About m0ebp

I have been a ham for about 15 years and enjoy pushing the boundaries of accessibility.

What Is An Accessible Radio? – Part 3

Part 3

So with the clunky command structure and its output. I decide that some accessibility is better than not enjoying my favourite brand of radio, as I document the FT-991A road to accessibility. As most people use Windows, this guide will use Windows 11 to control the radio. Links and commands will be put on a single line so that they can be copied to the clipboard, Control + c, and paste, Control + v, where possible. To my knowledge the given commands are also true for Windows 10.

I have already provided the link to the hamlib GitHub stable release in part one but here it is again.

https://hamlib.github.io/

On this page use the screen reader search function, (Typically modifier key + “f”) for the words “Current Stable”. Just below that is a link to the current stable release page. At the time of writing it is hamlib 4.5.4. After activating the link of the latest stable release. Again use the search function of the screen reader for w64 if the PC has a x64 processor, or w32 if the processor is a 32 bit processor. Consider downloading the .exe option so that unzipping is not required. If the system allows the downloading of executable files.

As with many open source projects, it is possible to obtain new features that are under active development. Sourceforge hosts daily snapshot builds. I would recommend these builds if the radio is newly supported by hamlib and it is suspected that its support is actively developed. In my case, the FT-991A is marked stable and its support is probably mature. In this case choosing the stable version makes sense.

Here is the bleeding edge builds sourceforge link:

https://n0nb.users.sourceforge.net/

Again use the search function of the screen reader to find w64 or w32 as appropriate for the system being used. Consider downloading the .exe option so that unzipping is not required. If the system allows the downloading of executable files.

Having downloaded a copy of hamlib just press enter and run the downloaded installer. I have not found it necessary to change any of the options and just accepted the defaults of this simple accessible installer.

Now I need to gather some information for rigctl to communicate with the desired radio. Basically the command is rigctl with 3 switches, these are mrs. Which are defined by a preceding dash and I will explain the 3 pieces of information in turn that is required and their correct syntax below.

The installer did not add hamlib to the path so Windows does not know where rigctl.exe is located. So I need to navigate to its location and run the commands from the same folder as rigctl.exe manually. Knowing I will be able to automate the process later.

I Pressed Windows + r.
I typed cmd
I pressed enter
I typed cd c:\
I typed cd prog
I pressed the tab key (Knowing it will auto complete)
I typed ham
I pressed the tab key (Knowing it will auto complete)
I typed bin
I pressed enter.

Notes:
1) I knew if the install has been placed in the Program Files )x86) folder. After pressing tab so that program files appears, I would need to backspace once. Then I would press the spacebar, then the tab key again to auto complete.
2) cmd.exe the program I am using here has a problem with its own back slashes. Therefore, I had to write it out in stages.

Having installed hamlib and navigated to the installed program folder. . I need to find the model number of the radio, to be controlled. Which is for the model switch expressed as “-m”. So that hamlib knows what radio is connected to the computer. By typing “rigctl -l”, the program will return with a complete list of all the radios hamlib supports. As the list is long it is necessary to filter the results by using the pipe symbol sending the output to the find function of Windows. Just like this:

rigctl -l | find “991”

This will list all the listed radios with the string 991. Note that the string needs to be in quotes. Typically there are 2 lines of output giving the model number and its status. Note where the model number 1035 is presented from this example:

1035 Yaesu FT-991 20221104.14 Stable
RIG_MODEL_FT991

Now I have the model number the command looks like this so far. Note the dash before the switch and the spaces between the switch and argument.

rigctl -m 1035

The remaining 2 switches are down to the computer and radio’s configuration. The “-r” switch is the radios location on the computer i.e. what com port has been assigned to the radio. I Made sure the correct driver had been installed, as instructed by the manufacturer of the 991A.

To find the radios com port i.e. its location, I did this:

Ensuring the radio is powered on and connected to the computer with the right cable.
I tabbed until the screen reader spoke “Start Button”.
I pressed the Applications Key alternatively I could have pressed Shift + F10.
Then I pressed the letter m.
Then I pressed tab.
Then I pressed p.
Then I pressed the Right Arrow Key
Then I press Cursor Down through the list of ports in order to observe what com ports have been assigned to the radio and made a note of the port number.

Now the command is looking like this:

rigctl -m 1035 -r com1

If I had wrote the wrong com port number rigctl will just refuse to load. and return me to the desktop.

Now for the final piece of information the speed switch “-s”. This is the baud rate of the radios serial port configuration.

By typing the following command, I was able to establish the range of baud rates the 991 supported as stated in the caps_dump output.

rigctl -m 1035 -u | find “serial”

The find command returned: Serial speed: 4800..38400 bauds, 8N2 CTS/RTS

I found that the wrong baud rate causes Rigctl to take some time to present the “Rig Command” prompt and radio commands will not work.

