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Old 21-12-2014, 07:58   #1
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USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

Hi guys,

I have taken all the required exams to operate the radio, I've gotten my hands on an IC-M710 and an Icom AT140 and I've figured out the best antenna setup for the whole rig. The next step is to figure out a way to have this old beast communicate properly with my laptop. Often times pactor modems are used for this, but these are ridiculously expensive (new ones sell for more than I paid for the boat!), and I've been told left and right that a pactor modem is by no means necessary. Instead I got my hands on a "digikeyer", by the brand Micoham. I'm no expert, but I was told that this works as an interface between the computer and the radio. Like a stand-alone soundcard that translates the signal coming from the radio into something the computerprograms can work with.

Anyway, here's the issue: I was supplied with a cable when I bought the digikeyer, which reads "EL-K3" on the sticker. As you can guess, this is a cable for a K3 radio, massively more complex than my simple M710 (picture of a M710's backside). Needless to say this won't work with the cable I was supplied with. Yet, there doesn't seem to be a ready-made cable for the M710 as it's not the most common radio around. I emailed the guys at Microham and this was their response:

I'm sorry, I have no idea about M710 requirements, our cable sets are designed for amateur radio transceivers, not marine.
Reviewing available manual, seems DB15-IC-8 cable could fit the radio, but can't provide you any guarantee.

He doesn't seem very certain, and it doesn't sound very professional at all... This makes me wonder, will this digikeyer even work with my M710? It's such a simple radio, and a simple process (I just need the basics), it seems ridiculous this wouldn't work...

What would you guys suggest? I don't really want to spend 80 on the DB15-IC-8 cable to be stuck with two cables and a digikeyer I can't use.
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Old 21-12-2014, 08:46   #2
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

What do you plan to do with your radio and computer?

The typical use of a Pactor modem on a cruising boat would be to connect with WinLink or Sailmail for low bandwidth email from out to sea.

Digikeyers typically do PSK-31, RTTY, and good old fashioned CW (Morse Code). I think some people have experimentd with ultra-low bandwidth PSK-31 and Winlink, but it sure won't work with Sailmail.

What what probably be closer to what you want is Winmor, which is kind of a soft Pactor modem which works with a sound card (no other hardware required). AFAIK, it can achieve speeds similar to Pactor II, and you can use it with Winlink, but not Sailmail.

If you are not trying to do email, but just want to play with digital modes with other hams, then PSK-31 is probably the most popular, and you don't need a keyer for it. It works perfectly with just your sound card.

PSK-31 is a really cool and fun mode -- ultra-ultra low bandwidth -- 31 characters per second. Required extremely little power and takes up extremely little (31hz) of radio spectrum. But not useful for anything other than talking with other hams.
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Old 21-12-2014, 08:51   #3
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

What I'm trying to accomplish in the end with the entire setup is to send email (just text, so I can reach out to friends/family who are not HAM), to get navtex in and to get weatherfax in.

I should also add I'm just picking up the radio for these purposes and I'm just trying to get the setup to work and learn how to use those specific functions of the radio. I don't have all that much interest in "playing" with it, but just looking at it as one would at a depthsounder. I might get into it when underway, but right now I'm drowning in work/research/planning =/
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Old 21-12-2014, 09:05   #4
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Orchidius View Post
What I'm trying to accomplish in the end with the entire setup is to send email (just text, so I can reach out to friends/family who are not HAM), to get navtex in and to get weatherfax in.

I should also add I'm just picking up the radio for these purposes and I'm just trying to get the setup to work and learn how to use those specific functions of the radio. I don't have all that much interest in "playing" with it, but just looking at it as one would at a depthsounder. I might get into it when underway, but right now I'm drowning in work/research/planning =/
You did get a ham license, right? I would have expected you would have learned some of this stuff . . .

In any case, the email you are trying to do can be done absolutely for free over Winlink and using Winmor with the only condition that you must never discuss any kind of business, and all your communications are in the clear so that anyone can read them (no hot sex messages to your mistress ).

