hit branches was about 18 feet or so.  The two ends of the antenna, conversely, were up about 35′ in the trees on either end, courtesy of a tree climber who was (ironically) working for the neighbor the same day the boy and I hung the G5RV.  So for the last three years, I’ve had a “V” antenna that frankly didn’t work very well, and was a lot of the reason why I got so far into digital modes.

Last weekend I got fed up with that, and went to the hardware and bought a 16′ extendable tree pruner with the long attachable blade.  I cut out a lot of the low-hanging stuff but, at only 5’8″, I’m not tall enough to reach the branches that actually mattered. So when the boy and the girl and the grandkids came down from Fort Wayne yesterday, I shanghaied him to reach the stuff I couldn’t.  He was game, and we got just about everything out of the way and the antenna rehung in a couple of hours.  So for about $70 for the tool — which is going to be used elsewhere around the yard, so it wasn’t bought solely for this project — I got most of the trimming done that would have cost at least $500 and probably more to have done professionally.

And yeah, I’m kind of crazy.  I’m a 57-year-old fat boy with medical issues, and probably should be having professionals do this stuff.  As it is, my wife won’t let me get on the roof and is skeptical of me climbing ladders, so thankfully I have a son-in-law to help with that stuff occasionally.

We did not, unfortunately, get the midpoint higher than about 25-28 feet.  There is another branch in the back yard that is interfering with us getting the line up any higher; we may take a look at that in a couple of weeks and see if we can get it down, since it’s dead anyway.  But we did get it considerably higher than it was before; the 450Ω ladder line that used to drape across the ground is now mostly in the air.

I ran a tuning test on 20 meters after we got things rehung and for the first time I can recall, I can actually operate on 20 meters with an SWR under 3.0.  Weak signals in the JT modes seem to be coming in a little better, but given that solar conditions suck, it’s possible we may have improved things significantly more than it appears.

Now that I have the problem branches out of the way at the antenna midpoint, I may experiment with dropping the ends to around 10-15 feet and raising the center as high as I can get it with the 40′ Spiderbeam HD fiberglas pole I’ve got in the garage (thereby making an inverted V rather than the current “V” (even though the angle is much more obtuse than it used to be!).  But we’ll see.  Right now I’m tired, sore, and need a nap, and it’s raining outside anyway 🙂

Oh, and one more thing.  I have to praise the hell out of the MFJ-1778 G5RV antenna.  Not only has it held up for the better part of four years without appreciable wear (other than the surface of the wire oxidizing, but that’s to be expected), we actually dropped a fair-sized branch on it by accident (the plan had been for that branch to fall away, not into; oops, we miscalculated) and it held up until I could get over to the far tree and lower it.  That’s some hefty #14 stranded wire, and a good job of connecting it at the center point, too.

More APRSdroid on RPi 3 B…

Got the neat little case for the RPi “official” touchscreen and put that all together yesterday.  So I now have a nice little desktop APRS tracker.
Pretty nice, right?

Now I just need to figure out a way for APRSdroid to start at boot time instead of having to open an adb session and start it manually, and how to hook up a GPS to it, and the best way to hook it up to a radio so it’s not “crippled” by having to use APRS-IS.

The first may be fixable by writing a small “wrapper” program with the appropriate default activity to run at boot time.  The wrapper would then start APRSdroid.

The second may or may not already be fixed; I have a USB GPS puck hooked up, but since it won’t get a signal indoors, I’ll have to test that outside.

The third may be tricky, since either the Pi or the touchscreen is really sensitive to RF.  It may be something that can be solved by using a remote antenna, or I may have to find a better way to shield the assembly.

Optionally, I also need to add the open source maps that are supposed to work with this version of APRSdroid.

Anyway it’s been fun messing with this.  And yes, eventually I’ll take the protective wrap off the screen 🙂

LATER:  Added the open source map for Indiana.  Works fine.

That said, it’s a little frightening that you can get superuser in adb by simply typing “su”.  Boom, you’re root, no questions asked.  No wonder people are starting to look askance at the whole IoT thing.

APRSDroid on Raspberry Pi 3 — yeah, not under Raspian.

So last night I was fiddling about and my Raspberry Pi 3, which has been sitting on the desk unused for awhile, caught my eye.  And I started thinking, hmm, what to do with the Pi.  And then I started thinking, I wonder if I could run Android on it.

Sure enough.

So then I started thinking, “OK, can I run APRSDroid on that?”

