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IARU Contest in the great outoors

Pat Cahill
Pat Cahill Member ✭✭

Personal Maestro vision realized

July 9th marked a milestone in my journey with the Flex Signature Series.  It started back on Leap Day (Feb 29, 2016) when I traded in my Flex 5000 for a Maestro/6700/GPSDO upgrade.  My QTH is in a rural setting, with a beautiful park-like yard.  One of the visions I had in the depths of a Minnesota winter was sitting outside, under a spreading maple tree, with the Maestro on a table talking to the world any time the weather and spirit moved me.

The 6700/GPSDO came shortly after I ordered them, and I integrated it into the station in the basement.  I’m still on the learning curve, but the radio install went together fairly easily and straightforwardly.  I ran the 2016 CQWW WPX CW, making 400+ contacts in a very part time effort.  Writelog, the Steppir, and PSTRotator ran on the shack desktop computer flawlessly. Now to wait for the Maestro and the weather to get better. Field Day is coming, maybe, just maybe the Maestro will get here by then. 

Well, Field Day came, and the Maestro isn’t here yet.   So, plan B was executed, and an IC-7600/Writelog/laptop setup was deployed at my QTH for a 1A effort.  The Maestro arrived June 30th, and I started using it immediately in the living room (note that headphones are required to prevent marital discord) and running on batteries and wireless.  Over the 4th of July weekend, the weather was beautiful, and I tried out the Maestro while in the front yard.  Things were working.  My vision is close to being fulfilled.

The weekend of July 9th came along.  I decided to try the great outdoors again with the Maestro. I found a large number of stations on 20 meters, many of them DX. It’s the IARU HF World Championship in full swing!  I spent 20 minutes, did a bit of setup, and had a contest station, complete with logging, Steppir control, and rotator control in the front yard.  The vision was executed! (there is always room for optimization later).image

A little more detail for those interested in what I did on that beautiful July afternoon.

Before I go through the story, today I realize that much of the “discovery” described here is well covered in the Flex community, but I was unaware of this fantastic resource until I did some research before composing this story.  I’ll start researching questions in the community first next time…

As I mentioned earlier, I initially ventured outdoors with the Maestro alone.  I hear the IARU contest going in full swing.  Ok, so I get a bit excited, and decide I’d like to work this a bit.  I need to get my laptop for logging. Oh, and the Steppir needs to tune.  I’ll need to rotate the antenna.  But, the laptop won’t be next to the 6700, the Steppir controller, or the rotator controller.  What’s next?

Well, Writelog was on the laptop from Field day. Since I didn’t have the Maestro then, Writelog was set up for an Icom 7600.  The laptop did have SmartSDR CAT loaded, which allowed Writelog to control the 6700 using the Kenwood emulation.  Now for the Steppir  control. I had noticed that if I used my laptop (before the Maestro arrived) and DDUTIL was running on the shack computer, the Steppir followed the frequency.  I ran downstairs, booted the shack computer, starting DDUTIL.  Now, when the Maestro changed frequency, the Steppir controller followed the frequency.  Now all this network connected stuff is causing lightbulbs to go off. I gained understanding of what a change for the better this client server RADIO environment truly means.

The next item is the rotor control.  This was a more mundane solution, I remoted my laptop to the shack computer and manipulated PstRotatorAz via TeamViewer to rotate the Steppir.  I noticed a couple of drop outs on the Maestro even though I wasn’t too far from the wireless access point.  I looked over at where the AP should be and realized there several walls between the Maestro and the AP.  Solution: Move the operating position 40 feet west to be in front of a large window in almost line of sight to the AP.  Drop out problem fixed! (using an D-Link DIR-868L AC 1750 wireless router)

Setup complete.  Less than 20 minutes and I’m making contacts around the world using the Maestro/6700 combination and the standard FHM-1 microphone.  As I tune the Maestro, I can hear the Steppir adjusting its frequency. Sweet!  Writelog is working well, getting packet spots over the network so I can run assisted, and the remote control is working, so I can turn the rotor.  3 hours later, 100 contacts in the log, I realized the magic of Ham Radio is still alive and well, made even better with the Maestro/6700 combo.  Attached is a picture of the setup, I could enjoy the setting, hear the birds, and in general a new wonderful ham radio experience. 

Thank you to the Flex team!


Pat W0BM




  • Buck Rogers
    Buck Rogers Member
    edited July 2016
    Great story Pat. Love the set up.
  • Pat Cahill
    Pat Cahill Member ✭✭
    edited December 2016
    Thanks Buck, the adventure is just beginning...  The magic is back!
  • k3Tim
    k3Tim Member ✭✭✭
    edited May 2020

    Great read. That's a lot of gear and software to get setup and working together so quickly!

    Tim / k3Tim
  • Michael Coslo
    Michael Coslo Member ✭✭
    edited July 2016
    Yup Pat, The magic is back. After using the Flex with SmartSDR, legacy radios bore me. I'm going to be doing some solo operating this fall with it. I enjoyed the write up.
  • EA4GLI
    EA4GLI Member ✭✭✭
    edited November 2016
    Great first post! Welcome to the community.
  • Lou
    Lou Member
    edited November 2016
    Simplicity at its best. Well done!
  • Ken - NM9P
    Ken - NM9P Member ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    There are even more options for PstRorotAZ......

    1) You can open the Web Server port on the PstRotor version on your computer and then define a port, such as 7311.  Then on your laptop you can open a browser to your shack computer (i.e. or whatever you have defined)  and you get a little web interface that you can use to set presets for your rotor.

    2) Another option is that you can set up the shack version as a TCP server and define a port, such as 4009 and activate it.  With PstRotor running on your shack computer, you can load another version on your laptop.  When you open it, you can tell it that you want to run it in "Client Mode" and connect to the proper port on your shack computer.  Then you will have a full-blown session of PstRotorAZ running on your laptop!  no need to use TeamViewer or Parallels Access or another desktop remoting program to rotate your antenna!

    Here is the really neat thing....When I run my rig remotely from the office via a VPN connection, , whether on my iPad with K6TU Remote or DL8MRE Radio App (alpha), or running SSDR on my office computer, I can use PstRotorAZ in Client mode from my office computer or laptop via the VPN connection and it runs my antenna just like I am in the Shack!  I just need to remember to start PstRotorAZ on my shack computer before I leave, or briefly remote into the shack computer with TeamViewer of Parallels Access to start it.  Then I can Close Parallels Access and run everything else from the remote computer.

    Are we having fun, yet?

    Ken - NM9P
  • Pat Cahill
    Pat Cahill Member ✭✭
    edited December 2016
    Thanks for the great info Ken, I knew there was a lot of functionality in PSTRotator I wasn't using, Now I can extend even more.   I very much appreciate the feedback and tutoring!  And yes, we are having fun!

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