DXLab Suite

DXLab Suite is a collection of apps that emphasize managing DX contacts, although it works well as a general Rig Control, Logger, and Digital Mode app.

Apps include:

  • Launcher – control which DXLab Suite apps are launched.
  • Commander – controls frequency, mode, and other functions for up to 4 transceivers.
  • DXKeeper – DXLab Suite logging app. Very complete.
  • WinWarbler – RTTY and PSK digital modes. Interacts with other DXLab Apps.
  • DXView – displays DXCC information, location information, and and country maps
  • Pathfinder – QSL route discovery tool
  • PropView – Probagation Prediction and Forecasting
  • SpotCollector – DX Spot Collection and Realtime Analysis

Launcher

Launcher allows you select which of the DXLab Suite apps will launch. You can also launch other apps automatically – such as WXJT-X.

MainWindow
Launcher controls which components of the suite are active.
DXLabConfigure
Option Panel – can set auto-launch DXLab Apps, plus other apps (such as WSJT-X)

Commander

Cmdr-control
Main Commander Window
Spectrum-Waterfall
Icom Spectrum Waterfall display, including spotting info

DXKeeper

Keeper-SmallMain
Main QSO Log Screen

 

WinWarbler

Warbler-psk
Warbler PSK Window

 

DXView

DXView displays DXCC information, location information, and and country maps. It will plot spots, QSOs, beam headings, solar position, and the solar terminator in real time on a world map. It can command rotator controllers, and interoperate with other rotator control apps. Interacts with other DXLab apps.

DXView-main

 

DXView-WorldMap

SpotCollector

SpotCollectorcollects and aggregates spots from up to six sources  to create a local database of active DX stations that you can display, sort, and filter in real time. It can display band openings graphically in real time.

spotdatabase

 

PropView

PropView is a tool to help predict propagation. It can use DXView to specify locations via point-and-click on a world map. It will use severalpropagation prediction engines to predict minimum and maximum usable frequencies between specified locations.

propviewbands

Pathfinder

Pathfinderlocates QSL information from more than 80 web-accessible sources.

pathfinder

WSJT-X

WSJT-X

WSJT-X implements communication protocols or “modes” called FT8, JT4, JT9, JT65, QRA64, ISCAT, MSK144, and WSPR, as well as one called Echo for detecting and measuring your own radio signals reflected from the Moon. These modes were all designed for making reliable, confirmed QSOs under extreme weak-signal conditions, and originally developed by Joe Tayor, K1JT,  an American astrophysicist and Nobel Prize in Physics laureate.

WSJT-X-main screen
WSJT-X Main screen – FT8 Contact
Graph
Spectrum Display – Many stations in SSB bandwidth
LogIt
Auto-generates log info added to WXJT-X log file, can be uploaded to other logging apps.
ConfigForDXLab
Setting Options

JTAlert

An essential support program that extends WSJT-X. Adds audio and visual spotting alerts for various conditions (e.g., wanted US State or DXCC), and adds automatic logging to several logging programs.

  • Website: http://hamapps.com/
  • Platforms: Windows
  • Works with: WXJT-X, DXLab DXKeeper, HRD Log, Log4OM ACLog, others
JTAlertX
Live Notifications

Digital Modes – Basics

Digital Mode Overview

RTTY has long been the standard way to communicate via a keyboard, and could be considered the first “digital” mode. But today (2018), there are a whole bunch of different digital modes based on software that can be used to communicate via keyboard and computer screen. (We aren’t talking about the digital protocols used to control repeater networks, etc.)

Over the past few years, there have been a number of digital protocols available, and they have been improving over the years. Some of these modes include RTTY, PSK31, Olivia, JT-65, and the newest, FT8.

Basically, almost all of the digital modes encode a message (usually text based) into an audio signal that is generated by  software on a computer connected to the microphone and speaker signals of your transceiver, transmitted (normally over SSB) , and the received signal is then decoded by the software. Often, the associated software can also generate control signals for your transceiver (frequency, mode, PTT, etc.)

computer-rig-interface
Block Diagram of Computer/Transceiver Interface

Older rigs typically need extra hardware to interface the computer to the rig. These can be custom built (hey, hams build stuff, right?), or be a commercially available box.

SignaLink
SignaLink from Tigertronics.com is a good choice.

More modern transceivers have a digital connection built in and can connect directly to your computer via a standard USB cable for both the audio and control connections.

Current State of Digital Modes

Digital modes seem to come and go. In my opinion, at the beginning of 2018, there seems it seems to be down to 3 or 4 dominate modes, at least on the HF bands. (In my opinion…)

  • RTTY – the granddaddy of them all, now done digitally. Widely used for contesting as well as general chat type contacts.
  • PSK31 – this has been and continues to be a popular chat type contacts. The software ususally supports a more or less standard sequence of starting messages (QTH, Name, rig, etc.), and then allows hand typed chat.
  • FT8 – FT8 is a very new mode (first released in mid-2017) that seems to have totally eclipsed other modes such as JT-65 almost overnight. It uses a fixed 15second message exchange protocol, and can pack a whole bunch of different signals into the standard bandwidth of a USB (upper sideband) signal. The message protocol is fixed and automated. Simply clicking on a CQ message can result it a complete contact in a couple of minutes – no additional operator input needed. In addition, FT8 can make contacts for very weak signals, and does not require high transmitter power.
  • Olivia – Olivia also has its proponents. It is like a high performance, weak signal version of PSK31. Unlike FT8, it does not have a fixed message protocol, and allows chatting or even rag chewing. Olivia does not have as many supporting apps as the other digital modes.

There is an interesting article on the ARRL website about the impact of digital modes.

New Digital Modes Changing Complexion of Bands and Perhaps of Ham Radio

At least some of the other digital modes should continue to see some use as they are more optimized for different kinds of communication (moonbounce, scatter, etc.)

There are other articles on this WA7EWC site with more detail on digital mode software.

 

 

 

Icom IC-7300: WSJT-X with DXLab

If you use both WSJT-X and DXLab Suite Commander, you will find that both of these programs need to use the serial CI-V interface to your IC-7300. You cannot use both the native IC-7300 setup for WSJT-X and Commander at the same time.

Fortunately, you can still use both at the same time by selecting the DXLab Suite as the radio selection from the WSJT-X Config screen.

ConfigForDXLab
Setup WSJT-X to use DXLab Commander CV-I Driver

Then run Commander first, followed by WSJT-X. You can even setup DXLab Launcher to do this automatically.

One the big advantages of using DXLab Commander is its ability to show the IC-7300 waterfall spectrum display on you computer monitor. To use this effectively, this means running the serial port at 115200 baud.

If you use the WSJT-X native IC-7300 settings, 19200 is the maximum baud rate you can select. This is because those settings require setting the CV-I USB Port setting to “Link to [REMOTE]” which imposes the 19200 baud limit.

When “Link to [REMOTE]” is selected, the CI-V USB Baud Rate will max out at 19200. There seems to be a bug in the V1.20 IC-7300 firmware that can still show higher baud rates even when “Link to [REMOTE]” is select. But the higher rates don’t work – 19200 is still the maximum. How to recreate this situation is not clear, but it can happen.

On the other hand, the DXLab Suite rig driver needs the CV-I USB Port set to “Unlink from [REMOTE]” which allows it to run at 115200 baud and thus support the waterfall display. This setup will still work correctly with WSJT-X.

DXLab has a page explaining how to setup the waterfall display here.