I simply pressed q and quit rigctl. Then I pressed Up Arrow which displayed the previously entered command. Then I just back space over the baud rate and tried another value from the list below. Guided by the command above caps_dump for the 991 and observed that the baud range was 4800 – 38400. The caps_dump will be explained in the next part of this guide.

I notice immediately when I had the correct value as the “Rig Command” was immediately displayed. I pressed the letter ‘f’ and the radio returned the current frequency. I made a mental note of the successful baud rate of 4800.

Standard Baud Rates include:
1200
2400
4800
9600
14400
19200
38400
57600
115200

These were taken from:
http://www.ece.northwestern.edu/local-apps/matlabhelp/techdoc/matlab_external/baudrate.html

Now my command is complete and looks like this:

rigctl -m 1035 -r com1 -s 4800

In the next part I will generate a few useful files and write a batch file to automate the process so that pressing enter on a batch file starts rigctl and connecting to the 991A, right from the desktop.

What Is An Accessible Radio? Part 2

Why not use Rig control and Seek Another Option

As discussed in the opening blog entry on accessible radios. I pointed to the HamLib Libraries as a means of using the CAT interface. Well there are a number of drawbacks to using rigctl.

For a portable situation extra power source and a laptop is required. Adding to weight and bulk.

For me the major drawback is the values that are returned. As yet, I can get a signal strength reading but it is not in ‘S’ readings but in dB values. Typically a non active part of a band might be something like -22DB. Some values such as those for Noise reduction are given as 0.0256. So it is not immediately obvious how to set these values as the range of adjustment is not always clear. RF Power is 0 – 1 for the FT-991A. These are the raw values that are returned by the radio. These ranges should be recorded on the caps_dump for each radio supported by hamlib. However, such documentation has been left behind in some cases.

What Is An Accessible Radio?

Blind radio hams (sometimes known as White Stick Operators) often discuss what is an accessible radio. It is great to have radios like the Kenwood TS-590SG with the additional voice chip. Which is a welcome addition to the blind hams’ shack. If that ham has an interest in HF of course. There is so much going on on UHF and VHF we are really spoilt for choice now-a-days. Having a fragmented choice of DMR, C4FM, D-Star and AllStar are just a few to mention.

There have been development of open source projects that have added voice prompts which started with the Open GD-77 Project. There is hope that such projects spread out and voice prompts are considered a necessity for an inclusive design. We are eager to see how the open RTX project develops providing us with even more choice.

But this post is about an option that very few blind hams use or even know about. The HamPod was a great product and loved by its users. The HamPod used the ability to control a radio, not from the front panel but from a computer aided transceiver (CAT) interface. Usually a socket on the back panel. There are many commonly used programs that take advantage of this CAT interface behind the scenes. Commonly known as the back end. An open source project called “HamLib” provides an interactive console program called rigctl (Rig Control). Therefore, by using this program we can control a wider range of radios than those with speech support as long as the manufacturer provides a CAT interface and of course, the extent of that control is designed and implemented by the manufacturer. In addition, firmware updates might improve or even extend the capabilities of the CAT interface.

There is another advantage to the blind ham using the CAT interface. That is that of continuity. With rigctl running and I press the letter ‘f’ as a lower case letter. Irrespective of the radio that is connected the response is the same. The current frequency is returned and spoken by the blind ham’s favourite screen reader. The interface is not pretty with many colours. It is a simple command line interface and so easy to use without strange things happening on different parts of the screen. It just sits at the rig command prompt waiting to receive a setting or to give a setting at the users request.

Hamlib is available on several platforms and actively being updated to include new radios and rotators. I believe some scanners are supported too but that would need checking by those interested in such things. As the ham has more of a need for a computer in the shack because of new satellites, Weak Signal applications etc. manufacturers are pushing the boundaries of the serial protocol with enhanced serial ports to respond with agility to demanding applications. All this new found use of CAT control is an advantage to the blind ham. In the following posts I will show examples of what can be done as I work with my new Yaesu FT-991A which is widely considered as an inaccessible radio with a touch screen.

If in the future hamlib doesn’t provide all the control I need. Yaesu have published the CAT command sets. So I could develop my own program should I choose to do so.

The next post will be a demonstration of rigctl in action. Watch this space.

If I have wetted your appetite and you want to get hamlib immediately, here’s a good starting point:
https://hamlib.github.io

A Description of Yaesu FT-M100DR/DE for the blind – Not Technical but Tactile

Let’s start with the front Panel Button Layout

Top Left On / Off / Lock

Below Volume control

Below are a row of buttons easily identified because of the casing either side of them. From left to right they are;
1 Band A / B, 2 TX Power, 3 VFO / Memory, 4 Mode, 5 Group Monitor, 6 Squelch / Digital Voice, 7 Back, 8 Settings DSP.

