3 August 2016

Integration I

For all that it's fun developing cunning software and building controller hardware, ultimately the goal is to integrate the Flex rig into my station, perhaps replacing the FT5000 that has done the job very well for the past few years. So my attention has been focussed in this area recently.

In an earlier posting I discussed the Windows API that I have been writing. This has got to the point where it can be integrated into my logging program, StarLog, so I've spent a gratifyingly small amount of time doing that. The logger can now read and correctly interpret slice frequencies and mode.

My next challenge is to send frequency/mode information to the radio and manage slice creation/removal to facilitate split operation. This is important because, for example, with the FT5000 I can click on a spot that shows "Up 2" or whatever and that automatically sets the Rx frequency, enables the sub VFO, sets it as the Tx VFO and sets its frequency to the correct split. StarLog also has useful short cuts like Ctrl-U to set a split up, Ctrl-D to set split down and Ctrl-S to set simplex operation. All this should be possible with the Flex... I just have to write the code.

Another integration challenge is QSO recording. The Flex SSDR includes a separate client known as DAX that streams slice audio as a sound device. This sounds just the job but it turns out to not quite be what we need.

With the FT5000 I record a stereo audio channel. If I'm running simplex then both left and right carry the same audio - the main Rx. When I select split, the main Rx (DX) goes the the left channel and the sub Rx (pileup) goes to the right channel. Side tone is on both channels regardless of split mode. This works well and is perfect for listening to recordings after the event.

The Flex DAX has other ideas. Each slice (VFO in common parlance) creates a separate mono audio channel. There is no way to merge two slice audio channels into a single stereo channel. I might be able to take two mono channels and merge them into stereo in StarLog but it's far from ideal because the simplex audio would only go to the left channel. Not a show stopper though.

Worse is that the DAX streams do not carry side tone. Indeed there is no DAX channel for side tone. As a 100% CW operator that is a show stopper - I would only be recording one side of the QSO. Come to that, the same applies on phone and probably on data modes. I can't find a solution to this problem, although I am making enquiries on the FlexRadio forum.

If, as seems highly likely, I am unable to use DAX for QSO recording I shall have to use one of the two analogue audio outputs. The Flex has separate headphone and low level speaker outputs, each with their own level controls. Both are more or less the same output level. I traditionally have headphones and speaker connected in parallel (donning the cans when the going gets tough, turning down the speakers if necessary). So I could use the loudspeaker output for that function and the headphones output, via the PC sound card, for recording.

That'll work but I had rather hoped to get away from wires given that the audio is already digitised and available in the PC to support SSDR.

At this rate it won't be too long before I can make the Flex 6500 my station radio. Just in time for the sunspots to disappear!

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