How to run an SSB contest without using your voice ...


Manage episode 305269790 series 93563
بواسطة Onno Benschop and Onno (VK6FLAB)، اكتشفه Player FM ومجتمعنا ـ حقوق الطبع والنشر مملوكة للناشر وليس لـPlayer FM، والصوت يبث مباشرة من خوادمه. اضغط زر الاشتراك لمتابعة التحديثات في Player FM، أو ألصق رابط التغذية الراجعة في أي تطبيق بودكاست آخر.
Foundations of Amateur Radio

As you might know, I consider myself a contester. I derive great pleasure from getting on air and making noise during a contest. It gives me a wonderful opportunity to test my station, hone my skills and work on learning something new every time I participate.

Due to circumstances I've been away from contesting for a number of years, but recently I was able scratch my itch from my own shack. For 24 glorious hours I was able to make contacts from the comfort of my home, being able to make a cup of tea, eat some dinner, stay warm, catch a nap when the bands were closed and generally have a blast.

My set-up worked well. Operating QRP or low power, I used a basic contest logger, since I wasn't expecting to be making many contacts. To automatically call CQ, I recorded my voice and set-up a script that played the audio, waited four seconds, then played it again. Using my audio mixer, I could turn that on and off at will and between that and the headset I was wearing I had loads of fun and even made contacts!

During the last three hours of the contest my partner came home. After hearing me attempt to confirm an exchange for a while, it became apparent that making exchanges, calling CQ and generally talking out loud was going to be an issue in our home, since my shack is within hearing range of the entire house. That or I'm going deaf and my voice is getting louder. I do get excited from time to time!

For the past several months I've been trying to find a solution and until today I wasn't getting any closer.

I didn't think I was asking for too much.

I'm looking for a contest logger, that runs on Linux, that has the super check partial database, knows the contest rules and most importantly, has a voice keyer with the ability to actually voice the exchange itself, as-in, not a pre-recorded audio file, but the ability to speak any callsign and any exchange.

As an aside, the super check partial database is a list of frequently heard contest callsigns, originally introduced by Ken K1EA, which if used properly, helps you when you're deciphering a callsign on a noisy band. Using it to guess calls and make mistakes can result in significant penalties for some contests.

The only tool I've come across that does all this in any way is N1MM. It runs on Windows and I have to tell you, the idea of having to buy a new computer, just to run a supported version of Windows just doesn't do it for me. N1MM also doesn't use Hamlib, so my radio needs to be physically connected to the computer. I won't bore you with my weeks of attempts, but it became farcical.

During my months of exploration I looked at and tried plenty of other tools. Many of them aren't intended for contesting, don't have access to the super check partial database, don't do voice-keying, don't run under Linux, require weird bits of extra software, have little or no documentation and a myriad of other issues like having to compile from source with arcane library requirements, the list goes on.

One contender that got close was a text only tool called TLF. It got so close that I almost used it for my previous contest. In the end I didn't because it was doing unpredictable things with the display and I had to write my own contest rule file for an unsupported contest which I couldn't test in time to actually use.

Today I took another look.

TLF doesn't have a voice-keyer on board, but it does have the ability to interface with a Morse-keyer, which is interesting, since it implies that there is a process that translates callsigns and messages typed in with a keyboard into Morse, which might mean that it may be possible to pretend to be a Morse-key and make voice sounds instead.

The Morse-keyer software in question is cwdaemon. It accepts text messages from TLF and then converts those into Morse code and then directly controls your radio to generate dits and dahs on-air.

I started digging through the source code when I realised that cwdaemon might have a debug mode that shows what it's doing. Turns out, not only does it have a debug option, you can also prevent it from keying your radio. Which means that I should be able to get TLF to generate the messages, cwdaemon to show those messages and me to do something useful, like play audio files as appropriate.

If I pull this off, it will mean that I can operate my station as if I'm running CW, but the radio will be transmitting voice, which makes for a beautiful way to save my vocal chords whilst running a contest without bothering anyone else and do this without needing to install Windows, which frankly, in my book is a win.

If I succeed, and I think the odds are good, I'll publish my efforts on my github repository for you to use, if you're so inclined.

I have to confess, when I started this adventure, I was not at all convinced that I could make this happen and I'd all but thrown in the towel. It still quite unbelievable to me that this kind of thing doesn't appear to exist, but if all goes well, it should soon.

What are you going to be doing for your next contest?

I'm Onno VK6FLAB

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