Go4lo Accessibility and Construction Review

Go4lo Audible SWR and Power meter Building and Accessibility Review

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID and Neil Robertson G0ORG

April 2017

Background

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 .

Photo showing the finished boxed unit with foam packing added to keep the battery from moving

The finished boxed unit with foam packing added to keep the battery from moving

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

Photo showing the many components

The many components

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.

Photo showing the kit parts and enclosure

The kit parts and the enclosure

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.

Building and testing

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.

Go4lo The fully assembled PCB

Photo showing the fully assembled PCB

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.

Photo showing the LEDs during Testing

The LEDs lit during Testing

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.

Observations and further ideas

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.

Conclusions regarding building and testing the kit

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.

Audio Demonstration

You can hear an audio demonstration of the Go4lo in action here.

Click here for Go4lo MP3 audio demonstration

Overall Conclusions

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.

Further notes on usage

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.

From Sotabeams product information:

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.

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Power Master 2 and HamPod Accessibility Review

 

Power Master 2 watt meter and HamPod Accessibility Review

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID December 2016Photo of PM2 front panel

Background Photo of Hampod

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.

Operating

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.

Visual Description

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.

The bar graph is ideal for tuning as peaks in power can be easily followed. The coupler can be sited remotely from the meter connected via a screened audio jack lead. Photo of PM2 coupler

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.”

Audio Demonstration

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:

PM2 and HamPod audio Demonstration

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

Conclusions

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.

Kenwood TH-D74 Accessibility Review

Accessibility Review of the Kenwood TH-D74

Close up photo of the th-d74 Rig

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

December 2016

Background

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.

Preparation

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.

D-Star Operation

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.

Audio Demonstration

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:

TH-D74 MP3 Audio Demonstration

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.

Conclusion

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.

Related Downloads

TH-D74E Tactile Layout and RTF Manual with Replacement Text Labels
TH-D74E Separated Text Manual

JJRadio Accessibility Review

Review of JJRadio Rig Control and Monitoring Program

By Richard B. McDonald KK6MRH

December 2014

Overview

This is a review of the JJRadio rig control and monitoring program created by Jim Shaffer KE5AL. Presently, JJRadio is designed for the Kenwood TS-2000, Kenwood TS-590 and the Elecraft K3. The program allows control of frequency, mode, memories and many other features of these transceivers. In addition, it provides accessible S-meter, SWR and other readouts. JJRadio works with Windows Vista, Windows 7 and (although not tested) Windows 8. The program is entirely operational with the keyboard. F1 lists all of JJRadio’s keyboard commands.

As a new (and blind) ham, I find JJRadio extraordinarily easy to use and powerful. Jim is blind, and so the program has specifically been written with accessibility paramount. Also, instead of trying to accomplish many rig control and monitoring functions, JJRadio focuses on the primary rig control and monitoring functions. That is, instead of trying to be a jack of all trades, JJRadio is a master of the rig control and monitoring functions hams commonly use. I have both the Kenwood ARCP-2000 (for rig control and monitoring) and the Kenwood MCP-2000 (for memory management) programs. JJRadio is way more intuitive, accessible and useful than those programs.

For this review, I am using a Kenwood TS-2000 connected to my PC running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. JJRadio does not use Braille or speech directly. Instead, it relies on your screen reader to manage those devices. I use JAWS 13, and do not read Braille.

Finally, this review focuses on the rig control and monitoring features of JJRadio. While the program also has logging, CW, Pan Adapter and other features, these are not reviewed here. However, below in the “Related Links” section is a link to a complete help webpage where these and other program features are completely covered. There is also a link to an extremely accessible TS-2000 manual Jim created in HTML format.

Setting Up JJRadio

After installing JJRadio, the first time you start the program a few configuration screens appear. Basic information like your name, call sign, QTH and license class are entered here. Passing through the Log Characteristics and Braille options, add yourself as the Default Operator. Next comes the Rig Information dialogue.

For rig information, first enter a rig name (merely as an alias to reference your radio). Then, choose your rig model from the list box. The model selection determines the communication parameters. Although you can change many of these communication parameters, I just went with the defaults. Note that the only thing you can do with a “Generic Rig” is send commands to the radio and observe the raw output from the rig.

Finally, select a com port from a list of ports available on your system; which should already be set up. If it is not, you can cancel out and come back to this later from the Actions menu. Again, unless you changed the baud rate at the rig, use the default value. Typically, the first rig you enter will be the default rig. Tab to and press the “Last one” Button. That’s it, you’re done!

JJRadio’s Main Window

The Main Window is composed of several fields. These vary according to the operating mode (e.g., USB, FM, etc.). The first two (and always present) fields are 1) the S-meter and frequency display and 2) the operating mode. These fields are followed by several other fields, which depends on the mode you are in. For example, if you are in FM mode, you will have other fields for Offset, Tone and so on. You will not find these fields if you are in, for example, USB mode. These other fields are discussed below.