Just get onto Winlink and sign up for a mailbox, download Winmor, and study all the documentation. For short pure text email it will be fine.

For short text messages, also consider Yellow Brick or DeLorme satellite messaging. Quite cheap, totally simple to use, will work anywhere.

To receive Navtex and Weatherfax, you just need an interface with your sound card and appropriate decoding programs (free).

You might want to return the digikeyer if you still can, or sell it on Eham. You don't need it for any of your proposed uses.
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Old 21-12-2014, 09:39   #5
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

I did get my license, ON3KSB . I did find the whole course a bit of a joke though, the "book" was a 20 page leaflet, I got the maximum of the points on the exam -.-

Anyway, why was I talked into the digikeyer then? Does it make anything easier/better/failsafer?
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Old 21-12-2014, 10:17   #6
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Orchidius View Post
I did get my license, ON3KSB . I did find the whole course a bit of a joke though, the "book" was a 20 page leaflet, I got the maximum of the points on the exam -.-

Anyway, why was I talked into the digikeyer then? Does it make anything easier/better/failsafer?
I don't know -- I've never used one. Doesn't look like it to me.

Here's some good info on Winlink and how to connect to it. Don't forget! That ham radio including Winlink must not be used for any kind of business communication.

http://www.dtreg.com/Getting_Started...and_WINMOR.pdf
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Old 21-12-2014, 12:57   #7
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

I don't know what you paid for the digikeyer but they list for $335 from the manufacturer. That is outrageously expensive and you should return it for a full refund and stay away from the people who recommended it. I use the Tigertronice SignaLink USB (SLUSB) interface, used by a great many Hams, which connects to a USB port on your computer. If you buy one, the vendor or SignaLink will include a cable from the SLUSB to your radio. The SLUSB with the cable will cost around $100. For convenience you can also get the pre-wired, plug-in jumpers for your particular radio for ten bucks. The cable from the SLUSB to the M-710 radio plugs into the 8 pin DIN jack on the back of the radio. Just tell SignaLink your radio model and they will supply the appropriate cable.

With the radio, the SLUSB and your computer you will need a digital radio program. I use the Linux Mint operating system (it's FREE!) and the Fldigi Digital Radio program (also FREE!). Fldigi is also available for Windoze and Mac if you like paying for expensive operating systems. There are lots of other programs out there like Ham Radio Deluxe (definitely not free any more and only for Windoze) and others. Fldigi will send and receive virtually all the digital modes. You can also use WinMor if you are running Windoze. When I want to send a message to my non-ham family I will use HF E-mail. I haven't fired it up yet but I expect to use PSKmail for my email system which runs on the 30 meter ham band using PSK250 or PSK500 modes and is also - guess what - FREE! (I'm sending a message here!)

Although my IC M-710 is opened up for the ham bands, I will take my Yaesu FT-857D along for my ham rig and save the M-710 for the marine bands as tuning the FT-857D is a lot simpler. It is also enabled for all the HF and MF amateur bands plus 6 and 2 meters VHF and 70 cms UHF. A great little rig and it's small so it's easy to find a spot to stow it. In fact, if you just want to talk and send mail on the ham bands, sell the M-710 and get an FT-857D and a remote autotuner.

Good Luck, Happy Holidays and 73 from Garry AK4NA
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Old 21-12-2014, 15:16   #8
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

I paid 125$ plus shipping, and that included the K3 cable, which apparently costs 80$ on its own...

If I was to do it all over again (no refund possible), I'd definatly go for a SLUSB, shoulda', coulda', woulda'... Right now I'd just like to get the rig working with the digikeyer, as I get the assumption they're both pretty much the same thing but different (like owning an Icom vs Yaesu). Seeing I just need to get a certain signal from the radio to the digikeyer and vice versa, that should be possible by just altering/resoldering the cable, no?