Top Right, 1 Megahertz step.

Below a ratchet selection knob.

At first unpacking the transceiver I thought it to be quite odd. The top has a raised area that contains the speaker. The front panel feels like a bolt on being considerably taller than the height of its body. Further more the body is metal wile the front panel is a plastic box. I haven’t seen a radio before also that has a power cord fixed to the radio. Although, this is a short wire with a connector at the end. In the box was a long power lead to connect to this pigtail. Considering the back panel. I have never seen a radio with a fan housing sticking out of the back. This design has the advantage of providing a recess so that antenna, headphones and data plugs and leads cannot be crushed against anything behind the radio.

Included in the box was an extension lead for the front panel. By pressing a hard to find button on the left front side of the radio the front panel can be removed. In fact, this is necessary to do in order to attach the microphone. Critics have argued that Yaesu should have also included an extension lead for the mic as if the extended front panel lead is used the mic is likely to require an extension too. There are three other metal parts in the box. One bracket that saddles the radio body and a 3 sided bracket that is for the front panel. There is the traditional mic clip too. In addition there are other little odds and ends such as an adapter to be used if using a mono extension speaker.

The FT-M100 dimensions are 165mm from front to back, 135mm across the front and 40mm tall.

So How Accessible Is The FT-M100?
Sadly, the first time the radio is turned on or a factory reset has been performed. The radio demands the entry of a callsign. This process is not intuitive nor does it speak. I did complete it with support from an AIRA agent via an internet video link. However it was painfully slow owing to the brightness of the LED panel. The default is max brightness. I have turned the brightness down to about half way (Settings Menu 1) and agents don’t have difficulty reading the screen via an iPhone camera. The app seeing AI provides some useful feedback but not enough to change settings in the menus independently.

The manual suggests that if the FVS-2 voice board is fitted the frequency will be read on demand. This may be true if menu 12 voice guide is set to manual however, the other buttons don’t speak. The default is auto. Which means that the two buttons VFO A / B and VFO/ Memory read the new state. Using the mic to input a frequency or a memory number are spoken too. Because of the variety of tones used many of the buttons provide useful orientation. e.g. the TX Power button provides three tones the high power tone is higher in pitch than the other two tones.

Yaesu provide software to clone the radio settings and write them back to the radio free of charge. The software appears to be quite accessible. My Windows 7 machine assigns a com port and I can set it within the software. The lead is provided and my Windows machine did not require a driver. I understand that when I use a Windows 10 PC I will need to use a dedicated driver as it uses a Prolific driver, which Windows 10 replaces with a universal driver I can read from the radio and fill a data sheet with current settings. By loading the software and after checking the com port settings are correct I select read from radio. A dialog appears stating the steps that need to be taken. Select menu 13 then 7 for clone. The radio asks for direction i.e. from radio to other. Then the insecure nag are you sure with the default on cancel. One click anti-clockwise of the selector knob moves focus to OK. There isn’t much time after pressing enter on the PC’s keyboard and then quickly finding the Settings / DSP button on the radio I can start the read from radio process. After the write to PC the screen returns to the main screen having exited the menu system. NVDA reported an error although there was no dialog on the screen. By pressing the right arrow it moved focus from VFO A to VFO B and a simple press of the tab key enabled me to curser through those frequencies I had programmed into the radio. I am going to spend some time amending my data and try to write it back to the radio.

Regarding the supplied six pin mini din USB data lead, SCU-20. Thee socket is on the back panel left-hand side of the fan and underneath the power cord which is not the easiest of locations. By exploring the six pin plug I can feel a flat on the shroud and opposite that flat is a groove. This flat is at twelve o’clock and the groove at six o’clock orientation to go into the socket.

I believe the SD card slot is behind the front panel as well as a selector switch for firmware updates. There is also a reset button and another firmware switch under a rubber bung on the top left-hand side near the front of the radio’s outer casing. Also behind the front panel is where the mic socket is located mentioned earlier. Menu item 13 is where the current versions of firmware are stated.

In summary:
This differently shaped transceiver is the most accessible Yaesu I have looked at. Sadly there is a lot of room for improvement to match the competition, in terms of accessibility. The radio is quiet usable on a day to day basis. But when a blind user needs to set up a new or reset radio. Or even a simple adjustment to a menu setting sighted support is a must. Having said which, I have always been a Yaesu fan and I love this radio I think it is great value for money and is a keeper.

My sincere thanks to John KD8PC who created an audio demonstration of the FT-M100 which can be found on the blind hams archive. I would suggest anyone seriously considering this transceiver to listen to John’s demo. Thanks John for your support and for taking the time to create your audio demonstration because I would not have known about this little beauty.

