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

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

WSRotor Accessibility Demonstration

White Stick Rotor Accessibility Review and Demonstration

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

July 2013

This is an audio demonstration of the WSRotor software written by Don G0MDO. WSRotor allows a blind amateur to operate the ProSisTel D type rotator control box using a computer and screen reader.

The software can be downloaded from
http://www.easilog.co.uk/WSRotor.htm

Related Downloads

WSRoter MP3 Demonstration

Ham Morse iPhone app Accessibility Review

Ham Morse iPhone app Accessibility Review

By Deborah Armstrong, KF6BKR

June 2013

Ham Morse is very accessible. I’ve reviewed it on applevis.

http://www.applevis.com/apps/ios/education/ham-morse

I use it in conjunction with the G4FON Koch trainer; this one is easier to carry

in my purse! G4FON gives you more practice in real-world conditions. This app is

better if you are trying out different learning methods as it supports them all.

One important point: if you choose the Koch method with this app, the add and remove

character button labels are reversed. So choose remove to add a new character and

you’ll do fine.

Take Another Stab at CW G4FON Accessibility Review

Take another Stab AT CW

By Deborah Armstrong, KF6BKR

June 2013

Are you one of those who waited to get your general or extra after the code requirements were dropped? Or are you like me,an advanced who plateaued somewhere around 15WPM and just couldn’t seem to get beyond that speed?

Or perhaps you used to copy fairly fast, but now the skill is rusty.

Of course, many of us have no desire to learn CW and that’s just fine. There is a place in ham radio for a variety of avocations.

But suppose being a high-speed CW OP appeals to you. Noticing all the noise on the bands lately, I wanted to grab a pee-wee antenna and climb a mountain to get away from it. But phone QRP is not as exciting as using code, and CW is the only thing that’s really going to punch through all that noise. Those of us plagued with local antenna restrictions might view CW as a way to enjoy operating under the radar.

Besides, I wanted to understand beacons or even a repeater ID without struggling to copy the faster transmissions. And sometimes, hearing a strong CW QSO on my shortwave, I was just so curious about what those two hams were ragchewing about. And of course, I’d love to expertly operate those accessible rigs with CW frequency and menu readouts!

To master CW, we’ve been told that all we need to do is practice, and surfing the web, we discover that multiple learning ideas and tutorial software abounds. We can purchase or run free applications on most any computer, including our smartphones. We can buy the pocket Morse code trainer from MFJ, or use old-fashioned tapes. I even bought a set of old Morse code training records for a buck at a swap meet.

I attempted to practice with many offerings, and was still stuck on my plateau. As a blind ham, I felt kind of embarrassed, as many of my other visually impaired friends took to code like a duck to water. I also found much of the tutorial software inaccessible; I memorized the tapes and records and even though I walked around silently repeating dits and dahs to myself, as soon as the speed of others’ code shot up, I was five or more letters behind trying to copy.

Ray Goff, G4FON, and Dave Finley, N1IRZ had the same problem. Though accomplished tinkerers and communicators, they too had despaired of learning the code, despite attempts to practice using a variety of methods. When I discovered how they’d succeeded, I knew I’d found my solution.

Many methods are based on having you build a look-up table in your head; three dits is an S, 4 dits is an H. Farnsworth spacing gives you enough time to rapidly search that table to copy each character, before the next is sent.

Lugwig Koch, a German psychologist in the 1930s, felt that learning code this way was all wrong. He suggested we learn CW at the high speed in which we ultimately intend to copy so we never develop the limiting habit of searching that mental look-up table. His Koch method trains your reflexes by starting first with just two characters, and after you’re able to copy them with 90% accuracy, you then add a third character. Progressing at your own pace,you can copy characters, digits and prosigns, whole words, and eventually entire conversations in your head. And you learn this all at rapid-fire speed!

The Koch method is rewarding because you are always copying fast code. It motivates practice, because success is immediate. You work at a pace that is individualized for just you, learning what you can, when you find the time. The only real requirement is that the practice should be regular.

It doesn’t take talent or a good ear, or any special ability except the willingness to drill. Dave was so taken with the Koch method he wrote several articles on, and single-handedly revived the technique. Back in the 1930s, Koch’s research had been a curiosity as it was impractical to implement. To achieve his successes of teaching volunteers in 12 hours to copy all characters at high speeds, Koch needed human operators who could repeatedly drill his subjects. Dave realized today computers can do that, so he wrote “Morse Code: Breaking The Barrier” which was published by MFJ. In this book, Dave explains how to configure Morse tutor software for the Koch method. And of course, the MFJ-418, their pocket tutor can also be configured for Koch.

