K7RLD Remote Ham Operation

What is remote ham-ing - Well, I routinely, via my Laptop anywhere I'm traveling with Internet access, connect and operate my ham station, which is located at my home QTH in Bellevue, WA.
I can use ALL modes. AM/SSB/FM/CW/Digital

Equipment Needed:
Rig Used In Shack- ICOM 706MK2G
Shack Computer - IBM P4 WINXP Pro
Audio Interface - SignaLink USB
CI-V Computer Interface
Laptop computer for remote operation (the computer I take on trips) - HP Inspiron running VISTA
Headset with boom microphone (I use a $30 pair of Plantronics headphones with a boom mic)

Computer Programs Used
Ham Radio Deluxe v.4.0 or v.5.0
Skype

Bands I Use:
2 meters at all times since the 706 has a separate antenna for VHF/UHF
Any other band that the HF antenna is tuned to with my tuner. If you have an auto-tuner with a large tuning capacity, this could give you unlimited possibilities on HF. Also an all band vertical would give you endless possibilities.

***** I am not responsible for any damages associated with the instructions to follow. I simply offer them as the successful way I got my system to function. ******

Let's Start

Keep in mind, setting up a remote station requires the use of two separate systems to function.

1. You need remote computer rig control. With this you can control, from your remote computer, the frequency, band, mode, filters, memories and many other functions as if you were sitting in front of your radio.

2. The other system is the duplex audio system.

First thing to do is get the computer control program working at the hamshack.  If it doesn't work there, you'll never get it to work remotely. I used Ham Radio Deluxe. Simon Brown and his pals have done a great job writing and continuously upgrading it. Even if you don't go remote, getting computer rig control is cool.

What is needed for the hamshack station:

Transceiver - Has to be able to be digitally controlled (most modern rigs qualify) 

Digital Interface -To set up rig control you will need the CI-V digital to RS-232 computer interface so the radio can talk to the computer. You can buy it from ICOM (very expensive), you can make one yourself or its much easier to find one on Ebay for less than $10. Just search ICOM CI-V. It has a 1/8" mono phone plug on one end for the 706 and either a USB plug or DB-9 on the other for the computer.

Audio Interface - Also you need a way to take the receive audio from the radio and get it to the mic input of the computer soundcard. Conversly, you need to get the "audio out" from the soundcard into the mic in of the IC706. I use the SignaLink USB. It is a very popular digital interface that also works well for remote operation. Purchase the appropriate data cable for your respective rig.

Download HRD (Ham Radio deluxe) from the website. Either V4 or V5 worked for me. Please donate something to Simon! They have spent 1000's of hours developing and debugging this program. It is a first class program you are getting for free. There are other fine rig control programs but none I've found that also can be seamlessly operated remotely. And did I say its free !!!!

Procedure to set up Rig Control

1- Plug the CI-V into the computer USB port (or RS-232 / DB-9 port on the back if you purchased that cable instead of the USB one). Windows will detect it. Then follow the directions on the screen to install the CI-V and assign it a COM Port. Most likely this will all be done automatically. To see what COM port it was assigned, go to Control Panel in Windows, then chose SYSTEM, then PORTS and you will see the CI-V (possibly called Prolific depending on the CI-V chip used in the cable). There it will tell you what COM port was assigned to it. You will need this information when setting up HRD.

2- Plug the 1/8" mono phone plug into the correct jack on the back of the 706. DON'T PLUG IT INTO THE SPEAKER JACK. Check the manual if you have any question as to which one to plug it into as both 1/8" jacks are right next to each other.

3- Install HRD and then start it. You'll then see a box called a New Preset Screen. There you fill in the brand of rig that you have, the model and then the COM port that you found the CI-V cable is using. In my case it was COM 5. 

- Then press connect. With any luck you'll then see a radio screen. Start to explore. Congratulations as you now have rig control.

Setup the station computer as a remote server

Here is where we will take the steps to set up the station computer as a remote HRD server for the remote HRD on your laptop to communicate with over the internet.

1. Bring up HRD once again on your station computer
2. Along the top menu bar select Tools and scroll down to Programs.
3. Select Remote Server 
4. A screen will appear as below

5. Select "HRD Remote Server" and then select "Configure".
6. This will take you to Notepad, where a HRDremotesvr.cfg file will be open. You need to make some small editing to this file.
7. Scroll down the file, line by line, till you come to the line WITHOUT "#" in front of it and it says "PORT = 7805". Just confirm it says this.
8. Then scroll further till you see other lines that don't begin with a "#" which read "USER1 = username , password". The first time this is edited it has two samples listed. Edit just one of those to your own choice for username and password. Delete the other one. This designates the user and password for the server. You'll use this information on the remote computer when signing in to this server.
9. Almost done . . . 
10. Then save the file. Now you are done with configuring the HRD server on the station computer. Next time you boot the computer, this HRD server will be loaded in memory.