Here's what somebody on eham had to say about it:
1) The cable you have been supplied with should have a 15-pin D-Sub connector on it that is designed to connect to the K3 and not much else, it is therefore useless for this application apart from being able to use the connectors.

2) You don't say which model of Microham Digikeyer you have but your connections to the M710 are as follows:

ACC 1

1. CW Key
2. Ground
3. PTT Line, Ground for Transmit
4. Modulation Input to rig
5. AF Detector Output from rig
6. Scan (not used here)
7. 13,8V out, possibly to power your Digikey unit after fitting a fuse.
8. ALC in (not used here)

So, audio from your Digikey goes to pin 4 and audio to your Digikey goes to pin 5. Please also note that there are TWO ways of sending FSK modes using this rig, the first method uses the oscillator inside the transceiver and a high/low on pin 1 (FSK Mode), the second method uses audio tones fed through the ACC 1 connector (J2B Mode) See page 10 of the manual.
Most of the "connections" he lists at the M710 end of the business are present in the K3 cable, but all in separate connectors. The M710 however just has the 1 RS232 port. Does this mean just solder all the separate connectors into a single RS232 plug and we're good to go?

Note: He correctly notes the K3 cable has a 15pin connector on one end, this is not the end that goes into the K3 though, it's the connector on the digikeyer end. The other end of the cable consists of a bunch of small labled cables and connectors, namely +13.8V, ACC, RS232, Line-in, Line-out and key.
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Old 21-12-2014, 15:31   #9
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Orchidius View Post
2) You don't say which model of Microham Digikeyer you have but your connections to the M710 are as follows:

ACC 1

1. CW Key
2. Ground
3. PTT Line, Ground for Transmit
4. Modulation Input to rig
5. AF Detector Output from rig
6. Scan (not used here)
7. 13,8V out, possibly to power your Digikey unit after fitting a fuse.
8. ALC in (not used here)

So, audio from your Digikey goes to pin 4 and audio to your Digikey goes to pin 5. Please also note that there are TWO ways of sending FSK modes using this rig, the first method uses the oscillator inside the transceiver and a high/low on pin 1 (FSK Mode), the second method uses audio tones fed through the ACC 1 connector (J2B Mode) See page 10 of the manual.
Most of the "connections" he lists at the M710 end of the business are present in the K3 cable, but all in separate connectors. The M710 however just has the 1 RS232 port. Does this mean just solder all the separate connectors into a single RS232 plug and we're good to go?
RS232?? No! The ACC1 connector on the rear panel of the M710, as the man said! Refer to page 16 of your manual.
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Old 21-12-2014, 23:41   #10
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

ON3KSB,
1) First off, I saw your post on eham earlier...
USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!
And I was going to suggest that you post your query here, and when I came here to get a direct link to the "Marine Electronics" forum to refer you to, I saw that you already posted here....
So, good for you...


2) Secondly, "Dockhead" and "Tashtego" have given you some great (and accurate info), please heed their recommendations....

If you need to send e-mails while at sea.....which many, many sailors find they do NOT need to do (rather they use e-mail when in port, when in range of cellular and/or Wi-Fi systems)...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Orchidius View Post
What I'm trying to accomplish in the end with the entire setup is to send email (just text, so I can reach out to friends/family who are not HAM), to get navtex in and to get weatherfax in.
Then, in descending order of effectiveness...

a) it's a PACTOR modem and Sailmail (the best overall approach)...
b) Iridium satphone and data kit w/ fixed ext. antenna (and a either use Sailmail or another provider)
c) a PACTOR modem and Winlink....(ham radio comms, NO business communications)
d) soundcard Winmor and Winlink (also ham radio comms, NO business communications)



For WeFax and NAVTEX, all you need is a audio cable running from the M-710 to the soundcard input of your computer (< $10 retail), and some free software (JVComm, GetFax, etc.)....
But, you'd be better off looking at other options....(see details next...)