But I find the MFJ-418 mostly inaccessible, because its layered menus are difficult to memorize. When I asked on the blind-hams Internet list for thoughts about accessible software, the clear recommendation was to use the Koch trainer written by Ray, G4FON.

Ray’s Windows software works with JAWS, NVDA, Window-Eyes, System Access and SuperNova. I’ve tried it with them all. I also tried it under both Windows XP and 64-bit Windows 7 and Ray claims it works all the way back to Windows 95. And because it’s already set up for the Koch method, you don’t need to change the number of characters, or the order in which they are presented. Best of all it’s free.

The Koch trainer screen’s layout keeps most options in view. There are only two items on its menu bar, file and About. Under about, there’s a single help screen. Under file, you can choose to record the audio it sends in MP3; you can exit help or call up a single dialog box for Setup. It’s really not necessary to fool with the setup at all.

Under the menu bar, there are clearly labeled icons, toolbar buttons for Start, Stop, Setup and Finish. Setup takes you to the same configuration dialog you could access from the File menu. Start and stop begin and halt a training session. Finish exits the program. You can click directly on the graphics or on their corresponding labels below them. You can use a screen reader’s graphics labeler to label the graphics too, though that’s not necessary, since clicking on the onscreen label also activates the button.

Though there is no keyboard access to these buttons, a helper program, discussed below, will give you all the keyboard access you need. If you hover over one of the toolbar icons with the mouse, its corresponding label is also highlighted, making it very easy to use even for those who are not computer whizzes.

The remainder of the screen is a grid filled with controls, which can be clicked on or accept focus by repeatedly pressing TAB or SHIFT-Tab. These are spin boxes, radio buttons or check boxes. They are not in any logical tab order unfortunately, and I’ve emailed Ray suggesting that would be a simple change to improve their ease of access. The spacebar toggles a check box, arrows change the selected radio button or spin the value up or down in a spin control. These are labeled in a way that a screen reader can correctly identify, but will not be read automatically; you must use the screen reader’s keystroke to read the current control or object to determine its current state. If you are an advanced user of a screen reader you can also tell it to “re-class” the controls so it can better read them interactively.

Mostly these settings can be left alone, but a few require some explanation.

I was initially frustrated that no obvious setting appeared for creating pauses between characters. Working at the default 20 words per minute, I couldn’t keep up, even with just two characters. Searching forums, I found sighted people complained they couldn’t write that fast either. I realized it wasn’t a question of typing or writing fast, but reacting fast, which I had made yet no effort to train myself to do. You can set “actual” and “effective” code speed. By default, both were at 20 WPM, and I had to experiment with each of them until I got it to send fast enough to be challenging but slow enough I had time to react. Pauses occur when “effective” is faster than “actual”. Of course as I progress, I’ll keep increasing these values. Depending on your tolerance for frustration and your proficiency, you’ll definitely want to experiment with both these settings. Sometimes when changing one, the other changes as well, so it takes a bit of fiddling to get them to work for your current skill level. And because your progress will be rapid, you’ll find you have to keep fiddling with them every few sessions. Admittedly, this is a bit quicker to do with a mouse, but though cumbersome for a keyboard user, it’s accessible and easy to do.

The characters spin box selects the number of characters you’ll be drilled on. A beginner starts with 2, and after mastering them, moves on to 3, 4 and then 5. Eventually, you spin that setting up to 40, which is the highest it goes. The order in which new characters is presented can be changed in Setup, but I figured Koch knew more than I, so I didn’t touch that setting.

The “display delay” controls how long the program waits before presenting the “answer” onscreen after sending a character. Because I am not copying with focus staying in the Koch Trainer window, the delay doesn’t really matter, but if you want your screen reader to read, in real-time, the characters as they appear onscreen, you can give the delay a try. In general a screen reader will simply repeat the entire text as it’s rewritten to the screen, so I believe that keeping your focus in the Koch trainer window while it is sending is more confusing than helpful. People who see the screen should also experiment with whether they like watching the answers appear, or would rather minimize the program while it’s sending.

When I turn off speech and work with a Braille display, having the characters appear just a quarter second after I copy them is very useful. This is how I practice copying in my head, and for my needs I alternate copying in my head with typing in my copy so I’ll be equally proficient at both.