WOW - You're almost halfway to setting up your remote rig control.

Setup the Remote computer for remote operation.

1. Download HRD to your remote computer.
2. Run HRD and you will get a familiar screen.

3. Fill in the rig brand and model as before but in the COM port space, pull down the menu arrow and select "Remote".

Now a slight departure to get some needed information. From the station computer, get on the internet and type in www.whatismyip.com  This program will find the physical IP address of your router. It will be in the form of 75.104.8.234  Write it down as you'll need it. You're done with that. Go back to the remote computer.

4.Then select "Connect".
5. You'll now get the following screen.

6. Fill in the information under "New Connection"
7. For Address, fill in the router IP address you got earlier by going to www.whatismyip.com 
8. For the Port fill in 7805, which you used in the HRDremotesvr.cfg file.
9. For User name fill in what you used in the HRDremotesvr.cfg file for user name and then fill in what you designated as the password. (remember USER1=username,password)
10. Then press "Connect". You should get a little box pop up saying what a great time you're going to have. If you want to change that, just go back into the HRDremotesvr.cfg file and enter something else in place of it.

If that all happens, then fill in the COM port that connects your station computer to the rig. In my case, again, it was COM 5. 
11. Then Press "OK" and you should be in business with remote rig control.

You are done with remote rig control - Voila - This was the hardest part

(for a quick and dirty method go to to the end of this page)

Setting Up Duplex Audio

Now you have rig control but you still need to get audio to the transmitter and listen to the station radio audio from the remote computer. Its easy.

1. Set up two ( 2) separate Skype accounts. One for the station computer and one for the remote computer.

2. Make sure you set the station computer Skype account to "auto answer".

3. Just call the station computer from your remote Skype account and it will open a total duplex audio connection. But, how do you get the audio into and out of the rig, you ask?

4. You take the "Audio Out" of the station computer soundcard and interface that into the rig mic input. Then for receiver, just take the audio from the rig and interface that to the "Mic In" on the station computer soundcard. I use the SignaLink USB from Tigertronics. It has its own soundcard and facilitates this nicely. There are a myriad of other ways to do this. Just look up information about interfaces for digital modes on the internet. They interface the audio similarly. Depending on the interface, you might have to set up VOX on your rig.

That's it Boys and Girls. You now have remote computer access.

The sequence I use is to bring up my remote computer in the hotel and start Skype. Then I call the station Skype account and get the audio connection made.

After that, I bring up HRD and, since it is set for auto connect, the rig control screen comes right up. You may have to set up the connection again with the Rig Brand, Model and Mode but its the same as you did previously. Plug a good mic and headset into the audio connections on the laptop and start to have fun.

The END . . . not so fast cowboy

After the exuberance wears off, it hits you that unless you are going to keep your station computer AND radio on all the time, you'll need some way to turn it on and off. Here are some methods to perform that.

#1 - Call the XYL on the phone every time you want to get on the air and have her put everything down and boot the computer and turn the radio on. Then, when you are done, call her again and ask her to go to the shack and turn everything off. I wouldn't suggest using this method. Your better half will start to think that the only reason you call is to use the radio; which she most likely already thinks you use too much.

#2 - Set up an automatic timer to turn both the radio and computer on and off at a preselected time. This works quite well but restricts you as to when you can operate. I did it this way for several months and it worked flawlessly.

GOAL - Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to somehow turn all this stuff on, from being completely off, over the internet?

Well, there is ! Before I go further, I have to give credit to my friend Bob, N7UA, who worked hand in hand with me to get all of this remote ham radio working. Together, we were able to figure out all the remote functions fairly quickly (about a month or so) The real challenge was this starting from a dead stop business that took the real time.

It turns out that most all computers come with a feature in the BIOS that is called Wake On LAN or WOL (or something that sounds like it is saying the same thing). That feature is usually located in the BIOS area having to do with the onboard network card (NIC). Years ago, network administrators wanted to be able to start up computers in the office from their homes. So, they devised a very simple program that would send out across the internet, several dozen HEX characters that would begin with the address of the company router and would also contain the exact MAC address of a certain computer's network card. When that "Magic Packet" as they call it, got to the router, it was broadcast to all computers on the network. Only one computer had the proper MAC address and when it saw its number, it activated and started up itself. That's what we used to solve our problem.