73

M0EBP

Assembling the Tigertronics SignalLink USB with a Plug ā€™nā€™ Play module without sight!

Things have been a little hectic in the shack lately. Today I took delivery of a Tigertronics SignalLink USB. This device is what is needed to engage with digital data modes. If you don’t have a TNC or such device. The SignalLink is a sound card for the PC or Mac to handle digital data modes. Because it is a box that is hooked up to a radio. Various jumper configuration settings have to be made appropriate to the radio being used. Included is a bag with small coloured bits of wire to configure these jumpers. Alternatively, Tigertronics have created Plug ‘n’ Play modules for specific radios and it is recommended to purchase a module at the same time as the SignalLink USB. Thus there’s some assembly to do. There are plenty of warnings of how delicate these jumper modules are and need careful handling. With the help of a sighted friend I was able to assemble my device myself using a plug ‘n’ play module for my radio.

I have rushed this recording because I did not want to forget any detail. In the hope that it will be of use to anyone who takes pride in doing things for themselves when they can and this is easy to do to those who can be gentle. Tigertronics module site: http://www.tigertronics.com/slmodules.htm

Wednesday 13 March 2019 with more to come.

Listen to a description of the Tigertronics SignalLink USB and assembling it with a Plug ‘n’ Play module. Enjoy!

M0EBP

Radioddity GD-77S Introduction and Demonstration Using A Hotspot

Radioddity GD-77S and the Sharkk RF OpenSpot 2
An Introduction To DMR by Gena, M0EBP, from a blind person’s perspective!

February 2019

Background

I hope you enjoy these recordings that I have put together after exploring DMR for a few weeks within early 2019. The GD-77S software is V1.1.10, Windows 10 and Jaws 2018..

The zipped bundle is available to download in the Related Downloads section below, and a description of the audio files and some useful DMR links follow:

Apologies for unwanted background noises during recording.

Audio Recordings included in the bundle

001_GD-77S_OS2.mp3
As an introduction Gena describes the Radioddity GD-77S and more.

002_GD-77S_OS2.mp3
Gena opens the software and creates a code plug with just one analog repeater keeping it simple to get started.

003_GD-77S_OS2.mp3
Incomplete! Gena opens GB3PP using the GD-77S.

004_GD-77S_OS2..mp3
Gena adds talk groups to the code plug. TG9 and TG 9999 for the OS2 and TG91 World Wide talk group. Not forgetting to unlink..

005_GD-77S_OS2.mp3
Gena struggles with the OS2 interface using the Chrome browser and Jaws. Hopefully it is clear that important settings should match in the modem and connectors sections of the interface. Remember to save after making changes.

006_GD-77S_OS2.mp3
Gena takes a tour of the code plug and discusses Brandmeister and Phoenix servers and how 2 different numbering systems are linked for UK users.

Additional Files included in the bundle:

demo4-v1.dat
Minimal entries: GB3PP TG 91 WW TG 9999 Echo and TG 4000 Unlink.

Demo6-v1.dat
the UK Brandmeister talk-groups listed below. Unlink is on channel 1 of mode 2. GB3PP and GB3RF are 2 & 3 of mode 2 and are untested as yet.

These are the 2 code plugs observed in this project. Having removed my ID.

Useful URLs: (Obtained 6 February 2019)

Essential JAwS Scripts:
http://www.dlee.org/dmr/

Radioddity software download.
https://radioddity.myshopify.com/blogs/all/gd-77s-update-software-v1-1-10

Brandmeister UK, includes a link to get registered
http://www.bm-dmr.uk/dash/

Phoenix UK
http://www.dmr-uk.net/index.php/phoenix/

Open DMR, Phoenix UK and Europe DMR network
https://www.opendmr.net

Northern DMR Cluster
https://www.northerndmrcluster.com/talkgroups.html visit here if you want to view a collection of DMR Plus links i.e. 2350 linked to 4400.

To extend my coverage, view this youtube video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BPsLLChhlE

Brandmeister Talk-Groups UK: (6 February 2019)
TG 2350 United Kingdom 4400 listen live
TG 2351 Chat listen live
TG 2352 Chat listen live
TG 2353 Chat listen live
TG 2354 Ireland listen live
TG 2355 Scotland listen live
TG 2357 Wales listen live

23500 S.West listen live
TG 23510 S.East listen live
TG 23520 N.West listen live
TG 23527 UK Mil & Vet listen live
TG 23528 UK Hackspace listen live
TG 23529 Bracknell ARC

Disclaimer:

I am still learning about DMR and while I am glad to share my findings I cannot and do not suggest that my understanding is completely accurate. These are my findings as of February 2019.

Enjoy!

Gena

Call: M0EBP
DMR ID: 2346259
Loc: IO83PS
73

Related Downloads

D77S Introduction and demo bundle (download file and unzip)