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Contesting with Flex6600 and PGXL experience

Sergey KN7K
Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
edited June 2020 in FLEX-6000 Signature Series

Contesting with Flex6600 and PGXL experience

 I am writing my story right away after 7QP Contest that.

The reason for this post is not to vent, but find out is there anything in my settings (PC, Network or Radio) make this experience challenging and less enjoyable that is supposed to be.

I am looking at SSDR radio as a package – PC, SW, HW and reliable operation. When operation is interrupted during contest it very frustrating when your goal is finishing the race with the best score possible.

Problem Statement:

1.       Multiple radio lockups (4 events) during 12h work in a 7QP Contest. I did not count other few events that recovered by sending anything on CW keyer, like “dash”

2.       One of these events ended up with no CAT or DAX works (all COM ports were gone besides 2) and could not connect to AG

3.       A lot of time lost in recovery, included CAT and DAX settings recovery, power cycle AG, power cycle PC, restart N1MM

Background:

1.       Flex6600 updated to a new SW ver 3.1.11 on April 29

2.       PGXL updated to a new SW ver 3.4.10 on April 29

3.       PC details

Windows 10 with up to date SW

PC – Intel [email protected]

RAM DDR3 – 64GB

Video card – NVDIA GeForce GTX1080

HDD – Intel SDD1TB

4.       Network Nighthawk 8500

5.       Network switch TP-Link TL-SG108

6.       Antenna – 2el Steppir (+30/40m loop), Inverted L for 80/160m, 6el 6m monoband.

Findings and thoughts:

1.       Currently I cannot say for sure is it a bag’s in the SW, settings in N1MM, some timing issue or else.

2.       During Contest I tried to hit “Esc” button, disable/enable/disable lit “Mox” button on Maestro and SSDR without any changes.

3.       Last few events were recovered by touch CW keyer and sending one dot or dash, radio would come back to RX

4.       I exclude RF in the shack model, if this would be RF, I would see it too often. Also, as soon as I recover everything I work for hours on the same Antenna, same frequency and same power.

Here is demonstration of one of the lockups during this contest, sorry for camera orientation

«1

Comments

  • Doug
    Doug Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    I don't see a demonstration here am I missing something Sergey
  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    Sorry, forgot to include the link
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1rE1To94EmeyywqdLnIwHvkKKMucOfiuf

    Sergey, KN7K
  • Mark_WS7M
    Mark_WS7M Member ✭✭✭
    edited May 2020
    Any chance of RFI?

    I am operating as WW0WWV for a special event.  Flex6600, 1500W from SPE 2K-FA.  On Sunday I operated for 9 hours straight in CW, then later FT8 withtout a single lock up of any kind.

    I'm not saying the radio is perfect.  I have had my radio reboot, usually at night.  But it was rock solid most of the day Sunday.
  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    Thank you Mark,
    I did not add another tip to take RF out of suspects.
    I never had an issue in SSB or FT8 and I TX for hours, seems like CW related only.

    In 12hours contest I had 4 interrupts that took me about 20min to recover for 3 of them and about 1hour when CAT and DAX disappear.
    Another few lockups was cleared by sending one dot on CW keyer, but during these smaller events I lost exchange reports and had to ask for it again.
    Pretty tough to work in contests like that.
    Sergey, KN7K
  • Neal Pollack, N6YFM
    Neal Pollack, N6YFM Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    The only way to know if RF is coming onto the ethernet switch cabling, or down into
    the shack equipment, is to use a clamp-on RF AmpMeter.  I have a really good station
    ground bar for all equipment, then tied to an 8 foot ground Rod.  But even at only 250 watts
    I can measure around 30 milliamps of RF on the LMR-400 coax shield.   That is with a
    tuned rotating dipole at 33 feet up.   120 feet of coax to shack.

    I imagine at anything close to a kilowatt, with a small mismatch somewhere,
    the measured current could be much higher.

    But then again, this is only 1 variable to rule out.  It could equally be a software bug,
    a timing bug between n1mm and other software and the Flex.   It would be good to
    measure the RF current on the ethernet wiring as well as the coax shield.   Either one
    can cause trouble.  Anyway, the key is simply to study each possible variable and
    rule them out one at a time.

    Also, did you attach a ground cable from your PC chassis to the same ground bar
    in your operating position, that your other equipment is also grounded to?
    I had to ground my PC to the same point as my Flex, Tuner, Amp, and rotor controller.
    I also put some ferrite cores on my USB and ethernet cables for the PC, since that
    was an occasional problem point.    RF is a funny and unpredictable animal.

    Best wishes in hunting down this problem.

    Neal
    N6YFM

  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    Hi Neal, how are you :) ?