And the answer is, yes:

And it works, too:

I have to get dressed, gear up, and head out to WD9BSA shortly, so I’ll post how I did it later.  However, the trickiest part is figuring out how to start it (Android Things doesn’t act like a phone, so you don’t get icons on the main display).  Basically you have to do a

pm dump

and then you find that the android.intent.action.MAIN is mapped to the activity “.APRSdroid”, so that’s what you want to start it with:

rpi3:/ $ am start -n
Starting: Intent { }

See here for more complete instructions on how to install an APK under Android Things.

I thought I saw something somewhere about how to make an app start when you boot, but I can’t find it right now.  Again, later.


Yeah, this is a great idea…except that I need to figure out how to force audio away from the HDMI port and to the headphone port, so I can hook the stupid thing up to a radio and use AFSK.  Apparently when you have the HDMI cable hooked up, the OS forces audio to HDMI, and there seems to be no simple way to fix that.  Perhaps the addition of the RPi “official” touchscreen will work around that; I don’t know yet.

Anyway, if you don’t mind using TCP to send your packets, this setup makes a nice static position beacon, without going through the effort to make a TNC out of the RPi — which, from what I’ve read, is a daunting task.

I may correspond with the APRSdroid author and see if he’s interested in tweaking the program a bit to make it more Android Things friendly — although it doesn’t seem like it could be much more friendly; it works, after all, it just doesn’t work the way I want it to, and that’s not his fault.  And it’s early days for me with Android Thing anyway; I never heard of it before yesterday so I guess I have a bit of research to do 🙂


The official RPi touchscreen solves the HDMI audio problem.  I have successfully connected the RPi to my Baofeng BF-F8HP.

Last position: 2017-06-13 17:05:12 EDT (3m24s ago)
2017-06-13 17:05:12 EDT local time at Meridian Hills, United States [?]
Device: Open Source: APRSdroid (app, Android)
Last path: KC9YTJ-5>APDR13 via W9ICE-10,WIDE1*,qAR,W9SMJ-1 (good)

Two problems:

  1. The touchscreen (or the PI itself; not sure which) is VERY SENSITIVE to RF, at least at 144.390MHz.  The screen goes kinda nuts when the Baofeng transmits.  Admittedly I’m using high power, so I could cut that back for testing.
  2. I’m seeing the radio receive inbound packets, but they are not showing up in APRSdroid.

Problem one is simple enough, use a remote antenna or shield the Pi and display better.  Although even on low power, man, the screen is not happy.

Problem two is going to take some thought, as I don’t think there’s anything preventing APRSdroid from receiving the packets from the radio, unless maybe I need to enable a driver for the microphone or something.  I may simply try a USB audio dongle.  However, I’m looking at the verbose log and it’s clear the packets are being received; they’re just not being displayed.  So that may be related to why the touch screen suddenly stopped accepting touch input after the first transmission, and I’m using the physical mouse now 🙂

So I’ve turned VOX off on the radio so it doesn’t transmit, and now I’m just trying to see if the thing will receive and display packets.

Aha — the 3.5mm jack on the Pi is audio output only.  Well, $#!7.  Now I know what to do about that problem.

And I thought the Florida repeater situation was bad.

So here we are in Indiana, on the cusp of having a seamless DMR repeater network that would let you talk on 70cm throughout the state and around the world.

And now there’s a spat because one group of repeater trustees are championing the Brandmeister DMR system and another group is championing the older cBridge-dependent system.  And then there’s Crossroads, but who cares; I don’t.  I was perfectly happy with the Hoosier DMR setup.  Not that I get on much, but that’s another story; I don’t really like to talk.

Anyway, each group apparently has their reasons, each group is stubborn, and each group is now locking the other group out — even from Facebook discussion groups.  At least so far as I can tell; I’ve got likes and follows on both sides of the equation and all I know is that one side snorted that the other side locked them out, and now the other side is saying the same thing about the first side, and in point of fact, the Brandmeister Indiana Statewide group has been locked out of the cBridge — so from the DMR point of view, the state is now fragmented.

The section manager was just on Facebook asking if the Brandmeister group might consider adding TG 31189, which would have the effect of knitting things back together again on the statewide side.  31189 is apparently the Crossroads statewide TG, and it’s not being blocked by the cBridge.  The Brandmeister folks are against it for a couple of different reasons — one, why ask a thousand DMR users to reprogram their radios when 3118 would be perfectly fine if the Brandmeister repeaters weren’t being blocked from the cBridge, and two, “we hate Crossroads” (essentially what one of the trustees responded to the section manager).