At the bottom of the Main Window there are always four fields: 1) SWR, 2) Receive Text, 3) Sent Text and 4) Status. The SWR field displays the SWR value. The Received Text field is only used to display direct commands output from your rig. When in CW mode, typing text into the Sent Text field will send the characters. The last field is the Status field, which displays information JJRadio reads from your rig.

The S-Meter and Frequency Display

The S-meter and frequency display is the first item in the main window. No matter where you are in the Main Window, F2 takes you here. Actually, it is one text box with several fields. This is where you will want to be for most operations. Basically, there are two blank spaces separating each field within this display. Below is a table schematically showing how this display is laid out for the Kenwood TS-2000:

 

RECEIVER S-METER SPLIT Vox VFO/Mem FREQUENCY OFFSET
xx yy T t A, B or M mm.kkk.hhh + or –

 

The Receiver field indicates which receiver you are on, main or sub. These are the two left-most characters within this display. The first character is PTT and the second character is control. “mm” would indicate that both PTT and control are on the main receiver. It would show “ss” if PTT and control were on the sub receiver. Toggling PTT also changes control, but control toggles independently of PTT. Note that these 2 characters are rig dependent, and are different (like for the Elecraft K3) or not present at all (like for the Kenwood TS-590).

The next field to the right is a numeric value for S-meter. It typically ranges from zero to nine, but a read of 10 means 10db over S-nine and so on.

Moving again to the right, the next field indicates if you are in split mode. If you were, it would indicate “T.” If you were not in split mode, this field is not present at all. JJRadio fully supports split operations, but I will not get into all that here. However, the help webpage goes into this thoroughly.

The next field to the right is the vox setting, “v” if on, blank if not.

Then comes the VFO/memory field, “A” or “B” for the VFO, or “M” for memory mode. See the Tips and Tricks section below for more about the “M” setting.

Next, just to the right of the VOX field is the frequency field. It is shown in the format mm.kkk.hhh; MHZ, KHZ and HZ respectively. I really like that I can adjust my frequency down to the hertz level so easily here. I cannot do this at all with the main tuning dial. Also, the frequency rounding that occurs if I use the TS-2000’s MFC knob cannot help either if I am trying to tune anywhere between the rounding steps.

Finally, the right-most field is the offset direction. It is either a plus (+) or a minus (-). If you are not in FM mode, this field is not present at all.

What makes JJRadio so powerful, easy and accessible is how all these fields are adjusted. You can use your keyboard to change any of the fields within the S-meter and frequency display. For example, if you place the cursor on any digit of the frequency and use the up and down arrow keys, it will change that digit one at a time. Try placing the cursor on the “A” (for VFO A). Press the space bar and notice you switch to the next VFO, “B” for my TS-2000. The up and down arrow keys also rotates between the VFOs. If I move the cursor to the left-most field and character within the S-meter and Frequency Display, I am on “M”: meaning PTT of the main receiver. Pressing “S” or using the arrow keys toggles me over to the sub receiver.

Other Screen Fields

Within the Main Window, tabbing from the S-meter and Frequency Display lands you on the Mode field. This shows the operating mode, which can be changed with the arrow keys. Most of the fields that follow the Mode field are modified with pull-down boxes by using the arrow keys. Among these fields are TX Tuner, RX Tuner, Antenna Tune, Antenna (HF 1 or HF 2), RX Antenna, RF Attenuator, Preamp, Mic Gain, Speech Processing, Processor Input/Output Levels, Low/Hi Filters, Noise Reduction and Power Output Level – to name a few. Many of the fields that follow the Mode field are themselves mode dependent; meaning that only fields relevant to the selected mode are shown. Also, these fields may be accessed directly by using JJRadio’s Screen Fields menu.

Memories

When you start JJRadio, the rig’s memories are loaded. The program has a memories dialogue accessed by pressing ctrl+M. This dialogue cannot be accessed until all the memories are loaded. The Status field, the last field in the Main Window, displays “memories are all loaded” when that is the case. If you try to use the memories dialogue beforehand, you just see a message telling you the memories aren’t loaded. Loading the memories typically takes about 10 seconds.

The memories dialogue displays a list of the memory numbers on the left and a bunch of memory fields on the right. You are initially placed in the memories list, at the memory your radio is set to, or was last set to. At the top of the screen is a button that initially says “Include empty memories”. You can get there easily with a back-tab. By default, only used memories are shown. If you click this button though, it’ll then say “Only used memories”, and all memories, used and empty, are displayed. If you want to add a new memory, you must show empty memories.