    My PC is grounded, all other pieces of equipment are grounded to a dedicated Gnd bar.
    I have ferrite chocks on everything on both sides of the cables.
    As I said above, in case of RF I would expect some issues in other modes besides CW, and I do not recall I have any (yet).
    Nothing at my station changed over last 9 years, besides replacement FT5000MP to Flex6600 about 22month ago.

    Timing is one of my suspect with N1MM, while start TX is pretty reliable, I saw many times that i would start TX and at the same time I hear someone would start to call me, "Esc" button takes time to respond (1-2sec). In most cases I would click Esc during "test kn7k" message right after "test" work but actual TX would stop only after "kn" transmitted. Pretty big delay and it is not consistent.
    I do not know if this is a route cause for lockups in CW and how to resolve these delays.
    Sergey, KN7K
  • Mike-VA3MW
    Mike-VA3MW FlexRadio Employee, Community Manager admin
    edited May 2020
    Hi Sergey

    Sometimes it is hard for me to reply to these since I often have to wear 2 hats.  The work one and the Ham one.  This is Mike the Ham responding.

    I can't say I've ever seen the same thing happen to me, but I have had a loss of communications and that will result in some strange events.

    It took me a while to figure it out, but in order to do it, I had to have a bunch of sessions running Ping continuously to show that in my case, my network hiccuped.  I would ping the radio from the PC, or the Amp from the PC, but at the same time I would have the PC ping the switch and another one on the router.  I had window running ping EVERWHERE.  

    This is what it looks like pinging the radio from the house computer over the VPN.  30ms round trip for 300km's.  :)

    C:UsersMike>ping -t 192.168.110.76

    Pinging 192.168.110.76 with 32 bytes of data:
    Reply from 192.168.110.76: bytes=32 time=34ms TTL=62
    Reply from 192.168.110.76: bytes=32 time=30ms TTL=62
    Reply from 192.168.110.76: bytes=32 time=31ms TTL=62
    Reply from 192.168.110.76: bytes=32 time=34ms TTL=62
    Reply from 192.168.110.76: bytes=32 time=30ms TTL=62
    Reply from 192.168.110.76: bytes=32 time=33ms TTL=62
    Reply from 192.168.110.76: bytes=32 time=36ms TTL=62
    Reply from 192.168.110.76: bytes=32 time=41ms TTL=62
    Reply from 192.168.110.76: bytes=32 time=41ms TTL=62
    Reply from 192.168.110.76: bytes=32 time=47ms TTL=62
    Reply from 192.168.110.76: bytes=32 time=34ms TTL=62

    Eventually, I had a loss of communication while I was watching, and what I found out is that the Switch I was using actually crashed and rebooted.  The key point was when a RPI that was not part of anything radio was pinging the network router, and it lost communications.  As well, everything else failed to communicate with its partner.  I hope that makes sense.

    That gave me the clue I needed to debug it.   Eventually, I replaced all cables with commercially made CAT5E (I had a few of my own) and I went to another switch.   That part was hard as the switch has to 'work' and be RF quiet.  

    That fixed the remote base.

    Next, at home where I operate from 6M up, the same thing.  It turned out that the TP-Link TL-SG-1016G doesn't like 6M.  Boom.. it goes offline running 6M FT8 or MSK144.  Too bad, as I like that switch.  

    So, I highly recommend you look closely at what Neal wrote.  I should try the same thing at my home QTH and see if I can measure any currents.

    You might want to try the same ping exercise while transmitting and see if you start to get some packet loss.

    Mike va3mw


  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    Hi Mike Ham :)
    Here is the test I just did a min ago with N1MM.
    I have all hardwired, no wifi. 
    All cables commercially made.
    I have my radio up and running after last reboot for about 43hours. I do occasional CW or FT8 on all bands, no issues. But during contest intense CW run, all "fun" happening.




    What you guys can make from the fact that it is only happening in CW?
    If RF related, I should see it in other modes!
    Unfortunately I do not have equipment to measure RF in the shack, but based on above fact, number of ferrites and also line isolators and baluns installed, I do not suspect RF issue at all. I could be wrong, just looking for a logic here, why CW?

    Thanks
    Sergey, KN7K
  • Neal Pollack, N6YFM
    Neal Pollack, N6YFM Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    Hi Sergey:

    With regard to this;
    "I have my radio up and running after last reboot for about 43hours. I do occasional CW or FT8 on all bands, no issues. But during contest intense CW run, all "fun" happening."

    Is the only difference that during the contest you are using N1MM?  Is this the only thing
    different?   Or is it also a huge change in RF power level?
    It sounded like you might be saying that if NOT doing a contest, then cw and FT8 
    is stable.   I am trying to isolate what is the one thing different.   N1MM?

