Joe VK5JKS has updated his accessible guide for the Kenwood TH-D74. The guide can be downloaded from the following link:
and is also available from the Related downloads section of the TH-D74 review page.
Joe VK5JKS has updated his accessible guide for the Kenwood TH-D74. The guide can be downloaded from the following link:
and is also available from the Related downloads section of the TH-D74 review page.
Joe VK5JKS has written JAWS scripts for the TH-D74 MCP program. JAWS is a popular PC screen reader used by many blind amateurs. The JAWS scripts improve the accessibility and usability of the Memory Control program for voice and Braille output. The script file, including instructions, can be downloaded from the following link:
or the Related Downloads section of the Kenwood TH-D74 page on the Active Elements site.
The script installation instructions are as follows:
Kenwood MCP-D74 Memory Control Program scripts for JAWS for Windows 18 and 2018
Install the contents of this zip file into your JAWS User Settings folder.
TO find this folder on your system:
* Press Windows key.
* Type Utilities.
* Choose Utilities JAWS 2018 (or 18) from the search results.
* Choose Explore My Settings.
* Copy the contents of this folder into the folder which opens.
The path of this folder is typically something like:
Start the MCP-D74 program.
Use JAWSKey+f1 for screen sensitive help in the application.
Please note that comboboxes in this program are only accessible if expanded. this means that once focus lands on a combobox, you must use alt+down arrow to expand it, and then press Enter once you’ve made your selection.
To report a bug, please write to Joseph Stephen VK5JKS
Joe’s contact details are included in the script documentation
Ivan ZL1IA has prepared an accessible list of D74 menus. These have been added to the Related Downloads section of the Kenwood TH-D74 page.
By Kelvin Marsh M0AID and Neil Robertson G0ORG
IT is a fairly good bet that a radio amateur will, at some stage, want to know if their
antenna is a good match for a given frequency. You could just rely on the internal ATU to make sure the radio sees a 50 ohm match, but the time will come when this is not enough. Therefore, an SWR meter will become an essential item to have in the amateur’s toolbox .
A sighted amateur may have several SWR meters, either inserted into the feedline to the antenna, or built into the radio itself. Whilst some modern radios will verbally announce the SWR reading to a blind operator, many will not, and so an external meter giving audio feedback is needed.
There have been some reasonably priced ‘accessible’ meters produced over the years, (See the evaluation of the LDG TW-1 Talking SWR/Power meter), but these have been discontinued. There are also units such as the Power Master 2 from Array Solutions that will read SWR and power when combined with a HamPod, (See the Power Master 2 review), and whilst a terrific solution, it is an expensive option and will set you back the equivalent price of a small amateur transceiver.
My interest was therefore peaked by the Go4lo SWR/power meter from SOTABEAMS. The Go4lo is supplied as a kit and plays audio tones to indicate SWR. LEDs also show power ranges below 5 watts, 5 to 25 watts and from 25 to 100 watts.
SOTABEAMS offer the name of an amateur willing to assemble and calibrate the meter, for anyone unable to do it themselves or find a friend with the necessary skills.
Neil G0ORG offered to assemble and calibrate a Go4lo for evaluation by Active Elements, and describes his experiences building the kit, below.
The kit arrived in a Jiffy bag and was well packed. The version of the kit PCB was 2.0 and marked May16. No instructions were supplied with the kit, however a full printable guide was available from the SotaBeam website. The optional hardware pack was well protected and well thought out. A small packet of sweets were included from SotaBeams proprietor Richard Newstead G3CWI, which was a nice touch.
The size of the finished meter is 110mm wide x 80wide x 40mm deep. It weighs approximately 190 grams when fitted with a 9 volt battery. The box is black and has a transparent lid, the PCB mounted LEDs are viewable through it, the only protrusions are the two BNC sockets and one momentary push switch. The transparent lid is etched with the labelling of the LEDs, the sockets, switch and other details.