3) Using your words here, I think you may have gotten some odd (bad) advice....as trying to use a laptop connected to an HF radio when on the high seas, and not having any HF radio experience (and unwilling to learn???), etc. is NOT a "plug-'n-play" scenario....and certainly not something that you'll just "look at like a depthsounder"!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Orchidius View Post
I should also add I'm just picking up the radio for these purposes and I'm just trying to get the setup to work and learn how to use those specific functions of the radio. I don't have all that much interest in "playing" with it, but just looking at it as one would at a depthsounder. I might get into it when underway, but right now I'm drowning in work/research/planning =/
If you are looking for a "set it, and forget it" system, one that you can just look at and get all the weather info / forecasts that you'd ever need, you should be looking at a dedicated WeFax receiver / printer for worldwide use....(and possibly even a NAVTEX receiver for coastal area text weather..)

For LOTS of info on accessing weather forecasts, please have a look here...
Offshore / Hi-Seas Weather data / forecasts


And, here are some photos of my Furuno FAX-408....and my Nav Station....it is programmed to turn on, receive, and print the specific weather charts I desire...and works worldwide....and all the weather info / charts, etc. are FREE...












Again, using your own words....the last thing you should be looking at is a computer, soundcard, and old/used HF radio based system....

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but I'm being honest here....and hoping to jolt you into reality....
If you want simple and reliable, it IS there....but it'll cost you $$$....
If you don't wish to spend the $$$, you must learn a lot about radio / computers / software / etc. in order for this to be viable/usable for you and your planned passages....

Again, sorry about being blunt....but those are the facts...





4) Please forgive any rudeness on my part, but I suspect that you may not have actually figured out this very well...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Orchidius View Post
I have taken all the required exams to operate the radio, I've gotten my hands on an IC-M710 and an Icom AT140 and I've figured out the best antenna setup for the whole rig.
Of course, I have no way of knowing for sure what you have "figured out", but using your words and query here, I do get the feeling that you may have been getting some rather odd and inaccurate info/advice???

Please do not take offense here, as this is a common occurrence...once you understand that "taking the exams" is just the beginning and not a determining factor in knowing enough, you will begin to grasp what I'm getting at...
And, then add in the specific peculiarities of small-boat HF comms, etc. and you'll find things get complicated....complicated enough that even those with years of land-based HF communications experience get in over their heads at times!!!

Have a look at these threads (and WATCH the videos) for some more generic Marine HF communications info...

Marine SSB Stuff (how-to better use / proeprly-install SSB, & troubleshoot RFI, etc.)

Icom M-802 Instr Videos(basic-adv) & LIVE DSC-Distress Call




I hope this helps...

Fair winds...

John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
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Old 22-12-2014, 00:22   #11
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ka4wja View Post
ON3KSB,
1) First off, I saw your post on eham earlier...
USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!
And I was going to suggest that you post your query here, and when I came here to get a direct link to the "Marine Electronics" forum to refer you to, I saw that you already posted here....
So, good for you...


2) Secondly, "Dockhead" and "Tashtego" have given you some great (and accurate info), please heed their recommendations....

If you need to send e-mails while at sea.....which many, many sailors find they do NOT need to do (rather they use e-mail when in port, when in range of cellular and/or Wi-Fi systems)...Then, in descending order of effectiveness...

a) it's a PACTOR modem and Sailmail (the best overall approach)...
b) Iridium satphone and data kit w/ fixed ext. antenna (and a either use Sailmail or another provider)
c) a PACTOR modem and Winlink....(ham radio comms, NO business communications)
d) soundcard Winmor and Winlink (also ham radio comms, NO business communications)



For WeFax and NAVTEX, all you need is a audio cable running from the M-710 to the soundcard input of your computer (< $10 retail), and some free software (JVComm, GetFax, etc.)....
But, you'd be better off looking at other options....(see details next...)



