Bluetooth Rig Control for $10!

HC-05 Interface Board
The Bluetooth Dongle. Read below for details

If it’s one thing that continually amazes me is the impact Arduino & IoT are having on Amateur Radio. Things that were once complex pieces of electronics with a complex price tag are now commoditised and available for pennies.

When I first started, a CAT rig control interface could cost up to $200, particularly if on-brand. Taking a look on eBay now, you can find a heap of these Bluetooth Dongles that plug into the back of my FT-817 for generally around $12!

Unfortunately for me, the one that arrived is dead on arrival. It did give me an opportunity to pop the cover and see what is inside. there is not a lot to it at all! To the right of the LED in the picture is basically an AMS1117 3.3V regulated power circuit base, with an HC-05 Serial TTL to Bluetooth Module soldered on as a daughterboard. With only 5 pins in use – +ve, gnd, rx, tx, and LED state, very little needs to be done with these units other than connecting the cables at the right places!

My testing of this unit found that the HC05 board is defective. I have confirmed all power is going to the right places, and it is correctly wired, but unfortunately the unit does not broadcast a bluetooth device ID. This is the big catch when buying from eBay – you get what you pay for! lucky for me the seller is willing to send a replacement unit.

I think however I will eventually purchase one of the units made by K6VHF (His eBay store here). Its ridiculously more expensive, but I will get a unit that has been assembled and tested properly by someone familiar with the radios – and given I spent about an hour of my time today troubleshooting the defective one, with unknown quality of the replacement, that may be money well spent.

I’ll give an update when I have a working adaptor!

Yaesu SCU-17 – The Missing Manual

Yaesu SCU-17 Unit
Yaesu SCU-17 Unit

Although it is almost certain that future generations (and the more expensive versions!) of radios will have rig control and digital mode keying built in with just a USB cable to go between radio and computer (such as Yaesu’s FT-991), for previous generations of radios, such as my FT-DX1200, the Yaesu SCU-17 Interface is required to act as that bridge between radio and computer.

There is nothing particularly special about the interface – you could make one yourself at home if you wanted. It consists of 2 USB to Serial ports, a sound card interface and a little bit of wizardry to wire it all together. As for me I’d rather just spend the money to save myself the hours of frustration of putting one of these together (and troubleshooting issues) and end up with a professionally made, compact unit.

However what I wanted to address was the distinct vagueness of documentation around that covers how they operate.

Read moreYaesu SCU-17 – The Missing Manual

Day 1

Today is the first day of getting back on air. It’s been a pretty full on day actually as I never anticipated the amount of things I needed to do to get everything working. I guess before I continue, I should mention one of these arrived in the mail for me yesterday:

My new Rig
No complaints about this arrival

The Yaesu FT-DX1200 is quite an upgrade from the trusty Icom 706-MkIIG, which has now been relegated to VHF/UHF Duties.

The joy of a playing with a new rig on Friday night was short lived – the new Yaesu draws 23.8A @ 13.8V peak. My power supply was a fair way short of this at 15A. operating would have to wait until Saturday. In the meantime, I could start getting a PC ready for rig control.

Let me just say, you will reach an inevitable point in time when hardware, although suitable for the purpose will not be supported by modern operating systems. I found out that upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10 was not supported at 64bit, but was if I would find Windows 10 32bit. The problem here however is that the 32bit download tool will not work under 64bit Windows 7. joy.

I also managed to go out to Jaycar in the morning and buy a 40A switch-mode power supply. Some people will cringe, because these type of power supplies are notorious for causing RF interference (QRM). Fortunately I see very little QRM affecting the rigs.

Ham Radio Battle Station
The Battle Station. Win10 Installing

After installing Win10, I found that the drivers associated with the rig control interface cause the computer to crash. Dammit. back to Windows 7 I have gone. I think I have done about 5 OS install attempts in the last 24 hours.

Finally, I am getting around to configuring Ham Radio Deluxe to control the Rig. I am finding the lack of documentation in configuring the DX1200 quite frustrating and as I am writing this I am looking for information on how to sent PTT to the rig, which will probably take me into the evening.

After this, import my previous QSLs, set up VKCL for the RD Contest in a couple of weeks and start doing a more thorough configuration of HRD.