The remainder of the settings onscreen are best avoided by the beginner, but very useful for ops who need to practice under band conditions. You can turn on QRM and adjust a simulated noise level. You can reduce the signal strength, enable QSB, and even put a chirp on the signal, or have it simulate code sent by a straight key. You can also toggle variable weight, speed and pitch dither , and truly force it to send you Morse that’s not at all easy to decipher!

I’ve describe settings which are always available in this onscreen grid. They are automatically saved as soon as you change them, and when you run the program again, they’ll be configured just as you left them. There is no way I’ve found to return to the program defaults.

If you pull up the setup dialog under the file menu, you can adjust more advanced parameters. You can tell the simulated straight key OP to send with a bad fist. You can control some rigs. You can type in text for it to send.

The only setting I find in this dialog to be useful for the beginner is “session length” which defaults to five minutes. For me, five minutes is tiring and a 2-minute session is plenty. I set “session length” to 2 and have multiple 2-minute practice periods throughout the day. You could also increase the session length, record the output and keep troublesome practice sessions on your music player. (To record within the trainer program, you’ll need to install the Lame MP3 Encoder.)

This setup dialog has no cancel button, so you have to click OK to dismiss it. It also has the effect of saving your settings, so be careful about making changes.

Using the trainer is easy. Click its toolbar Start button, and it will begin randomly sending groups of the letters K and M. Some groups are five characters, some are only 1 or 2.

Most people copy using a pencil and paper. I first switched to a new window and simply typed the results in to Notepad. At the end of a session, which will stop automatically, you are supposed to manually compare your results with the characters that appear in the trainer’s window.

But looking further on Ray’s site, I discovered the helper program KOCH-RX, which must be unzipped and copied to the same directory where the Koch trainer resides. Koch-Rx gives you an edit box where you can type in your copy and a button to compare your results with the text that was sent. You can quickly learn if you are up to the 90% accuracy you need before adding another character. And, Koch-RX adds keyboard control, so you simply tab to a Start and Stop button. Once you click or press Space on Start, your focus is automatically redirected to the edit field where you type in your copy. KOCH-RX therefore is perfect for the screen reader user or anyone who doesn’t want to manually compare their results and calculate percentages!

In the Koch trainer, the results are in an ordinary read-only edit box, which is sandwiched in tab order between the many other check boxes, spin boxes and radio buttons on the grid. Note that screen readers will see it as an unlabeled edit field. Visually, it appears near the bottom of the screen, making it easy to magnify just that results box. It’s also possible to simply park your Braille display in that box, so you can easily view the text after it’s been sent.

And if you are a rank beginner, this is how to learn. Simply focus on the results and watch the characters appear without attempting to copy. You will soon be hearing the difference between the K and M characters and want to start trying to copy them.

Because I already knew the characters, my goal was to learn to copy faster. I first tried setting it to all 40 characters, but found it was like copying off the air. I wasn’t very good. I set it back to 2 characters, and kept increasing the speeds, until I could tell the difference between K and M at 35 words per minute. Then I spun the characters box to 3, and the software added the letter R. I quickly discovered my reflexes weren’t fast enough and I had to drop down to 15 WPM until I could accurately respond to the letter R sent among a forest of Ks and Ms.

I also tried copying in Braille, quickly realizing that though I now could copy some characters at 35WPM, and I can certainly write Braille quickly as well, that combining those two abilities was going to require additional practice. Were I not already a proficient typist, I well might have decided to either stick with writing Braille or simply copying in my head. For now, Braille goes on the back burner, because I’m rarely going to use it in the field.

Though it isn’t mentioned in the literature on Koch, I personally found that knowing when a random group ended and it was time to type a space in my copy was even more difficult than recognizing the individual characters. I tended to type in long strings of characters without spaces. When copying a real QSO it’s pretty easy to insert spaces later, and pick missing characters from context. But having to pay attention to the spacing to know when a random group ends really sharpens your listening!

As you develop speed using Koch, you realize that it’s a lot like jumping rope, dancing, throwing a ball, touch typing, or even handwriting. Though a small child may need to think about how to write the letter W, and might confuse it with M, an adult writes automatically, with no conscious thought. As a fast typist, I can quickly hit the letters Z and X without making mistakes, and without thinking about which finger to use or where to reach. My reflexes have been honed for rapid typing by years of practice.