You can navigate the memory list with the arrow keys or the page up/down keys. Each list item shows the memory number and either the memory’s name, or the frequency if it has no name, or the word “empty” if it’s empty. The fields displayed to the right reflect what’s in the currently selected memory, and you can tab through them.

On the bottom of the screen are some buttons. Press “Change” if you have modified data in the memory’s fields. If you go to another memory or exit the dialogue without pressing the “change” button, no change is made. As the name implies, “Set from VFO” sets the selected memory to whatever the VFO is on. “Delete” empties the selected memory. “Done” exits the memories dialogue as if Escape were pressed. Also, if you are focused on a list item, just press enter to go to that memory. You will leave the memories dialogue, and the rig is set to memory mode at the selected memory. See the Tips and Tricks section below for a nifty way to access memories directly from the S-meter and Frequency Display.

TIPS AND TRICKS

I have purposely not gone through the program menus for JJRadio itself because they are so simple and intuitive. There are only three: Actions, Screen Fields and Help. The Screen Fields menu can move you quickly to the selected field of the Main Window. Frankly, I almost never use these menus.

Switching between VFO and Memory Mode

If you are in the S-meter and Frequency Display, and have the cursor on the VFO field (e.g., “A”), pressing “M” switches the rig to memory mode. This field will then show “M.” Then, just to the right of the “M” is the memory number, which you can scroll through with the arrow keys. Likewise, having the cursor on the “M”, and pressing “V” switches back to VFO mode.

RIT and XIT

Not discussed in the section above about the S-meter and Frequency Display (and not shown in the schematic table there) are the RIT and XIT values. These only appear if the RIT and/or XIT is on. The JJRadio help webpage goes into all this.

Scanning

JJRadio provides an excellent scanning feature that allows you to scan between a start and end frequency. It is access with ctrl+S. You can specify the scan step size (in KHZ) and the scan speed (in tenths of a second). The scan speed is the number of tenths of a second to spend on each frequency. While scanning, if you hear something you want to investigate, pressing the “Pause/Continue scan” key (F2) will pause the scan. You can then investigate with the VFO. Pressing F2 resumes the scan where you left off. Ctrl+Z stop the scan. You can also save your scan for later use. This is done from the dialogue where you entered the scan parameters. When saving a scan, you name the scan for future use. Ctrl+shift+U lists the saved scans. Note that if you are using a VS-3 chip, you will want to set the TS-2000’s menu 15 value to “Off” (see next).

Descriptive Menus

Among the handiest features of JJRadio is descriptive access to the Kenwood TS-2000’s menus. That is, you get words like “On” or “Off” instead of “0” or “1.” The rig’s menus are accessed with ctrl+U. This is not to be confused with JJRadio’s menus. Like the memories dialogue, this puts up a list of menu items on the left which you can navigate with the arrow keys. When an item is selected, its possible values are shown on the right; which you can get to by tabbing.

Automatic Frequency Readout

If you are using JAWS 14 or above, you will need to uncheck “Enhanced Edit Support” to get the frequency display to read-out in real time as the BFO changes. Versions prior to 14 don’t have this problem. To uncheck this, use JAWSKEY-F2 and select “Settings Center”. Search for the word “Enhanced”, and uncheck “Enhanced Edit Mode”.

Related Links

JJRadio Download Webpage

JJRadio Installation Instructions

JJRadio Help Webpage

Kenwood TS-2000 HTML Manual

New Kenwood TS-590 Evaluation Section

We have added a new section to the Kenwood TS-590 evaluation page, called ‘Assigning voice parameters to the PF buttons’.

 

Andor PA9D describes how to use the 590’s Menu to assign each of the 3 available voices to the Programmable Function buttons, both on the radio front panel and microphone.

 

The new section has a level 2 heading, for the convenience of screen reader users.

Yagi Multiple Element Comparison

Yagi Multiple Element Comparison

By Kelvin Marsh, M0AID

November 2013

Back in October, following a discussion on the Active Elements reflector, I thought I would try an experiment gradually reducing the number of elements on my beam, and recording the results. I looked for the most distant station I could find, and it happened to be V6P in Micronesia on 20 metres.

The bearing was 22 degrees, and the distance was 8000 miles. Also, this was in the middle of the afternoon, and I would expect him to perhaps be stronger at other times.

The recording starts with the SteppIR antenna using 3 elements, and this is marked on the recording with 3 beeps. I then fully retract the Director, and the result has 2 beeps. Finally, I pull in the Reflector and this has one beep. I then repeat the sequence, but this time pull in the reflector first, followed by the Director. The final 3 beeps indicates a return to 3 elements.

I have to say, the difference is not huge between each retraction, but the difference between 1 and 3 elements is probably the difference between making a successful contact within a reasonable time, or spending significant time calling him without making yourself heard.

By the way, the signal strength on 3 elements was 7, and the signal strength on a single element was about 4. You can judge the readability for yourself!

