ZS2EZ SOFTWARE SETUP

 

Like most modern Amateur Radio stations, the ZS2EZ station revolves around a computer and an efficient software setup. Due to IT being my livelihood, this is perhaps more so than most in my case!

The Shack Computer at ZS2EZ is an Intel i5 PC running Windows 10 64 Bit Professional, with  3 hard drives (primary drive is a 1Tb Western Digital) and 16Gb RAM. It feeds 5 monitors (a 24", a 23" and 2x 18.5" displays via 2 Gigabyte G210 graphics cards, and an 18.5" display via the onboard Intel graphics port. It also has 3 RS232 ports (one on-board and 2 via a PCI card) running a connection to my Elecraft W2 Wattmeter and my homebrew interface for the Icom IC-735. There are a number of USB devices connected - an SDRPlay SDR receiver, a MicroHam MicroKeyer II, Kenwood TS-590S, an Encore USB Sound Card, K3NG Keyer and a USB CAT cable for the IC-735. In addition there are USB-powered speakers connected to the onboard Realtek sound device.  A Logitech MK260 Wireless keboard/mouse combo round off the PC setup.

The heart of the software setup is the brilliant DXLab Suite by Dave Bernstein AA6YQ. This is a suite of seven "modules" that work seamlessly together. I use DXKeeper for my logging (including Award Tracking, LoTW uploading, automatic uploading to ClubLog and printing of customised QSL cards), SpotCollector monitors 4 different DX Cluster feeds and Commander provides CAT control of my Kenwood TS-590S. WinWarbler makes use of the Winkey built into my MicroHam Microkeyer to ensure perfect CW, and provides excellent RTTY operation via the MMTTY engine (also maintained and supported now by AA6YQ). Pathfinder allows automatic lookup of station info via QRZ.com, DXView provides Map facilities, beam headings and a Progress Matrix, and Propview provides propagation forecasting. The Suite is run through the DXLab Launcher application, which  checks for updates at launch and allows control of configuration data via it's Workspaces feature. A fantastic suite of software.

The perfect companion to the DXLab Suite is the magnificent MicroHam MicroKeyer II. This provides "virtual" serial ports for CAT control, PTT, FSK keying and CW keying (either via Serial Port or via it's built-in K1EL Winkey chip). There is also facility for secondary CAT, PTT and FSK ports. It also provides connections for a Footswitch, PA and LNA switching and facility to take either a PS/2 keyboard or keypad. It also includes full Voice Keying functions, and can take both microphone and headset connected simultaneously. More detail on this incredible interface can be found here

CW is operated using WinWarbler for keying (it integrates perfectly with the K1EL Winkey in the MicroKeyer II), and either MRP40 or CWGet for receive. Both of these packages have Gateways available to work seamlessly alongside WinWarbler. MRP40 also has the capability of transmitting CW via the Winkey, and there is Winkey support in both FLDigi and MixW.

For all other mainstream modes (such as PSK31/63, MFSK, Olivia etc) I make use of  FLDigi . This package offers a plethora of modes, and has Gateway software from N2AMG linking it to both Commander and DXKeeper for CAT and Logging facilities. I also have MultiPSK loaded, but find the User Interface very cumbersome.

For the WSJT modes (FT8/FT4/JT65/JT9) on HF I use JTDX by Igor,UA3DJY , with Joe Taylor K1JT's WSJT-X software as an alternative.  WSJT-X and JTDX combine well with the DXLab suite through VK3AMA's excellent JTAlert software.

For RTTY I use WinWarbler to key my Kenwood TS-590S in FSK. Transmission is via the MMTTY engine, and I utilise WinWarbler's built-in facilities to run 2 additional Decoder Panels. WinWarbler has support for the 2Tone software to operate in RX-only mode, and (via a Gateway provided by AA6YQ) I run VE3NEA's GRITTY decoder package in a 3rd window. This setup works VERY well, as both the MMTTY version built into WinWarbler and 2Tone offer selectable Profiles for specific band conditions, and GRITTY has a Smart Decoding mode that works incredibly well. I also have a HAL DXP38 freestanding TNC that I can run via it's proprietary DXPWin software as an additional decoder. This TNC is certainly no slouch at RTTY either, easily able to keep up with the software decoders - particularly under fluttery band conditions. The DXP38 runs on my secondary (SDR) PC under Windows 7, as the DXPWin software is not happy under Windows 10. 

For RTTY Contesting I make use of N1MM Logger+... For many years I contested actively using the original N1MM Logger, and when I returned to Contesting at the beginning of 2016 I moved over to the new N1MM Logger+. It has been quite a learning curve, but the new version is VERY powerful indeed.  For the 2016 CQ WW RTTY and JARTS contests I ran with 3 decode windows (MMTTY, 2Tone and GRITTY). Under Contest conditions GRITTY proved to be the best of the 3.... I have also added N2IC's Waterfall Bandmap addon to N1MM+, utilising my SDRPlay SDR directly.

During General operation I make use of both Elecraft's W2 Wattmeter software (to give a graphical display of the W2 Wattmeter on my PC screen) and DL9HO's LogPublisher (which automatically uploads each QSO logged in DXKeeper to my HRDLog.net and QRZ.com online Logbooks) and SpotSpy software.

I am currently exploring the various SDR packages to use with my SDRPlay unit : I use HDSDR or SDRConsole (Ver 3) to run the SDRPlay as a Panadapter along with my Kenwood TS-590S (see description on my SDR Setup Page ), and am also experimenting with SDRSharp and SDRUno. 

I have a separate freestanding PC running Windows 7 , controlling my 2x RTL-SDR Dongles, CCW SDR+ Unit and HAL DXP38.


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