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VARA HF 4.0.6 With Winlink 1.5.33 SETTINGS
Trying to configure Winlink and VARA HF with my Flex 6500. I have correct audio settings -- there is RX audio flowing to the VARA waterfall, and in a test transmit, I see audio from Winlink in the Flex DAX TX Stream. But the radio is not keying on in transmit. What setting am I missing?
David A., KK6DA, Los Angeles
I'll post my CAT settings and Vara Radio settings. Works fine for PTT and rig control with those settings for me. Flex6600M on Parallels VM on MacMini running Catalina. I am using Slice B for winlink Express here - Slice A is running native on the Mac with other digital programs (simultaneously).
Vara Radio config:
Both RTS / DTS are not necessary, but I just threw in both. Make sure if you are just using a serial port for CAT (like I am with COM6) that the DTR/RTS is unchecked. I don't know enough about Win10 serial to know if you could use the same COM port for CAT and PTT with hardware toggle.2
Ted, YOU are a life saver. Thank you. I am up and running with Winlink and VARA HF using your config shown here. Flex CAT was a little picky about creating a PTT virtual port, but a quick re-start fixed that and it worked like a charm. VARA is overtaking the world by storm. The new VARA FM 4.0 just released is faster than ever and adds digi-peating to the mix. Hats off to Jose Alberto Nieto Ros and all of the VARA and Winlink development people.
David Ahrendts, KK6DA, Los Angeles0
So I went to the VARA web site, but still don't understand what VARA is... Can someone give a quick synopsis?
Thanks & 73,
in a nutshell, a software replacement for a Pactor modem, which just uses a sound card :-) And a good replacement too, by all accounts.1
Thanks Ted. Now I get the connection with Winlink. I haven't heard any AMTOR or PACTOR on the bands for a long time. Is there still a set of frequencies with PACTOR activity? I used to be very active, but haven't fired up my PK-900 in a very long time. I guess I will have to give VARA a try with my Flex 6400...
Thank you very much Ted (VE3TRQ) !!!
I had overlooked the fact that I had to add a second CAT serial port for the PTT. Winlink via VARA HF is working great!
Now that this thread is somewhat resurrected, I should make the comment that VARA HF presents a real challenge for Flex users. I can talk to a non-Flex radio 'til the cows come home, but I have NEVER yet been successful setting up a VARA. HF connection from a Flex to a Flex. There is just too much latency for the VARA HF design to make it work - the turn-around Tx-to-Rx is just beyond the limits set by VARA HF.
We get around the problem for VARA Chat by using VARA SAT or VARA FM as the modem, neither of which appear to have the same tight timing issue. Fortunately there are no Winlink RMS gateways (that I know of) running Flex radios.1
New information from the VARA groups.io list - latency issues for SDR are being addressed:
“Modification to the V-HF Modem , part of the migration to CHAT , V-HF now supports long latency paths , to support SDR<>SDR links ,
V-HF can be deployed over *FM links* as well as SSB , [V-FM has no AFC as not required for FM links where the modulation 'frequency' spectrum is always exactly as transmitted ]
*If you have satellite FM link access V-HF should provide chat access , FM eliminating doppler shift of the modulation , far enhanced over the 1200 baud packet .*”1
Very cool, Ted! Have you tried the Flex to Flex contact yet?
I need to check this out. I did a lot of AMTOR and PACTOR back in the day, particularly for ARES operation.0
I’ve been avoiding the issue by using VARA Sat, Len. Or VARA FM. In fact last night a few of us were using VarAC, and because several of us were operating Flex radios, we choose to use VARA Sat - worked fine, but monitor mode does not seem to work with that (VARA Sat appears not to be “officially” supported by VarAC).