The MP3 recording can be heard by clicking the following link:
V6P on 20 metres

The following day, I conducted a similar test with KH0M, but this time on 12 metres. The bearing was 30 degrees, and the distance 7500 miles. The entity is the Mariana Islands.

This time I worked him quite comfortably using 400 watts before making the recording. The difference between 1 and 3 elements is much more noticeable. Again, you will hear 3 beeps for the 3 elements, and so on. In the first few seconds you will also hear how I reduce the HF hiss by turning back the RF Gain, and during the two and single element recording you can distantly hear a Brazilian station calling on the frequency from behind me. Using the Director and Reflector dramatically reduces any signal from the back of the beam. Whilst KH0M was actually working split in the recording, attenuating unwanted signals from behind you can be extremely useful.

The MP3 recording can be heard by clicking the following link:

KH0M on 12 metres

Accessibility Review of Amateur Contact Log 4.2

Accessibility Evaluation and Demonstration of Amateur Contact Log 4.2

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

Updated Decemmber 2013

I have been using Amateur Contact Log version 3, better known as A C Log, for about 5 years. The three great features that make AC Log stand out for me, are the integrated Cluster spots, the seamless Log Book of The World transfers, and the automatic callbook lookup.

Scott N3FJP has rewritten A C Log using C#, pronounced as C Sharp, and added several new features. Thus, Amateur Contact Log version 4 was born. In A C Log 4.2, Scott has added vital short-cut commands for blind amateurs using screen readers, and made many changes to greatly enhance the experience for those relying on speech output. Whilst I normally just comment on Ham accessibility on the Active Elements site, it was a privilege to work with Scott, and actively contribute to the AC Log accessibility project.

The Short-Cuts

AC Log is a Windows program, and a screen reader user will now be very comfortable moving through the Menu Bar, and navigating the setup dialogs. In addition, Scott has added several short-cut keys to enhance the operation of the logging area itself.

To access the Main List, use control+Q. This places the focus in the listview, and you can move through the previously logged QSOs with the use of the arrow keys. The Main List speaks perfectly, with column headings ahead of each item, and as a bonus, will read the complete line, even beyond the visible screen. While in the Main List, press the tab key to be shown various options for the selected QSO, including editing and Deletion. Again all of the options have dedicated short-cut keys. Important note, if you are a Window-Eyes screen reader user, you must have version 8.4 or later to read the Main List information in the correct order.

To access the Cluster area, use control+Z. This places the focus in the listview, and you can use the arrow up and down keys to move through the incoming cluster spots. Even though the spots are continually scrolling visually, the keyboard focus remains on the selected spot, even though it may disappear from the display. Again, all of the information for each spot is announced by the screen reader, with column headings. Simply press Enter to move the spot to your logging form, and have your radio automatically change to the frequency and mode.

There are many other accessibility benefits of the V4 rewrite, including the easy access to the Awards tables, and the ability to ‘Tab’ into the Help text in the setup dialogs. These are covered in the Overview recording below.

Usage overview

So far, we have had positive results testing A C Log with Window-Eyes, NVDA, System Access, JAWS, and ZoomText. I usually got a lockup using System Access when Calculating my Award totals, in September 2013, but I think more testing is needed by more experienced SA users.

As always, I would recommend that every user sets up a short-cut from the Desktop, to automatically run A C Log as Maximised. There may still be a need to re-label some fields, depending on the screen reader, and I think we are pushing some of the screen reader boundaries, but I have no doubt any issues can be addressed.

The one thing I’ve seen with my testing, Is that all the screen readers handle the same situation slightly differently. Scott actually installed NVDA to help with his testing, so if you are getting unexpected results, try it with NVDA to figure out what is happening.

Below, you will find three recordings. The first is an Overview looking at the screen reader accessibility of AC Log ‘out of the box’. The second shows some of the basic configuration options offered by AC Log, and how I personally use Window-Eyes to monitor areas of the screen with User Windows and Hot Spots. The third dips a bit further into how you setup User Windows and Hot Spots in the Window-Eyes screen reader.

Although I have used some advanced functions of my screen reader in the third demo, you may find the recordings give you ideas of how to customise your own access software.

Scott also offers many N3FJP contesting programs. These are being rewritten in C# at the moment, and Scott is currently incorporating many of the accessibility changes developed in AC Log.

Finally, if you want to use the integrated Voice Navigation feature offered by AC Log, Scott recommends the latest Wave files are downloaded for the C# programs. There is a link to the files in Related Downloads below.

Amateur Contact Log can be downloaded from:

http://www.n3fjp.com/aclog.html

Related Downloads

AC Log 4.2 Voice Navigation Wave Files (zipped archive)
AC Log 4.2 Overview MP3
AC Log 4.2 Configuration MP3

AC Log 4.2 Window-Eyes Extra MP3