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How to Control Ham Radio Transceiver from Several Apps at a Time

Olga Weis Olga Weis

What is Ham radio?

Ham (or amateur) radio is a technical hobby that attracts millions of people around the world. Ham radio is a popular way to establish radio communications between non-professional operators in the allocated radio frequency bands. This hobby often grows into a lifestyle of people who love socializing, collecting things, designing, and going in for sports.

Ham radio

The radio amateur goes on air using the call sign given to him/her within the special license that allows operating on radio frequencies known as the "Amateur Bands." To get the license, a person needs to pass an examination on the rules of working on the air, the basics of radio engineering, safety rules and, in some cases, the ability to receive and transmit radiograms with Morse code.

How it works

One of the main tools of a Ham radio operator is a transceiver - a compact hardware device that connects to the computer via a standard RS-232 cable. In recent decades, a computer connected to the Internet has become an indispensable attribute of an amateur radio station.

The computer is used to not only keep track of connections and obtain operational information but also to control transceivers and antennas, and participate in signal processing (e.g. SDR-systems). The communication between computers and connected hardware is established via the RS-232 protocol for serial data transmission.

On the computer of a radio amateur, you can find various Ham radio apps which ensure greater control of the many-layered menu controls often used in modern equipment. The dedicated programs are particularly useful for part sighted operators which get the ability to change frequency, RF gain, notch filters, etc., with just a mouse click.

Ham radio software can be generally divided into two types – logging programs that allow the call sign, and control programs which if used with a DX cluster help quickly change frequency to the station we want to contact.

Probably the biggest difficulty faced by Ham radio operators is that Windows allows natively only one application to access a serial port at a time. To connect to the same physical COM port from several applications simultaneously, you’ll need to use a dedicated serial port splitter.

Virtual Serial Port Driver PRO — an advanced all-in-one software solution which combines all the functionality of Serial Splitter and standard Virtual Serial Port Driver.
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Some common issues faced by Ham radio amateurs and best ways to solve them

Nowadays, hamradio transceivers have the ability to be fully controlled using a single USB cable. This allows computer to read frequency, send CW messages, read transceiver operating parameters (gain, filter,…) etc.

Most of the software that can be used to remotely (or locally) control the transceivers are not good for logging. Usually CW operation is different than in other logging softwares (like N1MM or Wintest, etc.)

Virtual Serial Port Driver

People usually want to use their own logging software even to operate the station remotely. One problem here; operator has to have an eye on how the radio is performing. At least the SWR has to be monitored while operating which is not a feature a logging software like Wintest can provide.

The solution can be to purchase a separate interface for logging. But it can also be easier to use a software to share the same port between several applications.

Let’s take this case. The COM port of the radio should be shared between:

  • Wintest: Logging, band decoder, CW Send…
  • Icom remote Utility: for audio
  • RS-BA1 Remote Control: for radio control and SWR display

Configuration of Virtual Serial Port Driver PRO:

The “share” functionality should be used in this case. The real port to be selected should be the one of Icom radio (Silicon Labs CP210x USB to UART Bridge). Once done, select the applications to be shared by this real port.

To do so, user should indicate to VSPD PRO the location of the following executive files:

  • Wt.exe
  • RemoteCtrl.exe
  • RemoteUty.exe

The three applications should have the Read/Write/Control rights.

Configuration of Wintest and RS-BA1

There is no particular configuration of both Wintest and RS-BA1. The COM port of the transceiver should be selected. Virtual Serial Port Driver PRO will do the sharing.

Wintest and RS-BA1 Wintest and RS-BA1

Running the transceiver

Wintest should be running first. Then RS-BA1 and the remote utility could be launched.

Wintest and RS-BA1

GPS users can also face a challenge when trying to share one NMEA (National Marine Electronics Association) information stream among multiple applications. To achieve this, they need to split a single data stream into several ones.

Split a single data stream

The simplest solution is Virtual Serial Port Driver PRO which can create an unlimited number of virtual copies of a GPS port. The navigation signal sent from a single NMEA interface can be routed to virtual ports of multiple serial applications so that all programs receive the same data simultaneously.

As you can see, Virtual Serial Port Driver PRO is one of the most effective serial port splitters available today. The software offers a host of advanced features that can help Ham radio operators solve a wide range of issues. With Virtual Serial Port Driver PRO, you’ll be able to:

  • split a serial data stream into several ones;
  • join serial data from multiple separate sources into one data flow;
  • provide your system with an unlimited number of virtual COM ports;
  • connect multiple programs to the same serial interface;
  • merge several real and virtual COM ports so that multiple apps and hardware devices can exchange data at a time, etc.

Note: The ability to create pairs of virtual serial ports is available in both the Standard and the PRO editions of Virtual Serial Port Driver. The advanced features including port splitting, joining, redirecting, switching, sharing, merging, complex bundles, and loopback connections are supported by the PRO edition only. The features described in this article require the PRO edition.

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