    Neal


  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    N1MM is really a suspect for delays, here is a demo I just made few min ago.
    It has inconsistent delays, I do not know if it a route cause for TX lockups or how to fix that delay.
    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1I_Hgd8RbFYo5avwg8NUwsQGmmQdXfbH5

    Thanks
    Sergey, KN7K

  • Lasse Moell
    Lasse Moell Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    Have done a few contests using N1MM+SSDR 2.60 and found that it somtimes hangs... and as you say a dit (or dash) may solve the problem. My take is that  if you try to interupt a message, the radio somtimes gets confused, and expects either a char from keyboard (N1MM) or the paddle(key). So if the trick of sending a dit does not work, reverting to N1MM keyboard sending an E usually will un-stick the transmitter. Once I understood that it can be either of these two, I could recover in a few seconds. Annoying but not a deal breaker
  • Mike-VA3MW
    Mike-VA3MW FlexRadio Employee, Community Manager admin
    edited May 2020
    Thanks for that.  What I did was just keep it running, during a contest and see if you can tell when a hang happen does anything else change in the network and stop working.  
  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    Yes, N1MM is a suspect, also all my lockups were happening after I sent a report, radio would stay in TX mode and would not switch to RX.
    When I did interrupts with "Esc" button I do not recall radio lock up. I just demonstrated that some delay exist and it is intermittent.
    Sergey, KN7K

  • Andy - KU7T
    Andy - KU7T Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    Maybe unrelated, but I fixed my USB unreliabilities by plugging my USB hub into a 2.0 instead of a 3.0 jack. It's not like I have a hard drive on it, just ham peripherals. All solid now. 73, Andy KU7T
  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    Andy,
    My radio, PGXL and AG use Ethernet connection.
    Steppir connected to radio USB port, so I am not sure I have the similar issue as yours.
    Thanks
    Sergey, KN7K
  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    Could someone share N1MM setting for WinKey?

    I just changed From DTR "Always ON" to a "Handshake"
    And from RTS from PTT to "Always Off"
     it seems like I cannot reproduce delays in N1MM responses.

    Thanks
    Sergey, KN7K
  • K1ESE
    K1ESE Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    Sergey -

    I have found the SmartCAT virtual Winkeyer to be more reliable than my real Winkeyer.  I set N1MM+ to that virtual port. 

    I had a variety of problems with Version 3 and at the suggestion of the help desk, I went back to version 2.4.9.  For NEQP that worked fine over remote.

    K1ESE
    John
  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited May 2020
    John,
    If you referring to CWX feature of SSDR, i am not sure it is usable for contesting, at least I did not find the way.

    1st issue that to enable CWX , SSDR should be active window, you have to move mouse and click on it, transmit your macro, move mouse to N1MM to enter call sign  and go back to SSDR to move focus again, and you have to do it all the time between 2 windows, not practical at all.
    Same issue with Voice keyer that made by K9DUR, it is a nice SW, but I have to activate this window all the time by moving mouse back and force, not practical.

    2nd issue that N1MM has a lot of benefits to automate the Macro's and log, the TX and QSO log is going in a perfect flow. So,it is preferable SW by contesters.

    I think I figured N1MM settings that does have delay anymore, but have to work in another CW contest to see if it the main issue if my CW interrupts.

    Sergey, KN7K
  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Another contest, another not smooth interaction.

    WPX CW contest - May 2020 experience:

    1. Started contest at KT7E on Icom7610, run for 7hours with rate about 100 QSO/hour with full legal power - not a single interrupt.

    2. Came home after midnight - worked about 100 qso and went to sleep. Woke up around 7am to continue.
    Found SSDR lost connection window shown up, SSDR window is up but not a single receiver enabled. Added Receiver A and started to run.

    3. With above annoyance I could not get power from PGXL above 600w even with drive 70watts until I switch bands back and force, eventually found that somehow my 6600 was shown SWR>3. Interesting that switch band back and force fix that issue.
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/115FTbR7zOEnuk4-KqJ4fyY1UWJ-EmsAL/view?usp=sharing
    Hi SWR was on 6600 when drive to PGXL.

    4. During contest had some visual and audio disturbance when ove VFO to the edge of SSDR screen.
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XCwacmflmEoHDo60JPf8XO3c3a78wLGO/view?usp=sharing
    Close/open SSDR cure this experience.

    5. I had N1MM bad experience before when "Esc" button was having big delay.
    I hoped I fixed it with N1MM Com port setup changes to "Handshake" for DTR and RTS as Esc function working properly with these settings.
    However intermittent Radio lockup in Transmit mode after sending report is still happening once in few hours. To leave TX mode after sending report sometimes "Esc" button works, sometimes sending single dot on keyer. Not obvious which one helps, some times keyer and sometimes Esc button.