3) Using your words here, I think you may have gotten some odd (bad) advice....as trying to use a laptop connected to an HF radio when on the high seas, and not having any HF radio experience (and unwilling to learn???), etc. is NOT a "plug-'n-play" scenario....and certainly not something that you'll just "look at like a depthsounder"!!
If you are looking for a "set it, and forget it" system, one that you can just look at and get all the weather info / forecasts that you'd ever need, you should be looking at a dedicated WeFax receiver / printer for worldwide use....(and possibly even a NAVTEX receiver for coastal area text weather..)

For LOTS of info on accessing weather forecasts, please have a look here...
Offshore / Hi-Seas Weather data / forecasts


And, here are some photos of my Furuno FAX-408....and my Nav Station....it is programmed to turn on, receive, and print the specific weather charts I desire...and works worldwide....and all the weather info / charts, etc. are FREE...












Again, using your own words....the last thing you should be looking at is a computer, soundcard, and old/used HF radio based system....

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but I'm being honest here....and hoping to jolt you into reality....
If you want simple and reliable, it IS there....but it'll cost you $$$....
If you don't wish to spend the $$$, you must learn a lot about radio / computers / software / etc. in order for this to be viable/usable for you and your planned passages....

Again, sorry about being blunt....but those are the facts...





4) Please forgive any rudeness on my part, but I suspect that you may not have actually figured out this very well... Of course, I have no way of knowing for sure what you have "figured out", but using your words and query here, I do get the feeling that you may have been getting some rather odd and inaccurate info/advice???

Please do not take offense here, as this is a common occurrence...once you understand that "taking the exams" is just the beginning and not a determining factor in knowing enough, you will begin to grasp what I'm getting at...
And, then add in the specific peculiarities of small-boat HF comms, etc. and you'll find things get complicated....complicated enough that even those with years of land-based HF communications experience get in over their heads at times!!!

Have a look at these threads (and WATCH the videos) for some more generic Marine HF communications info...

Marine SSB Stuff (how-to better use / proeprly-install SSB, & troubleshoot RFI, etc.)

Icom M-802 Instr Videos(basic-adv) & LIVE DSC-Distress Call




I hope this helps...

Fair winds...

John, KA4WJA
s/v Annie Laurie, WDB6927
I bow to the Master. But . . .

the OP said he wants only the capability of sending short, text-only messages to family and friends. And it seems he's on a tight budget.

That would seem to eliminate Pactor and especially SailMail, which at $250 a year is by itself close to the cost of a Yellow Brick (or Delorme) subscription.

If he can get the radio working, it's not a great leap to Winmor and WinLink, which I bet will work for him.

Otherwise, you can't beat the Yellow Brick. Unlike HF radio, it's plug 'n' play, cheap, effective.
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Old 22-12-2014, 04:01   #12
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

Thanks for the long, in-depth post Ka4wja. In my search for a good solution to the whole "communications-question", you've been an invaluable resource by not just looking at the question at hand, but the bigger picture.

Perhaps I should have painted a better picture of the situation to begin with. I'll do my best to do that here:

So when first looking at long-range communications for the transatlantic trip and reading up on all the options, I decided on a HF radio setup rather than a satphone. Not only because of price, but because of the other options this supplied and I kind of liked the idea of having a community of HAM enthousiasts to talk to underway.

I got in touch with the local HAM radio club, signed up for their course and subsequent exams to get my license. Through the club I also got in touch with a good handful of sailing HAMs, some of which who take or have taken long journeys on their boats. Everybody at the club has been most helpful and willing to help me with the whole deal, but most advice came from people who have never been on a boat, so I had to sift through it a little.

Through the course and talking to the HAMs at the club, it quickly became clear that HF radio was a very complex matter and a whole hobby on its own. Not just a depthsounder (reading my earlier post, I do agree that was a silly comment on my part).