The kit was relatively easy to construct and alignment was simple, just requiring an accurate volt meter and a good quality 50 ohm dummy load with a 5 watt transmitter. A small potentiometer is adjusted for correct voltage at two test points, the accuracy of this set up determines the overall later performance. The volt meter needs to have good resolution as the tolerance when aligning is plus or minus 0.05 of a volt. All components are conventional with no surface mount. The Microprocessor is a pre-programmed Pic device.
The PCB is unusually thin, approximately 1 mm, but is of good layout and well annotated. Some of the ¼ watt resistors where a little tight to fit as the resistor component hole spacing is minimal. I had to be careful not to stress them when fitting them. From a previous career spent in the Electronics industry I have experience of fractures that can be caused to components if leads are bent to close to the component body, to make sure I did not do this I formed the leads using needle nose pliers to allow a slight return on the leads.
The fiddly bits are the Toroid transformers and the sampling coax assemblies that pass through them. These form the basis of the SWR Bridge, one for forward and one for reflected power sampling. Each toroid has a specified number of turns and the coaxial cable has to be carefully prepared as per the drawings. Once assembled I opted to hold each of the transformers in place with a blob of hot melt glue. One component to be careful with when soldering is a voltage converter marked as U1. The legs of this device are very close together and the solder pads are very, very close together.
The PCB mounts on the lid and the PP3 battery is inside the unit, it has a typical battery snap connector lead which is directly soldered into the PCB. Careful removal of the battery when changing it is needed otherwise over time the soldered wires may break at the solder joint.
It may have been better for SotaBeams to have supplied a Molex type two pin connector and header to help with durability here when changing the battery. Care is needed to do so and is quite fiddly.
The battery is located between the PCB and the end of the enclosure to this end the battery has space to rattle around (and jiggle the connector wires). As the device is also intended to be used portable I think a small piece of foam between the top panel and the battery side is a worthwhile addition.
For those with sight difficulties the recommendation would be to get help changing the battery although for permanent use I don’t see why a 9v regulated mains adaptor cannot be used. There is enough space to add a power connector to the enclosure if required.
If the PCB were added to a different hardware box then coaxial leads could be used to connect to SO239 connectors, if required.
There is scope to add a further sound modification if required in place of the 3 power LEDs for the sight impaired, this could be a further tone to indicate some approximation of power level however the levels would remain an approximation as the power resolution between each LED is quite large.
For those who want to measure power exceeding the 110w level (400w for example) there is scope to make a new SWR sampling head and modify to the PCB. The only restriction is that careful modification will need to be made to handle the plus or minus voltage within the maximum voltage tolerances required to create the comparison error measurement. As it is a microprocessor circuit then it would probably be prudent to shield the PCB from the SWR sampling head and use feedthroughs for the voltage measurement connections at these power levels.
The kit does require a level of skill to construct, especially the transformers and sampling coaxial cable. Some solder joints are close together so good soldering techniques are required. If in doubt I recommend the use of a test meter to check for any solder bridging.
You can hear an audio demonstration of the Go4lo in action here.
I think Richard Newstead from SotaBeams has provided a great little item here that has visual impaired accessibility built in, possibly without realising it.
Although aimed at the portable market for SOTA it is ideal for visually impaired Amateurs as the sound is the most important element in this instance. The kit is priced correctly and has been well thought out. All items are of good quality and it was a pleasure to construct. As the clever bit is the Microprocessor there is scope to modify it if needed for further ease of use by visually impaired Amateurs.
The device is useful to any Radio Amateur, during testing I appreciated how quick it was to find a drop in SWR when using an antenna tuner. The unit is very accurate and overall a pleasure to use.
Holding the oblong box with the BNCs at the top, the left one is Transmitter and the right is the Antenna. Just below the two BNC in the middle of the box is a power switch, the unit powers on with a dit dah and powers off automatically with a dah dit a few seconds after no use or if it has not seen any RF.
