AA8IA Amateur Radio

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PCC-950 CAT Software requires Hardware Flow Control / Handshaking


If you own a Yaesu FT-950 you probably are familiar with PCC-950, which is the CAT control software that Yaesu provides to allow you to control your radio, manipulate menu settings. etc.

This software communicates over a standard RS-232 serial port. These are the 9-pin and 25-pin rectangular ports most common on the back of PCs. These days, many people do not have bonafide serial ports in their computers and instead have USB ports. For those people in this predicament, you need a USR-to-Serial converter. They are cheap, but some are not fully functional in every aspect and thus are not guaranteed to work in every application that a hardware serial port inside your computer does.

Anyway, on to the point. The PCC-950 software requires hardware flow control / handshaking. If you are using an RS-232 cable between your PC and radio that is not fully wired end-to-end with all of the needed serial port lines/signals, then your setup is not going to be able to meet the hardware flow control requirements of PCC-950. You must have RTS ( pin 7 ) and CTS ( pin 8 ) signaling available from your RS-232 port (or USB-to-Serial adapter) all the way through to the RS-232 jack on the radio, along with various other RS-232 signaling on other pins. You also must have RTS turned ON in the menu settings of the FT-950 (Menu Item #028).

A lot of people roll their own serial cables and for various reasons choose not to have all of the signal lines from the RS-232 port wired through their homemade cable. And, in the case of devices that have built-in Serial-to-USB converters as part of their bigger package, they may not provide all of the signal lines out of their device. I’d venture to say that standalone Serial-to-USB cables all have the appropriate signals available at the RS-232 end of the converter, but whose to say. You never know.

So if you’re trying to use PCC-950 to communicate with your FT-950 and are unable to, but you are able to use other programs for CAT control that don’t use hardware handshaking, then you’ve probably got an issue where either you’ve got an RS-232 cable that isn’t wired correctly for hardware flow control or you have a USB-to-Serial adapter that isn’t providing all of the appropriate signals on the pins that mate with your RS-232 cable.

I don’t write software, and I’m not an electrical engineer, but I have to wonder why in the world PCC-950 wasn’t written with a configurable option to turn off hardware flow control / handshaking. If the option were supported in PCC-950, it’s work with a lot more cable / converter scenarios.

Written by Mike

October 6th, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Posted in FT-950,Posts

Tagged with , , , ,

G4ZLP Digimaster PRO+ CW / PTT / FSK / CAT / Digital Modes Interface

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Wanting to operate FSK RTTY to make better use of the available filtering in my radio as well as to eliminate the need for constantly adjusting my audio drive to keep the ALC meter happy, I had been searching for an FSK interface. I already own a CW keying interface from ZLP Electronics and have always had good dealings with Neil, G4ZLP, so I figured I’d check out his site for something new. Sure enough, he has thhe Digimaster PRO+. It claims to handle all digital modes including FSK RTTY and to provide CW keying / PTT and CAT control. This sounded great to me. I placed an order.

The Digimaster PRO+ arrived yesterday [within seven days]. It was packaged very efficiently. There is nothing specular about the look of this interface. It is a small black box with an LED on it and adjustments for TX and RX audio levels. If you were looking for eye candy, you won’t find it here. [to be honest, I have a Signalink USB as well, and there is nothing spectacular about its look either].

The packages included all of the cabling I would need to hook this up immediately to my Yaesu FT-950. When you order the unit, you specify the radio you are using. There was the interface box, a cable with audio in/out jacks to plug into your audio card, a CAT cable that plugged directly into the RS-232 port on the back of my Yaesu, a CW interface cable with a 3.5 mm jack that plugged directly into the back of the radio [after using a 3.5mm to 1/4″ stereo adaptor], a data cable which plugged directly into the PKT/DATA/RTTY jack on the back of my radio, and a cheap and simple USB sound device. The USB sound device is similar to ones I had previously purchased on Ebay from China or Hong Kong for $1.99 a piece plus shipping. Of course, the only purpose for this sound device is to support the AFSK modes, and it has everything you need to do that.

Wiring up the interface to my radio/computer was a no-brainer. All cables that you would have any doubt about were labeled / color coded. Here is the process i used:

  1. make sure the radio / interface are off
  2. plug all cables into the interface
  3. With the PC on, plug the USB sound device and the interface USB cable into two available USB ports on my computer
  4. turn on the Digimaster PRO+ interface

A few seconds later the PC reported that it saw some new hardware, and it found the appropriate drivers for the USB sound device automatically. It did not find the drivers for the USB-to-Serial chipset in the Digimaster automatically. It did give the option to Search the Internet. I chose that option, and it went out and find appropriate drivers and installed them. The LED then blinked red/green a few times, indicating that the drivers were installed and the interface was talking to the computer fine.

I then went into the Device Manager on the computer to check what numbers were given to the comports. In my case, the first comport (the one used for CW / PTT / FSK keying) was COM6 and the second comport (the one used for CAT control) was COM7. [NOTE: On your PC the Digimaster PRO serial ports would likely be assigned different comports than 6/7. This is dependent upon many things, such as what other comports are already in use as well as what USB port on the computer you have the interface plugged into.]

So far so good. The interface is talking to the computer. It’s now time to get N1MM, MMTTY and Ham Radio Deluxe set up to work with this new interface.

A few things I needed to know before setting up software to use the Digimaster PRO:

a. what comport number was assigned to the first [CW/PTT/FSK] interface? COM6
b. what comport number was assigned to the second [CAT control] interface? COM7
c. what is the baud rate set to in my FT-950’s radio settings? 38400

I’ll leave the setup info to my next post.

Written by Mike

October 5th, 2010 at 1:35 pm