Highfields Amateur Radio Club
General Programming Help.
OR: Getting the PC and radio to "talk" to each other.
by Brian, MW0GKX.
This page gives basic help if you cannot get your PC to "talk" to your radio. I cannot go into great depth with radios that I do not own but the basic connection issues are usually the same.
I assume that you are using a Windows based PC system and have a fair working knowledge of a PC, how to install and run programs (Windows and/or DOS, depending on what software you have), how to check the settings "under the bonnet" of the PC etc. If you do not understand what you are reading then seek the assistance of someone who understands these things, there is no "shame" in asking if you don't know!
- Is the software installed properly?
Windows7 64bit will not normally install and run DOS based software at all!
An "x86 emulator", such as DOSBox may help here (I CANNOT offer ANY support for DOSBox nor any other "x86 emulator", sorry) but you may have issues COM port wise.
Windows7 32bit will install and run DOS based software but may also have COM port issues, see the next section.
- PC has no Serial (COM) ports, only USB.
A USB to Serial adaptor may work between the Serial lead and the USB port, I have found that the "Prolific" chip set works well with my Icom radios using the OPC-478 lead and Windows based software, BUT ensure the drivers are up to date for the adaptor.
Most DOS based programming software (and some Windows versions too!) only accept COM1 or COM1 or 2, you will need to check, via the PCs "Device Manager", to see/alter what COM port the adaptor is emulating if the programming software cannot find it.
NO!!! You cannot wire a radio lead straight to a USB plug, I have had MANY requests for how to do it for various radios! Some newer radios do have a USB interface and use a USB lead (Icom IC-R20 for example) but for the rest; the factory USB to Radio leads have converters in them that turn the USB signal into TTL/CMOS level signals for the radio and these leads may not work for DOS based software.
!! Directly connecting to a USB port a radio that is not designed for connecting directly to a USB port may damage the radio and/or the PC !!
- "I have a PC that has Serial (COM) ports. Which pins do I connect to what connector on the radio?"
Only a few radios connect directly to the PC COM port for programming (Icom IC-R8500 for example). Most require an RS232 to TTL/CMOS level converter.
!! Directly connecting to a Serial port a radio that is not designed for connecting directly to a Serial port may damage the radio and/or the PC !!
Take a look at the relevant Icom, Kenwood, Lowe or Yaesu / Vertex Programming Information pages. Many of the listed connecting interface/cables have links to pages of how to make them, including direct connection cables (like the Kenwood PG-4W) where required.
- "The PC seems to connect to the radio OK but I always receive an error when trying to read from or write to the radio."
Perhaps the Serial transfer speed is too fast for the radio.
Reduce the COM port baud (bits per second) rate to 1200. Also try reducing the receive and transmit buffers to lowest setting or even disable the FIFO buffers.
It could also be that the PC itself is too fast, there are programs such as Mo'Slo or CPU Killer (not as bad as it sounds!) that will slow down fast PCs to allow them to run old software that is "hampered" by the speed of today's machines, or BES which was designed for keeping laptops cool by limiting the CPU usage of a process, which will erm, slow it down! I cannot give ANY support or instruction for these (so please do NOT ask), nor can I personally recommend these programs. I found them by looking at what people were using to slow down fast PCs or run older software.
- Are you using the correct software or software version?
It can be easy to make a mistake without realising it; two instances that I am aware of from my assisting other Icom owners are that the IC-M710 and IC-M710RT use different software, as do the IC-F34 and the Icom ProHunt F34.
Kenwood has similar issues with some older models requiring XX program and newer versions of the same model require YY. The TK-480 and TK-481 spring to mind, you need to check the serial number as well as the model! Also I had a Q regarding a TK-790, the poor fellow had tried the prog I had listed and it had not worked. It turned out that he had a TK-790CDF which required a particular version of the software (V1.11 CDF). As with Icom suffixes can matter, for example, the TK-260 and the TK-260G require different programs (IIRC all G versions use different software to non G versions).
Some radios may have options fitted that require extra software to program. The basic functions of the radio require one prog and the option requires another. Back with Icom as an example, the IC-F3 springs to mind, in CS-F3 (DOS) the earlier versions did not have the SmarTrunk programming software included so trying to alter any SmarTrunk settings via the PC is not possible, you need a later version.
If you are still having problems with getting your radio to talk to your PC perhaps you should either get an old PC with proper Serial ports and use it for programming or look at using 3rd party software that is compatible with both the version of Windows you are using and the radio(s) you wish to programme.
One last piece of advice: If you end up emailing someone to elicit assistance then give them as much detail as possible:
- Radio make/model and firmware revision
- Software being used and it's revision number
- Lead(s) used
- PC specs
- The problem(s) encountered
- Any "fixes" already tried
I have had emails in the past along the lines of "my PC can't read my radio, what shall I do?" (yes I had one that said exactly that!) which doesn't help the poor person the other end to trouble-shoot your problem at all. Remember you can see what is or is not happening, someone on the other end of an email is relying on you to give accurate information and feedback for example; the precise wording of an error message may lead to resolving the problem, just saying "an error message popped up" doesn't tell anyone what the error was.