The power up time can be short if the transmitter is not activated but if it goes off a simple button press puts it back on again. On power up the red SWR LED blinks then goes off, nothing else is displayed. When power is applied the appropriate power LED, green for 0.25 to 5 watts, orange for 5 to 25 watts or red for 25 to 110 watts light. The red SWR LED flashes in line with the beeps of the measured SWR. Sotabeams claim that the pp3 9v battery will last over a year as in standby it only draws a few micro amperes.
Our latest product is something that I have wanted to develop for a long time: it’s an audible SWR-Power Meter. Unlike conventional SWR meters, the Go4Lo indicates SWR by sound. Basically the worse the SWR, the faster it bleeps.
This type of user-feedback makes it much easier to adjust antennas than using conventional SWR meters. If you want to know actual SWR, it is just half the number of bleeps per second (e.g. six bleeps per second = an SWR of 6/2=3:1). To make tuning even easier, the tone of the bleeps reduces below an SWR of 2:1 too giving additional feedback: this SWR meter really lives up to its “Go4Lo” name.
In addition to the audible feedback, we built in two types of visual feedback. Firstly the SWR is indicated by a flashing LED which flashes at the same interval as the SWR bleeps. But that’s not all as we incorporated a three-stage power meter showing 0.25-5 Watts, 5-25 Watts and 25-100 Watts. The transition at 5 Watts is especially useful for QRP operators as it makes setting your power level accurately to 5 Watts, simple.
Power Master 2 watt meter and HamPod Accessibility Review
I have been using the Power Master 2 watt meter (PM2), from Array Solutions, and a HamPod, from Rob K6DQ, for a couple of years. The PM2 and HamPod combine to give a blind operator a talking Power and SWR meter.
Initially, the purchase could be seen as an indulgence, particularly as I also own the LDG TW-1 talking watt meter, but I had a particular requirement, as I wanted to automatically and instantly stop the amplifier from transmitting if there was a mismatch or high VSWR in the system.
The PM2 meets this safety requirement, by being inserted into the electrical PTT loop to the amplifier. If the loop is broken, the amplifier is prevented from transmitting. I have several items in the loop and if any one of them is adjusting or has a problem, the electrical circuit is broken. My PTT loop includes the PM2, the amplifier, the auto ATU and the SteppIR antenna. When a predefined power or SWR value Is exceeded, the PM2 issues an alarm and the loop immediately goes ‘open circuit’.
As I use a SteppIR antenna, the elements automatically adjust to the correct length, and there is normally no need for an ATU. I wanted to be able to switch from band to band, have the antenna adjust, the amplifier automatically switch to the correct band and then be able to transmit without further thought. The PM2 gives me the confidence to do this. I know that if I’ve made a mistake or there is a mismatch or technical issue, the alarm will sound and the amplifier will be by-passed.
Of course, as well as the safety features of the alarms, the PM2 also gives you accurate readings for Forward and Reflected power and SWR. It is also highly configurable. In practise, I find I am using the PM2 continuously while I am operating. It is a real pleasure to have accurate measurements available, and as the RF power output from the amplifier will vary slightly from band to band, it is great to be able to make sure I’m transmitting up to the power limit, but not over it.
The PM2 is not accessible to a blind operator without the addition of the HamPod. This accessibility evaluation is therefore about how the HamPod interacts with the PM2 and how the visual alarms and configuration are converted to aural tones and speech output.
Chris M5AGG adds further description here and some additional detail of what he sees on the display, from the perspective of a sighted user:
“The pm2 display indicates swr and power simultaneously. Power is displayed by a fast moving bar graph and numerical displays above this show power and swr.
Two couplers can be used with the meter ranging from 3 to 10KW maximum power. Each is supplied with calibration offsets which when set up in the meter menu ensure accurate results. Despite the high 3KW of the lower power coupler, the meter senses maximum power in use, to ensure the bar graph always displays a high resolution, with many segments illuminated whether the power is 50 watts or 3kw.
Also on the front panel are two leds that light up when swr or power exceed preset settings.
The alarms can also break the ptt line to avoid any damage that may occur. Settings can be adjusted via the menu button on the front panel.