    Bottom line
    Since I am only one experiencing these issues, I tend to think that something in my setup is not optimizes.
    I know that my PC is more than powerful for SSDR and run less than 25% on Memory, CPU or GPU, all comms are hard wired.
    Some interrupts happening after radio and PC idle for some hours.

    Overall Contesting experience is love and hate story with 6600.
    Compared to Icom7610 is absolutely the best tool to find an empty spot or tune Shift/Width with visual confirmation. In another hand, when I have to troubleshoot my radio/SSDR during contest making overall experience less enjoyable and it is hard to achieve better results in contest.

    Sergey, KN7K

  • Boyan LZ2BE
    Boyan LZ2BE Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020

    Sergey you are not the only one, who have these lockups :)

    I had tens of times the same problem in WPX contest. My setup is 6600 + Maestro SO2R with 2 PC.
    It is not RFI related because I can simulate it at 0 power by pressing an F-key on PC1/PC2/PC1 etc and within a minute or so there is lockup. Sometime it is enough to turn a dial knob or key a dot, but mostly it needs to restart N1MM. After few restarts you need to restart everything and it takes a lot of time.
    It happen if integrated Winkeyer was used on both radios or Integrated + External Winkeyer on Radio-1/Radio-2.
    From 36 hours total operation time I have 4 hours of breaks lasting 5-15 minutes. It is 11% lost time. I have 3120 QSO and they could be 3500.
    I think it is not only N1MM related, but also related to SSDR, because few months ago I didn't had this problem with similar setup when I used v.3.1.8

    73 Boyan LZ2BE / LZ8E
  • DL4RCE
    DL4RCE Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Hi all, in the [email protected] Uwe, DK3WW did extensive testing and found a problem with timing. Maybe you can connect to him and analyze further what the underlying condition is.

    Thanks

    Volker, DL4RCE
  • Boyan LZ2BE
    Boyan LZ2BE Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020

    Hi Volker,

    I noticed one more problem related to timings and it seems to be SSDR.

    You press F-key on one PC, Flex transmits the text and goes to RX - all is OK. If you press F-key on the same PC or paddle, then all is OK again.
    If you press F-key on other PC then you hear a strong click or dot in phones and after that you hear the text it is supposed to be transmitted.

    Very rare (once per 1-2 hours) you may see an even more interesting phenomenon - TX slice doesn't change to other VFO.
    I'm pressing ENTER key to log a QSO on PC-1 and if I press F1 key (CQ) on PC-2 before the text from PC-1 is finished, then CQ is send immediately after TU on the same band where I just finished QSO!
    At the same time N1MM screens show proper PC is sending proper text on proper band.

    73 Boyan, LZ2BE

  • Andy - KU7T
    Andy - KU7T Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Hi,
    I would take a look at your error logs. Please send me your N1MM+ error files privately. The file can be found at "<your user folder>N1MM Logger+LogError.txt". My email is org dot ku7t at ku7t.

    73
    Andy
    KU7T
  • LZ2BE
    LZ2BE Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Hi Andy,
    when N1MM Entry window is frozen, there is red frame around callsign field and F-keys don't work. Pressing ctrl-K and sending a symbol will unlock frozen F-keys. There is nothing logged in error.log when this happen.
    73 Boyan
  • Andy - KU7T
    Andy - KU7T Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Is there any text in the Entry window status bar? Do you have networking setup and are in the M/S category? It could be the soft lock if other station is on same band. 

    Andy
    KU7T
  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Hi Andy,
    Thanks for reply.
    I got your email as well and still thinking about it .

    For now, it seems like some timing issue and I do not know where.
    Since issue is very intermittent, it is hard to understand and only simpsons I have with SSDR/N1MM/6600/Maestro that sometimes it would not switch to RX mode after macro send.

    I do not do SO2R, single PC, all SPEC's written above, no WIFI.

    Sent you my "LogError.txt" file.

    Thanks
    Sergey, KN7K
  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Will do, 
    Thanks

    Sergey
  • Dan-N7HQ
    Dan-N7HQ FlexRadio Employee, Community Manager admin
    edited June 2020
    Folks,

    For those of you that experience these issues, the best course of action is to open a helpdesk ticket.  We can help review and troubleshoot the configurations you are running.   While "RF in the shack" can and often do create the lockups as described here, it is important to map out and review CAT settings.  We've seen where complex CAT (or other virtual serial port) configurations can create problems.

    73,
    Dan, N7HQ



  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Thank you Dan,
    Help ticket submitted.

    Sergey, KN7K
  • Ignacy
    Ignacy Member ✭✭

    Any news from the ticket or other developments?

    Ignacy NO9E

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