Operating your radio equipment from a remote location is a hot item nowadays. There is the no-PC solution using Remote-Rig with a transceiver with detachable display. Remote-Rig is a smart configured controller with a closed software VoIP system. A perfect solution for K3 or FT-857 owners, but not for me. My TS-2000 is connected to a PC already, and it’s display isn’t detachable. Furthermore I don’t like carrying my transceivers display around.
A TS-2000 is 100% controllable via the serial port (remember the TS-B2000 black-box version). 100% means for example that the volume control actually sends a variable voltage to the processor and the volume is digitally set. So I can set the volume on the transceiver to 50% and thereafter set it to zero with a software command while the physical control on the transceiver remains at it’s 50% position. After a power cycle or movement of the physical control, the value from the physical control is used again (the squelch control behaves the same).
My transceiver display is a software display, meaning I use Kenwoods ARCP-2000 software which runs on the PC that’s connected to the TS-2000. Alternatively you can use Ham Radio Deluxe but I personally never liked that software. Turning the dial in software remains tricky, but the Kenwood software supports using the mouse wheel which isn’t the perfect solution but workable. Here the detachable display solutions such as Remote-Rig are clearly in favour.
Next step is to access the software display from a remote location. For this I use Teamviewer. Basically it’s the best free remote desktop software that handles NAT traversal without issues. It’s user interface is a bit special but you’ll get used to it. I find it’s performance sufficient for my goal, I wouldn’t try to watch youtube remotely though. My personal favorite is Microsoft’s remote desktop client, but this requires a Windows Pro version on the PC running ARCP-2000. Teamviewer is available for OSX too, a big plus. There are alternatives like sending serial port data over TCP/IP or even share the USB external audio interface over the network. But the remote desktop solution is the most practical in my view. Now I can keep all my Amateur Radio software in one location next to my transceiver.
Finally you have to get your transceiver’s audio across to your remote location and this is the most tricky part. My requirements were as follows:
- Low latency (every tried to tune in a SSB station with 200ms latency?)
- Designed for speech only (I don’t need fancy DAW solutions)
- Configurable so that you can control noise suppression, compression etc.
- Active user group and development
- Windows and OSX support
- PTT support
- Works with my USB external audio,PTT,CW interface
With these requirements nothing fits. The best low latency solutions are the ones used by gamers. But their software doesn’t support PTT. The few solutions that support PTT aren’t compliant with requirements 3, 4 and 5. So I decided to drop requirement 6 and implement PTT separately from the VoIP system. This resulted in using the Mumble VoIP client together with the Murmur VoIP server. Mumble is very configurable and low latency, furthermore it’s a very good piece of software! I configure the remote side (the operator) with some noise suppression (noise-gate) and automatic level control (default settings) and the local side (the transceiver) without noise suppression and compression. As a result, received SSB noise does not get converted into some digital waterfall noise (at this point, most alternatives fail).
A big advantage of using a VoIP system based on a VoIP server requiring at least two VoIP clients, is that you can add VoIP clients, let’s say for additional operators or just for demonstration purposes. It’s like a group chat where one of the participants is the transceiver. In my case the VoIP server runs on a hosted windows server, meaning that the transceiver side VoIP client makes an outbound connection and thus has no problems traversing NAT. The operator side VoIP client connects to the hosted server as well, again an outbound connection and the VoIP server connects the two together. This might look like an overly complicated solution, but the Mumble software is very user friendly. After initial setup and configuration, starting the VoIP link involves one click to start the transceiver client, which then automatically connects to the VoIP server and one click to start the operator client. I could even connect a second transceiver to the same VoIP server and listen to both at the same time. Better disable VOX in this case…
That leaves the PTT issue. One solution is to activate VOX. Basically a perfect solution, however my TS-2000 does not support VOX on it’s external audio input. So I made a small script triggered by a keyboard shortcut key that controls the PTT port of my external audio interface. Note that the TS-2000 doesn’t have a software command for external audio transmit, the available PTT command actually mutes the external audio input. I still like the VOX solution, so I might upgrade to a TS-590 which supports a “DATA VOX” and also has a “DATA PTT” command…(lame excuse for spending money I know)…