Using the PC in HAM Radio

There are many different views among the HAM Radio amateurs if you should use a PC along side the radio and if you should, what would you want to do with it and what not. I will give you my opinion on this:

 I use an old Dell laptop running Ham Radio DeLuxe. Why? Initially because I’m a geek and I want to try everything just to see if and how it works.

But I do like HRD and I use it whenever I use my radio, whether for listening or when I go on the air.
HRD is a very versatile program which consists of three separate modules that can be used in combination.

The first module is HAM Radio DeLuxe itself.

HRD is basically a very extensive rig control program. That means that you connect your radio using its CAT interface to your PC and then you can use the PC to control your rig.
Although it’s a nice gadget, I don’t really like to control my radio using software. I prefer to use the menus, buttons and controls of the radio itself, but HRD is different. HRD also serves as the server for any other piece of software that wants to communicate with the radio. HRD has a service running on a TCP port and any software can read and write to this port. One popular application of this is the ability to control the rig remotely using the Internet as transport medium. Like this you can work with your radio from anywhere in the world. I haven’t set this up myself, but I hear people are enjoying this a lot. Maybe I will to this at some point as well.

The I use most is HRD Logbook.

HRD logbook is an integrated solution for logging, following the DX Cluster, operating the radio (using HRD), following propagation progress, recoding audio, etc. HRD Logbook automatically looks up station info from callsign-lookup services among which QRZ.com, automatically (using HRD) pulls the frequency, mode, etc from the radio when entering a log, you can follow and feed (send spots) to the DX Cluster when operating the radio.
When you enter your contacts in the log, your log gets automatically backed up and published (if you configured this) to www.hrdlog.com.
A very handy feature is the alarm function that notifies you if a particular station comes on the air. I haven’t fully explored that function yet. I have seen in other logging programs the ability to notify if a certain DX comes on the air. I would like that in HRD Logbook as well. Maybe it’s there and I just don’t know it yet. Who knows.
There are a couple of features I don’t use in HRD Logbook. Examples are the ability to log to the Logbook of the World (LotW), I don’t use the Rotator Control because I don’t have a rotator and I don’t follow satellites. But the software lets you do all this with just HRD Logbook in combination with HRD.

Third module of the HRD suite is DM780.

DM stands for Digital Mode and what 780 stands for, I have no idea.
DM780, as the name already suggests, is used for working with digital modes. To be able to work with this program the PC needs to be connected to the rig’s audio in and audio out ports somehow. I have done it by just connecting the audio-in and -out of the 6-pin mini-DIN of the DATA port to the MIC and Headphones ports of the laptop.
People tell me that this is not an optimal solution and that i should use interfaces like the RigBlaster and all, but for what i want to do, basically listening and decoding, not sending, it works fine.

A very extensive list of digital modes are available and using DM780 is a great way of learning to recognize the different digital modes and decoding them.
What I don’t recommend is to try to decode CW using DM780. I tried it and it works, but you don’t learn anything from that. CW you should be able to decode yourself. In a later article I will get in to my experiences learning CW. I’m in the middle of learning it, but you just cannot write everything at the same day, can you?

So that’s what I use the PC for when I’m using my radio. There is a lot of software out there. Not only rig-control software, but basically everything you could what. Commercial as well as public domain software. If you take a look here, you will find more than you really need. Most of it is Windows or Linux software. Mac users have to search a bit more, but also for Macs there is some useful stuff out there.

I hope you liked this article. Please give me some feedback. Was it good? Was it bad? What is missing?