At this point I'm learning everything there is to learn about boats and their equipment (doing a full refit of a steel classic, doing everything myself as well), I'm learning all I can about weather/weathersystems/..., about passageplanning, about (heavy weather)sailing in general, and so on and so forth. Learning to become an expert HAM radio-operator and everything that comes with it is just going to make my head explode due to its complexity I'm affraid. I also don't really feel it'll be 100% necessary to be a "master HAM" to get what I need from the rig. Since everything is preprogrammed into the M710 and I'm not looking to get the most impossible things done.

I am very willing to learn however how my equipment works, how to use the specific functions I need (but only those), and how to troubleshoot them. I have some background in basic electronics and am pretty good with computers. I also have people I can count on to help me install the rig and teach me how to use it properly.

Anyway, I'm hoping this gives you a little bit of background. I understand and appreciate your honesty and harshness (I can imagine it's much needed at times), but hope you can understand my situation as well. I've come quite a long way, and it's been an amazing (and ongoing) learning process so far. I have come to terms with the fact that I'll never be a true/passionate/expert HAM, but hope I can acquire the skills and knowledge to get fax/navtex/email down by the time we cast off in june 2016. And judging by my experiences with the HAM community and how helpful they have been, I'm confident in that.

SO! Sorry for the long post, back on track now!

Since I don't have a pactor modem, nor a satphone, this leaves the winmor/winlink option from your list. Is this the option using the signalink USB interface? Or is no interface needed for this either?

As far as weatherfax and navtex go, do I understand it correctly if you don't need an interface for this at all? Does an interface make this process easier at all?
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Old 22-12-2014, 06:42   #13
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

For the last three years operating during the winter/spring in the Bahamas I have used a Icom-m710, a AT-140 tuner, a $300 Windows notebook PC, a Signal Link USB external soundcard, and Winmor/Winlink/RMS Express to send and receive email from family and friends via Ham HF. Although slow (1/2 the speed of a telephone modem), I have never failed to make a connection. The PC and sound card with SeaTTY software gives me access to both NAVTEX and weather FAX. The radio gives me access to government and private marine voice weather broadcasts and to several marine and ham cruisers nets which I sometimes follow. The radio can be tuned from its controls or from the computer. I find it to be a simple and cheap solution to my needs.

I recommend you join the Icom m710 Yahoo group, explore their files, and ask questions there. https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ICM710/info

Bill Murdoch
Irish Eyes
AK4PO - WDD6351 - AK4PO/C6A
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Old 22-12-2014, 07:11   #14
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Orchidius View Post
Since I don't have a pactor modem, nor a satphone, this leaves the winmor/winlink option from your list. Is this the option using the signalink USB interface? Or is no interface needed for this either?

If you have your radio professionally installed, and you're doing it in a steel boat, I am optimistic, personally, that it will work and you will be able to use it. A steel boat is fantastic for HF radio because it solves the knotty problem of an RF ground.

Winmor is a kind of software Pactor, using, however, a different modulation scheme since Pactor is patented. I've never used it -- I'm sure John can give you better advice. But I do know quite a lot of people who use it successfully. It relies on processing power of your computer instead of hardware in the Pactor TNC so may be somewhat sensitive to processing power of the computer. It is slower -- about like Pactor II -- but people say it's fine for shortish plain text messages over WinLink.

The SignalLink USB interface looks like an expensive way to connect your computer. It does do what you need, however. Maybe John will have some alternative recommendations. All you really need is a cable -- which you can make yourself -- and a properly isolated USB adapter. And drivers.

Or you could go the other way and stretch to a used Pactor IIe which has been upgraded to Pactor III. You might find one of these for a reasonable price now that people are upgrading to Pactor IV. Will be at least double the speed of Winmor and be more reliable and easier to set up.

Good luck.
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Old 22-12-2014, 07:28   #15
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Re: USB interface and IC-M710 - HELP!

Here's an excellent guide to the software involved in using Winmor with WinLink:

http://www.w4bti.org/f/ConfigRMSWinlink.pdf
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