Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Portable Digital Mode Operation

I've occasionally operated portable digital modes - mostly PSK31 - with an SGC SG-2020 and computers ranging from an old Pentium II laptop to an Asus eeePC.  Besides the added weight and bulk, the main problem has always been power.  The internal batteries on these devices usually only last a few hours before needing to be recharged.  These aren't insurmountable issues when operating short sprints but can really cause problems for a longer field event such as QRP To The Field or Field Day.

When I added an Elecraft KX3 to my radio lineup last year, a significant selling point was that it can send and receive PSK31 and RTTY all by itself without needing a computer.  The decoded signal is displayed where the VFO-B frequency is normally displayed but sending requires a good CW fist - something that I don't always exhibit.  To eliminate that problem, I considered purchasing a Nue-PSK or Ham Central Terminal but never got around to pulling the trigger.  Now a new solution is on the horizon.

A couple of years ago, I got the XYL a Google Nexus 7 tablet for a Christmas present and it eventually became her constant companion.  We recently made the mistake of updating it to the latest version of the Android operating system.  I knew there had been some serious performance issues when it was originally released last November, but I thought the major problems had probably been resolved with a couple of interim dot releases.  Wow, was I wrong!  In a matter of minutes it went from being a good performer to a paperweight.  We tried a number of different workarounds that improved the situation somewhat but she found using it to be frustrating at best.

More research showed that the best solution seemed to be a complete reset to factory settings and then restore her apps and backed up data.  The only stumbling block was that she'd lost confidence in the Nexus 7.  Then I had a brilliant idea - a new iPad for her, and I'd become the new owner of the old tablet.  I figured it would be perfect for ham applications.  A couple of hours later I had a Nexus 7 with reasonable performance.  I've purchased and installed KX3 Companion and HamLog and have a Piglet with a serial cable on its way from Nick at Pignology.  Reviews are very positive and I'm really looking forward to putting this all together and trying it out.  With a little luck and some nice weather, it might get its maiden voyage during the RaDAR Challenge on April 4.  It was looking a bit dicey yesterday with 6 inches of fresh snow and 11 degrees overnight but the forecast is for warmer weather so it won't last long.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

72, Jim - K0RGI