Things you can do with your Icom rig:
Quite some time ago I owned an IC-5100, later an IC-7100. I sold both again not very long after I got them as I was not really happy with them. As I was most of the time QRV on higher bands using portable equipment, my most used rigs were several FT-817 connected to transverters and mostly used with SSB and a FTM-400 for parallel 2m/70cm FM QSOs.
Now I am back to Icom, this time with the IC-9700. And I am already thinking about getting an IC-705 as well...
There are plenty of examples, tutorials, documents and so on available for many different use cases using the newer Icom rigs.
What I am really happy with on the IC-9700 is the fact, that it has an built-in internet server for remote connection. So I can keep the rig in the shack and control it with my notebook from my garden or the living room, which is really nice. The RS-BA1 v2 software license I bought is worth every cent, although it still misses some features for what I wanted to do.
Use Winlink over a remote IC-9700 using RS-BA1 v2
When it came to soundmodem (and other soft TNC based software), I noticed several stones Icom throw into my way. I assume most of them are not intentionally and - luckily by the help of other solutions I found on the web - I was able to step over them. As I couldn't find any web page to this topic, I thought it is worth mentioning here.
Please note: this description is not for beginners. Before you try that you should be familiar with:
- setting up RS-BA1 on your PC and connecting it to your IC-9700 over network (no USB cable connected) and using it for QSOs - see original Icom user manual and several tutorials on the web
- using Winlink e.g. with an external TNC like Pactor, with a telnet connection or using a software-TNCs like soundmodem with a USB cable connection to your IC-9700 - see e.g. here (external link)
Trying to combine all of that requires, that each separate step is no secret to you and you know what you are doing. Anyhow, I briefly go through all the steps so you have a good idea about the order of steps required.
- Software packages required, you should get them first:
.) Icom Remote Utility: part of the "RS-BA1 Remote Software" CD one can buy from Icom
.) Winlink Express: from winlink.org (external link), I used "Winlink_Express_install_1-5-36-0.zip"
.) Soundmodem: from the UZ7HO homepage
(external link), I used "soundmodem113.zip"
.) CAT7200 und Virtual COM PORT: from the G8BPQ page
(external link), I used "CAT7200.zip"
.) Python und pyserial installation: there are a lot of Python installation packages which should be all fine
- Setup RS-BA1, connect it with your IC-9700 rig over internet and test it thoroughly. Afterwards, you can close the RS-BA1 software, but the "Icom Remote Utility" must stay connected. Remember the virtual COM port setting and baud rate you can read there, you will need it later on:
- Install the virtual com port from the CAT7200 package. On Win10 it requires to reboot the system in service mode and disable the driver signature checking. Otherwise the virtual com port will not work. Read the above download page of this tool, which also contains links to pages shoing how to do that. Of course you do this at your own risk! If everything works out well, the device manager shows a new device, remember this COM port as well:
- Now you can start the CAT7200 program. Enter on the left the newly generated "G8BPQ Virtual COM Port" and on the right the data from the "Icom Remote Utility". Press "Open". Select a free frequency on your rig and set a low transmit power. When you press the "Test" button, the rig should briefly go into TX mode.
The purpose of this program is to translate the RTS-control signal to enable TX (as used in many software-TNC programs) to the CI-V command understood by the remote utility. The remote control virtual port does not check this control signals directly, it only interprets CI-V serial commands. Thanks to John for this little, but very powerful tool!
- Now you can start "soundmodem.exe" and configure it to the virtual sound and COM ports of the previously installed programs. You need to use the new virtual COM port for PTT control, not the virtual port provided by the Icom remote control tool!
For the modem settings, you may need to extend the timings for TXDelay and TXTail to cope with longer latencies given by the remote connection. In my case (local home network), this worked out well:
- Now you can select an active frequency on your rig, where many packages are sent. A good choice is the APRS channel, for the EU this is 144.8MHz. Don't forget to select the FM-D operating mode as well. Please note, this is done on the rig directly for now, as the remote software does not allow to enable the DATA mode. But we will fix this later.
Soundmodem should now receive AF from your rig over the web and decode packages. So far, so good!
- Now you can do the last step and install Winlink for the sound modem as TNC. All this is a chapter by itself, so I focus only on the part where you select "Packet Winlink" from the main window and enter the setup there. You need to select "KISS", set "TCP" as port and enter the port number you can find in the soundmodem device settings (in KISS server).
That's it! Now you can download a channel table and select one of them. Now set up the frequency of the channel (again directly on your rig), ensure it is still in FM-D mode and press "start" in Winlink. If everything is set up correctly, Winlink will connect and check for messages:
- Of course, one problem is still left. How to set up the rig remotely for the correct QRG and the correct operation mode FM-D? My solution is rather simple, I just set up a small Python script which can send the correct CI-V commands to the remote control tool. I have two variants, one where I send the QRG and the mode directly (VFO mode) and an other one where I just set a pre-defined channel number (memory mode):
- That's it! Now you can do all steps remotely from the PC, without touching your rig.
Next time when you start up your PC and the IC-9700, the steps are as follows:
- Start the "Icom Remote Utility" and connect with your rig
- Use the Python script to set up the desired Winlink channel and operating mode on your rig
(you have to do this first, as CAT7200 will block the CI-V COM port for the TX switching...)
- Start CAT7200 and press "open" (you may use "test" to check the rig can switch to TX)
- Start soundmodem (ensure that you can see the waterfall spectrum from the virtual port of your rig)
- Start winlink, open a packet session (which must fit to the QRG as set up above) and press "start"
You can stop/close programs accordingly in reverse order.
So what could Icom do, to make the life easier for this task:
- If the remote control utility would check the RTS control line on the virtual port and pass it to the rig
(then the CAT7200 program would be obsolete)
- If BA-RS1 would allow setting the DATA operating mode on the rig
(then the Python script would be obsolete)