The owner’s callsign can also be displayed too, but as soon as RF flows this is replaced by the bar graph.”
Writing this review, it seemed like a very good idea to reread the documentation for the PM2 and HamPod, and the first thing that struck me was the joy of having the HamPod manual in text format! Quite refreshing not to have to convert documentation, so it can be read by a PC screen reader.
I’ve recorded a series of short demonstrations, looking at different aspects of the PM2 and HamPod, and you can download the zipped MP3 files here:
The MP3 tracks are:
1 General Description 3:04
2 Basic Operation 8:24
3 Audio Tuning Mode 8:16
4 PM2 Configuration 13:25
5 HamPod Configuration 7:34
The Power Master 2 is a useful addition to the shack, and highly desirable for anyone running high RF power from an amplifier. When combined with the HamPod it becomes very accessible for a blind user, and Rob K6DQ has again done an amazing job in making the meter ‘talk’. I know that Array Solutions were very helpful in tweaking their firmware, so Rob could have full compatibility between the devices. The result is superb! I would encourage you to listen to the audio demonstration to learn if the PM2 and HamPod combo will meet your requirements, and if it does, you have the knowledge that it can be fully used by a blind amateur.
Accessibility Review of the Kenwood TH-D74
I was contacted by Jim MI0JPC in September 2016, asking if I had any accessibility information on the new Kenwood TH-D74 handheld. The model had been discussed on the Active Elements email group a few weeks earlier, but despite the radio’s obvious potential, no one had any firm details.
The TH-D74 had the prospect of being the first handheld with full speech output and accessibility to D-Star. I have very limited experience of using handheld portable radios, and the low cost handheld I reviewed a few years ago only ’spoke’ the key that had just been pressed. It could not be interrogated further to learn the current frequency, and it left me feeling that only part of the accessibility job had been done.
The Kenwood TH-D74 had the potential to be fully usable by a blind amateur, and the spec was impressive. It is a 2m and 70cm Dual Band handheld with full voice Guidance and D-Star. It has GPS, APRS, wide band coverage, including SSB on 2m and 70cms, and FM broadcast coverage. It would offer a plethora of programming possibilities, without a blind operator having to remember a set number of beeps or clicks.
Basically, the radio sounded like an ideal unit to review for accessibility. I asked Mark M0DXR of Kenwood UK if he would loan me a unit, and I have to say a big thank you to Mark for sending me the review radio for a couple of weeks. To make sure I could get onto the D-Star system I was also loaned a Digital Voice Access Point DVAP by Jeremy G4JZL.
Before receiving the radio, it seemed a good idea to prepare myself by grabbing the PDF manual from the Kenwood site. While 99.9% of the manual was easily read by using PC screen reading software, some buttons, such as the arrow keys, are shown graphically as pictures of arrows. When read with a screen reader, a picture is ignored. So, for example, when I read the PDF manual, I learnt that you turn on the power by pressing [ ]. OK, you can work this one out, but if the command involves presses of several buttons that include the arrow keys, and these are being ignored, you cannot learn how to operate the radio.
I can fully appreciate the PDF manual will refer to a button as Menu, because Menu is written on the actual button. Likewise, if an arrow is printed on the real button, it makes perfect sense to show a picture of the arrow symbol in the manual. Sighted readers naturally expect this kind of consistency.
When you consider the tremendous effort Kenwood have gone to in making this radio accessible for blind operators, it is such a shame the manual is so hard to use. It would be incredibly helpful if Kenwood would produce a separate text only manual. The graphics being ignored are a very small number, but nevertheless, crucial!
To get over the immediate hurdle, I extracted the text from the PDF manual into a document, and Steve M6HFH went through it, replacing the blanks with text labels, such as ‘Right Arrow’ and ‘Power On/Off’. Jim MI0JPC has subsequently divided it into separate TXT files for easier navigation.