The section manager is at least trying to deal with the situation where there is no longer a common DMR talkgroup for the ARES statewide net.  I appreciate that he’s trying to be proactive and at least provide a workaround for the current stalemate.  But I think (and I said this earlier today in a comment to a post that has (the post I mean) apparently been taken down) that the section manager has a role to play here that only someone who represents the entire Hoosier ham community can do.  He needs to call the warring sides to the table and they need to hammer out a working agreement that benefits all hams in the state.  And I admit that this isn’t a League problem, and it’s not technically his job, but what other ham radio organization has a statewide team and leader within the Hoosier ham community?  Who else will people listen to?  (And if people hate the League, as some people do for no particular reason that they can articulate, then fine, piss off and go play in your corners, and let the adults sort this out.)

Anyway…I have only about $300 invested in DMR handhelds (one VHF, one UHF), so I’m not terribly affected at this point.  I can always sell the handhelds or repurpose them for analog.  I’m not a big repeater guy anyway.

I’ll also acknowledge that a repeater owner can do pretty much anything he damn well pleases with his repeater — leave it open, lock it down to members only, or just shut it off and sow the wind (and probably get his repeater pair repo’ed by the Repeater Council, eventually).  But with great power also comes great responsibility.  If nobody is using the repeaters, what the hell good are they?  And in this case, if I could talk to someone in Fort Wayne the other day on a DMR handheld and I can’t today, where is my value in caring whether the DMR system continues to build or falls by the wayside?

While I’m not sanguine about the chances of the DMR network staying up in a real, balls-to-the-wall emergency — particularly given that a lot of DMR repeaters seem to get their Internet bandwidth via cellular wifi modems, and certainly not via hardened copper or fiber optic lines — the fact is that a DMR statewide talkgroup was a boon to the ARES organization, which prior to the rollout was pretty much stuck with an HF net on 80 meters.  DMR had the promise of bringing a lot more people onto the net, and was doing so, until this little dustup happened a week or so ago.  And that’s why I think the section manager has a dog in this fight — a pretty important dog, too, if we are all the public servants we claim to be when we sling slogans like “When all else fails, amateur radio works.”  The radios might work, but the humans behind them may not all be on the same page.

To top it all off, damn few people are using the repeaters anymore, analog, digital, name your favorite flavor.  Do you want people to use the repeaters?  Because this isn’t how you encourage them to do that.

Review: PSKer – an app with issues

While hanging out at the WD9BSA station the other weekend, we were playing with NBEMS via handheld tranceivers…well, OK, we were using Baofengs.  Tom had a copy of a program called PSKer on his iPad and said he’d been playing with that off and on.  So I downloaded it to my iPad for $2.99 to give it a whirl.  We both had our HTs directly connected to our iPads with appropriate 4-wire headphone/microphone jack cables, for what it’s worth (Tom’s is a semi-homebrew, mine is the “official” Baofeng APRS-K2 TRRS cable that BaofengTech has been selling lately; I bought mine on Amazon).

Bottom line, this app ain’t that great.

It seems to decode OK, but it’s supposed to be a transmitting app, too.  Which is fine, you can tell the Baofeng to transmit on VOX, and it does work — sort of.  Generally it cuts off the first few letters of the message, because it starts pumping text out immediately instead of waiting for the VOX to pick up.  And since it has no VOX delay feature, there’s very little you can do about that, short of padding the transmission with a bunch of leading spaces.

Before you blame this problem on the Baofeng, I’ll make the point that I have APRSDroid on my Android phone, and it works just fine with the same Baofeng.  But that’s because the guy who wrote APRSDroid actually knows what he’s doing, and took the time to include a “Frame Sync Prefix” feature in the connection preferences.  With that feature, you can add a “No-Op Preamble” that’s set in milliseconds (the recommendation is 3000, or three seconds), so that the software basically sends nulls to the speaker for three seconds to open up the VOX.  With the Baofeng’s VOX set to 1, that works perfectly.

I would guess that PSKer is really designed for the ham who doesn’t have an interface cable and is simply keying his HT and holding it up to the iPad’s speaker.  But it seems like a major shortcoming not to acknowledge that someone might want to use it with a cable hookup.

The other shortcoming, of course, is that the app doesn’t have a clue about NBEMS — no standard forms or anything are available for use with ARES or any other emergency services group.  But it’s cute if you want to send text back and forth across a big room on a simplex VHF channel.

There also appears to be no way to clear the screen short of stopping and restarting the app.  Come on.  Black Cat Software’s PSK31 Pad lets you do this by shaking the tablet.  It can’t be that difficult.  (Too bad Black Cat’s offering doesn’t support transmission, because they’d probably get the VOX delay thing right.)

If I were reviewing this on the Apple Store, I’d give it 2 stars; it’s a reasonable start, but it needs a lot of work if it’s to be considered anything other than a toy.  And at this stage of the game, it isn’t worth paying money for.

(I’m not reviewing it on the Apple Store, FWIW, because to do that I would have to install iTunes on my computer, and I categorically refuse to do so.)

Older posts «