(Re-)Startup Pains


Nope. I didn't fall off the planet. Just been busy with other things. Except for a sked with a local TI ham and a snagged QSO from the Cayman Islands when I was testing something on the TT Scout, I haven't been on the radio. After weeks of working on construction and other farm projects while the dry season is still with us, I am back to tinkering with rigs, however. 

First, of course, I had to spend a couple days re-sorting out the workshop and cleaning up the stations, which, literally, were disappearing under cobwebs and dust. The other big chore that I'd been chipping away at was replacing the older desktop PC with a newer, more powerful Dell laptop at the house station and moving that desktop down to the workshop station (replacing a P3 class machine). Migrating to a new PC is always a more intricate task than you think it will be, especially with the "radio machine", which has loads of applications on it to re-install and re-configure.

Finally, however, I was ready to hook up the radios and that's where I got stuck this afternoon. I'm finally unstuck, but it was a mind-bender, though perfectly obvious once I realized what was going on. I was simply trying to hook up Fldigi again, but was flummoxed by not being able to copy any clear signals out of the waterfall. At first, I thought, not having been on the air for a while that perhaps the band conditions were terrible. But, really, on 20 meters with solar flux of 111 and the A-Index down to reasonable levels? Couldn't be.


Then, since Windows 7 has broken the old XP style sound mixer I had to find another mixer app (I ended up with Sound Control v2.48 Beta) so I could work with both the input and output sound levels easily. The program lets you map any keys you want to adjust volume and mic input. That done, I went to work configuring Fldigi and Flrig for both the Ten Tec Argonaut V and the K2. 

The serial port CAT control worked fine (btw, I use a 2nd USB-to-Serial converter for sending code from N1MM Logger, and Win7 found the driver quickly for that). But, I was just getting a lot of noise, diffuse wide vertical bands, on the waterfall. No setting of mic gain/volume seemed to have much effect. I could hear the PSK signals if I hooked up headphones to the computer end of the audio cable, so what was wrong? 

I tried the Ten Tec next and I was able to decode PSK. The mystery deepened. I checked everything I could think of in Fldigi's configuration, nothing helped. 

Finally, I remembered that in Windows native "mixer" there was a setting for being able to listen to what is actually coming in on the mic input. Once I checked and applied that feature I had my AH-HAH moment! I was not listening to PSK now, but instead sounds in the room. 

Thus, there is a built-in microphone somewhere on the laptop itself that is not disabled when you use the mic jack on the side. Nor do the Windows 7 sound control panels give you a clue that these two paths exist. Those just show one mic input. When I disabled the mic input that it does show, voilá, instant PSK tracks. 

So, you may be asking, why did it work with the Ten Tec? That was the really inscrutable part, but it becomes quite clear when you know that I take the audio output from the K2 from the front panel headphone jack, and with the Ten Tec the audio comes from the built-in line-out, which doesn't disable the speaker. So, the PSK traces I was seeing with the Ten Tec weren't coming from the line-out, but from the speaker though the air into the laptop's built-in mic. I had a good chuckle over that!



2 comments:

  1. Hi Casey, good to hear from you. yes, it can be puzzling all the sound cards. I use 3 different sound cards. One build in, and 2 external cards. But now it works fine over here. 73 Paul

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  2. Nice to hear from you once again as sound cards can be a real challenge. When you are dealing not only with a new PC but also an OS that has to be installed and configured. That is a challenge in itself and I understand with reloading programs. I have reformatted my hard drives in the past and it meant reloading and configuring everthing!!

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Thanks very much for your comment! 73, Casey

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