TrakBox with MAP65 and LP_Bridge

2016-05-02 TrakBox

Since I started running MAP65 it has always been run on a separate laptop along with Linrad. This was primarily due to the amount of monitor “real-estate” that was needed for all the various programs that normally run when operating EME. A while ago I added an additional 24” monitor so space is now less of a challenge although I think desktop space is a little like desk drawers. It doesn’t matter how many drawers you have you will fill them!   🙂

MAP65 made an enormous difference to my EME working capabilities. Living on the edge of a housing development with a relatively small antenna system and a high (electrical) noise floor MAP65 shows me what my system can “see” and decode. I no longer have to first check LiveCQ or the N0UK to see who is active, and then tune to the frequency and wait.

MAP65 (working with Linrad and the FCDPP) displays around a 60KHz “window” which is absolutely great. With all this visibility I found that at times I needed to quickly tune the K3 from one end of the “window” to other so as to catch a new station. The K3 is setup to work with WSJT so not only was I having to tune maybe up to 60KHz,  I was also having to enter the callsign, perhaps also add it to the Call3.txt file first, generate the messages, set the correct period and then transmit. Now in the grand scheme of things that doesn’t really seem that onerous but at say 02:30AM when you’ve been on the radio for many hours, you’re tired, mistakes can happen when you’re trying to do all that in < 8 seconds. Now wouldn’t it be great if this could all be simplified?

After a little research I came across TrakBox by IK7EZN. From my initial read through of the online documentation it seemed that it would do exactly what I wanted. My only slight reservation was that some comments I read suggested that it needed a dedicated serial connection to the K3. I also found wiring diagrams of special 2 to 1 serial cables to enable the CAT and PTT communications to work. If my understanding of this was correct then that would be a problem as the (one) physical serial connection between the K3 and PC was the primary connection used for LP_Bridge and that program enabled all my other software to communicate (CAT, PTT etc) with the K3.

I downloaded TrakBox and ran the installation which was seamless, and then proceeded to configure the radio and serial port settings. LP_Bridge had COM14 (Virtual port) spare so I selected that from the pull down list in TrakBox, set the 8N1, speed and radio settings plus the location of the MAP65 AzEl file. Once these values were saved I started TrakBox. Unfortunately when the TX-Freq button was pressed it wouldn’t communicate with the K3 and set the frequency. To test the dedicated port theory I then decided to stop LP_Bridge and set TrakBox to use the physical port (COM3) that LP_Bridge used to communicate with the K3. This change resulted in TrakBox working as it should, which was great, but this configuration was not how I wanted things to run. Having had such excellent results with LP_Bridge and other software I decided that further experimentation was needed. Omni-Rig, WSJT and HRD all worked with Virtual Com Ports so why shouldn’t TrakBox also work?

With LP_Bridge running as normal I decided to configure MAP65 to use COM14 for PTT switching. This was another spare Virtual Com Port; WSJT was using COM12 so I was fairly confident this would work.  Wrong… MAP65 PTT switching also failed to work! Then the penny dropped! I remembered reading somewhere about some software only working with low numbered Com Ports. I reconfigured LP_Bridge to create Virtual Com Ports 6 and 7 for TrakBox and MAP65 respectively and changed both programs to use these new ports.

Making those changes resulted in everything working! I was now able to switch the PTT line from either WSJT or MAP65 and by double clicking on a trace in MAP65 have TrakBox set the frequency for me on the K3.  An excellent result.  (YMMV)  🙂

My method of operation now is to use MAP65 and TrakBox to control PTT and frequency respectively on the K3 and WSJT sits alongside also decoding in parallel. So after various tests it is indeed possible for all these excellent pieces of software to work together. My thanks go out to the respective software developers.

Here, for reference, are the screen shots of the various configuration files:

2016-05-02 LP_Bridge configuration file.

LP_Bridge with the respective Virtual Com Ports highlighted.

 

2016-05-02 TrakBox configuration file.

TrakBox configured to use COM6 Virtual port.

 

2016-05-02 MAP65 configuration file.

MAP65 configured to use COM7 Virtual port for PTT switching.

2016-05-02 WSJT configuration file.

WSJT configured to use COM12 Virtual port for PTT switching.

If you are wondering why the MAP65 / Linrad shows 28.137  and the K3 144.137 that is due to the FCDPP operating at the 28 MHz IF output of the Anglian TVTR and the K3 being setup for TVTR use thereby “working” at the actual received frequencing.

 

 

Acknowledgements:

Linrad:                    Leif Asbrink, SM5BSZ

LP_Bridge:           TelePost Inc., Larry M. Phipps, N8LP

MAP65:                 Joe Taylor, K1JT

TrakBox:               Ermanno Ferriero, IK7EZN

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