Man, this is the ticket. I could wake up the computer and get it going from the OFF state.. Then I could use one of the spare hard drive connectors in the computer, which supply 12vdc on startup, to fire a relay to turn on the 12V ASTRON power supply to get the 706 going. The 706 has a neat feature that if the radio is running when power is removed, it will come back on when the power is reapplied. VICTORY!

There are a lot of WOL programs out there but the one I settled on was WakeOnLAN.exe. It is distributed free of charge by Solar Winds. www.solarwinds.com - look for the free WOL program

Setting Up Wake On LAN

Network Connection for Station Computer:  This absolutely has to be a wired network connection to a router. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to have a 50ft cable running from the main router to the computer. You could bridge a wireless router to the main wireless router. Then just use a short wired connection to your computer network card. 

BIOS Settings: To get the WOL to function, I looked in the BIOS and got the MAC Address of the network card, enabled the WOL feature and then booted the computer. After it re-boots I went to Control Panel, then SYSTEM. Go to the network card entry and select "Properties". Jigger a couple of the settings that have to do with waking up. Its pretty self explanatory.

Router Settings: Yes you will need to do little editing to your router settings. You will need to get into your router settings through the router setup program, which is in ROM in your router. This can easily be accessed by using a web browser like Internet Explorer. 

1.Type the router's LAN address into the browser address box, not the WAN address we used previously. Each brand of router will use somewhat different LAN address but all will begin with 192.168. Then add two more sets. For example, the TrendNET uses 192.168.10.1. Most D-link routers use 192.168.0.10 You should be able to find this setup address from the router mfg website or manual.
2. Once in the router Setup Program, you will want to set up both Port Forwarding and a Virtual Server for the WOL Program. I did all this with my D-link router and thought I was home free.

I brought up my Wake-On-Lan program, entered the MAC Address and router IP WAN Address. The same one I got from www.whatismyip.com .
I pressed the button that would turn everything on . . . and absolutely nothing happened. I re-entered the data of course thinking I had just entered those long numbers incorrectly. IT JUST SAT THERE. I got a little depressed until I typed my problem in the search engine and found hundreds of other people had the same problem so I wasn't alone . . . which didn't make it any better I may add.

For a month or more I just couldn't figure out why it wasn't working. Everything seemed set up properly. As it turned out, most consumer routers have the ability disabled in ROM to receive a WAN packet and hand over (port forward) the data to the LAN broadcast IP address ending in "255". The potential hacker carnage is disastrous if you don't have your LAN pretty well locked down so the router companies just disable IP broadcasting by default. When you try to type in the IP broadcast address ending in "255" you'll get an error saying you can't do that. In order for the Wake on LAN to work, this ability has to be operational in the router. Bob called many router companies and finally found an engineer at TrendNET that said the model we both have will definitely allow WOL. I've read where you can "hack" into any router to force in the "255" but when I tried it on the D-Link, it said it worked but it didn't. The specific Model that absolutely works for both of us is a TEW633GR. It worked for him so I found one on eBay for $55 and it solved my problem as well. 

Setting Up Port Forwarding and a Virtual Server on the TrendNET

Port Forwarding - Some setup programs use the term portforwarding and others use  other names. My TrendNET uses the term Gaming, as explained when Port Forwarding was set up for HRD.
1. Get into the Gaming Screen (Port Forwarding) - Type in the name of the WOL program you're using, then enter the broadcast LAN IP address. The broadcast IP address is always the router IP LAN address but the last octet is "255". The "255" means ALL computers on the LAN. Because the power is off to the computers, DHCP can't see the network card addresses since, with no power, they are not broadcasting. So, Port Forwarding sprays that "Magic Packet" to all of the NIC's in the LAN but the only one that recognizes it is the one we want to wake up.  The TrendNET broadcast address is 192.168.10.255. Enter that. Then under Protocol, use UDP and port 7, which is the port that Solar Wind's program (WakeONLan.exe) uses. While we're talking about that port business, you'll also have to go into your Firewall and make sure that Port 7 is set as an exception so the "Magic Packet" can enter.
Virtual Server - then set up a virtual server for the same program using the same IP broadcast address and same protocol number.

The nice thing about the TRendNET is that in the setup program, it actually asks you if you'd like to use Wake On LAN. Other brands that I tried didn't.

I had Bob, N7UA, take all of my pertinent information and plug it into his WOL program. You can't imagine the exhilaration when you see your system come magically to life. Now I can turn my computer and radio on from a dead stop from anywhere.

Congratulations - go remote!

[Alt method of rig control (still have to use Skype for the audio exchange): use LogMeIn to take over the screen of your shack computer from your laptop over the internet. Go to LogMeIn.com and follow the directions. There is sometimes a latency problem with this method but it WILL work in a pinch] 

 

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