My CW reflexes still have a way to go, but the plateau has melted and I’ve made more progress in just a few days than I’ve experienced over the years.

As you become yet more advanced, the program, and the G4FON site, also contain files containing over 300 sample test QSOS. Though the code requirement isn’t part of today’s licensing, the original tests are still quite useful for skill-building. You can also download code practice MP3 files at various speeds from the ARRL site.

The Koch trainer gives you that chance to build the reflexes you’ll need to copy real on-the-air QSOS. And once your reflexes take over, you can relax and free your brain to enjoy the conversation.

If you aren’t at a Windows computer the iPhone app, HamMorse, is known to work well with Voice Over, the screen access solution for Apple products. There are also several other Koch training apps for Mac, Android and iOS. You can continue to improve those reflexes while you are out and about.

If you doubt the power of reflexes, just watch a teenager message her friends on her cellphone. She may balk at practicing the piano, and fail to do kitchen chores with the speed and efficiency of her mom, but I bet she can outpace her parents when it comes to texting! If we all view CW practice in the same playful light, we will have our reflexes trained in no time!

(Deborah Armstrong, KF6BKR)

RT Systems Programing Software Accessibility Review

RT Systems Programing Software Accessibility Review

By Dave Marthouse N2AAM

June 2013

I would like to bring a few things to the attention of folks who are looking for a speech-friendly no hassle software method of programming amateur gear.

Rt Systems http://www.rtsystems.com produces a line of software programming
packages for a large variety of amateur radios. They produce software packages to program the Kenwood TH-F6A, the Wouxun KG-UV series of hand-helds, Yaesu, Icom, and loads of others.

As a screenreader user naturally I was concerned with accessibility. The software for the TH-F6A can not be used with jfw. I haven’t tested it with WindowEyes so I can’t comment on it’s usability there. The good news is it works flawlessly with NVDA.

The app is arranged like a giant spread sheet. You use your up and down arrows and the tab key to navigate around the settings. There is a convenient standard pull-down menu for settings like cut/paste, copy save, read and write to radio etc.

Another great thing about this package is the system works with all state of the art machines including Windows8. The programming cable has a usb connecter so you don’t have to worry about usb to serial adaptors and compatible drivers and other hassles.

I plugged in the supplied usb cable and the computer recognized it right away. Then it was a matter of just installing and running the software. If you know just a minimum about spread sheets you will have no difficulty with this app. I had the system running within 5 minutes of installation. For me it was so intuitive that I didn’t need to consult the documentation.

The only minor sticking point is if you order the app on cd you must type in a serial number when you install it. Access to a set of working eyeballs is highly recommended for this step. LOL! The serial number is on a label on the envelope in which the cd is shipped. You can also download the software after you purchase it on-line. I’m not sure how the serial number is handled if you use that purchasing method.

The bottom line is the app works great with the TH-F6A and is accessible using NVDA. If their other apps work as well with NVDA this in my opinion is a very good speech-friendly way to program a wide variety of amateur gear.

As far as price you will spend about $25 for the software and slightly less for the cable. You can get the software separately from the cable as some radios use a single cable, (example the Kenwood and Wouxun).

I give the app five stars. I know this sounds like a commercial. I can assure you that I get nothing from Rt Systems. I’m just posting this for those who may be interested and would benefit from the information.

Dave Marthouse N2AAM

Related Downloads

R T Systems Youtube demonstration using the NVDA screen reader

N1MM Accessibility Review

N1MM audio review and demonstration

By Kelvin Marsh M0AID

June 2013

This is a review of N1MM Logger 13.5. N1MM Logger is a main stream amateur Contest logging program, and despite it’s complexity, it can be satisfactorily used by a blind operator.

To download N1MM please visit the developers
Website at
N1MM.COM

The following Mp3 files take you through the installation, setup, and basic operation of N1MM using a screen reader. In the recordings I use Window-Eyes 8.2 and Windows 7 64 bit Professional.

Related Downloads

1 Installation.MP3

2 Entering personal data.MP3

3 Configuring the radio CAT interface.MP3

4 Configuring the Winkeyer interface.MP3

5 Changing the function keys.MP3

6 Selecting and using a contest log.MP3

7 Monitoring areas on the screen.MP3

8 Editing QSOs.MP3

9 Reviewing the logging screen.MP3

10 Setting up and using a rotator.MP3

11 Tips.MP3