Discussing this with blind amateurs on the Active Elements email group, folk indeed like using text manuals, particularly for the ability to rapidly navigate and search them. There is general agreement that both PDF and HTML documents work extremely well, if properly structured.
I was able to rapidly establish that as a standard analogue multi-mode handheld the D74 has excellent accessibility, but the handheld also offered unparalleled access to D-Star. As primarily an HF operator, I only had a notional idea about D-Star, and I had found it easy to overlook. Having now used it, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is just another way of communicating, but with some great benefits. For one thing, you can talk and exchange greetings and ideas anywhere in the world, do so in audio comfort, and without the need for a large antenna system. This could be a great way of continuing with the hobby if you have severe antenna restrictions or even if you go into a residential home.
Getting D-Star working is a great deal easier if you already know someone using it. Rob G0WSC has been using D-Star for a while, and was able to answer many of my questions. There is a fair amount of new terminology to learn and initially the plethora of connection methods is daunting. This is not just initially daunting for the blind amateur, but seemingly for many operators. Like many things in amateur radio though, the picture becomes much clearer and simpler the more you use it.
As I’m a long way from a D-Star repeater, and very unlikely to be able to access one with a handheld, G0WSC suggested I use a Digital Voice Access Point or DVAP, and connect directly into the D-Star backbone. This means I could bypass the Repeater system. This inevitably means my review of using the D74 might well be different from your experience!
A quick note about the DVAP. I was loaned a 2M DVAP by G4JZL for the period of the evaluation. The DVAP connects via USB to a computer, in my case a Windows PC, and the appropriate software is installed. The Th-D74 then transmits and receives on a simplex frequency, in DV mode, using the DVAP.
The DVAP Windows software is not without accessibility issues. I found the setup screen did not give any feedback , using any of my screen readers. There is a second screen and you can switch to this with Alt+Tab. This screen can be read by screen readers and will show the setup screen, but you must switch back to the first screen to change the input parameters and switch back to the second screen to read any changes!
The salvation of the DVAP software is that once setup is complete, no further changes are needed. I just ran the software, tabbed twice on the unreadable screen, and pressed Enter. The connection was opened. I could then switch to the second screen and get feedback if required.
In previous accessibility evaluations I’ve written a lot, and recorded a little. This time it seemed sensible to record as much of the Voice Guidance of the TH-D74 as possible, and this actually became a collection of short recordings that now total about 80 minutes. I have placed the separate MP3 tracks into a zipped file, available from the following link:
The separate MP3 tracks are:
1 General Description 5:57
2 Introduction to Menus 3:12
3 Frequency Input 2:32
4 Squelch 1:21
5 Power Adjustment 0:40
6 Dual Band Operation 6:47
7 Memories 7:01
8 Programmable Function Keys 4:14
9 FM Repeater setup 3:39
10 DVAP 9:22
11 D-Star through DVAP 28:0
12 D-Star through Repeaters 8:10
The only key combination I will mention here is how to turn on the Voice Guidance. Simply hold the Hash key when you power on the radio.
If you haven’t listened to the audio tracks, you’ll still want to know if the radio is accessible. With some minor accessibility exceptions, the radio is brilliant. Not only does it give unparalleled feedback to the usual analogue operation, it includes full access to D-Star. I was unable to try APRS and the MCP programming software in the limited time I had the radio. I switched on the GPS function so I could use the Nearby Repeaters list, but I did not pursue further investigation of GPS features, beyond this.
The review radio had version 1.0 of the firmware, and at the time of writing, version 1.04 is available. Future firmware updates hopefully also give the possibility of further accessibility improvements.
Once again, Kenwood have approached accessibility very seriously for the blind operator, and done an impressive job.
An unabridged MP3 recording of the Kenwood TS-590SG operating manual has been added to the Active Elements site. You can find the manual in the Recordings/Manuals section or at the foot of the TS-590 accessibility review under the Related Documents Heading. The recording has been narrated and produced by Ian DJ0HF, and each chapter has its own individual MP3 track. Just download the Zipped archive and listen to the tracks using your favourite MP3 player.