Looking forward to updating to the next version of VARA HF to try it out. Graham, who posted the information, is usually a step or two ahead of everyone else, so I may need to wait a bit. In any case, I have two local friends with Flex radios so will try it out ASAP!0
I assume this is the product you are using?0
Indeed, yes Mike, those are the VARA modems I use. We tried out WinLink Express (WLE) with VARA HF between two Flex radios (a 6600 and a 6500) this past week. We were able to use VarAC and the VARA HF modem to successfully chat back and forth from Flex to Flex. However, using VARA HF and WLE, the 6500 was able to successfully initiate P2P connections and transmissions, but we were not successful when the 6600 initiated the connection - same timeout in establishing connection as on the earlier versions of VARA HF.
Not sure what was up there, maybe my audio settings (I usually do not use Windows, and use Parallels on my Mac Mini). In any case, we will continue to test later this week.0
Tried the new VARA HF 4.6.1 with VarAC and WinLink Express P2P from Flex to Flex tonight, 3 Flex radios, a 6600, 6500, and 6300.
100% success in making Flex-to-Flex connections. It appears the latest VARA HF has relaxed the latency requirements so Flex radios (and other SDRs) can connect to Flex radios! We are happy.2
This is good news Ted. I am a long-time VARA-HF user via none-Flex transceivers. I just resurrected my Flex 3000 and I have had no success despite setting PowerSDR using Tim's old guidelines for Winlink using Winmor. Thus, I decided that it is time to return to a 6000 series Flex, I used to own a 6300. While awaiting a new 6400 I am interested in your Winlink experiments with the three 6000 series transceivers you have. Previously, with non-Flex radios , I have achieved pretty close to PIII speeds on HF. I do use VARA_ac from time to time. The VARA folks tell me that the latency issue is a Winlink protocol issue, VARA_AC does not have that problem as you can see from the connect message below.
39:11 - CONNECTED TO KB0FX
16:39:26 - KB0FX> I'm away. PSE leave a message. THANK YOU!
16:39:36 - K3UK> de K3UK
16:39:49 - KB0FX> <R-15>
16:39:59 - K3UK> <R-06>
The three Flex 6xxx’s are owned by three different hams in our club. We were always disappointed that we could not use P2P WinLink among radio club members owning Flex radios. We used to use Winmor successfully, but were never able to get ARDOP nor VARA HF to work between the Flex radios (until now). VarAC was always good, but not very useful for passing email attachments, etc. ARDOP seems to be a lost cause. I just happened a while ago to read a message from Graham on the VARA list that appeared to imply that the latency behaviour had improved, causing us to try again.
Conditions during our testing were such that we really did not measure speed, rather just the ability to connect reliably and pass messages (one of us could not use the best band for our distance and time-of-day). All of us have always been able to connect with VARA HF to various RMS stations scattered around us - we just could never use VARA HF to talk to each other (unless we used VARA FM or VARA SAT). In fact, for quite a while we used the VARA SAT modem on HF to communicate with each other.0
Hi Ted, have you tried all of this with V 3.3.29? According to the release notes, latency has been improved and RX/TX turnaround times are improved.0
This is good news Ted. I am a long-time VARA-HF user via none-Flex transceivers. I just resurrected my Flex 3000 and I have had no success despite setting PowerSDR using Tim's old guidelines for Winlink using Winmor. Thus, I decided that it is time to return to a 6000 series Flex, I used to own a 6300. While awaiting a new 6400 I am interested in your Winlink experiments with the three 6000 series transceivers you have. Previously, with non-Flex radios , I have achieved pretty close to PIII speeds on HF. I do use VARA_ac from time to time. The VARA folks tell me that the latency issue is a Winlink protocol issue, VARA_AC does not have that problem.
I won’t be loading up 3.3.29 for a while. I mostly use a Mac, with xDax / xCat, plus I’ll wait for the dust to settle :-) Being a long-time software developer and data center / large computer user, I always wait for a software update’s uglies to become known.0
I use VARA HF every week for Winlink Wednesday and Thursday. I didn’t know it is not supposed to work. Works like a charm here.0
Hi David, it does work. The issue has been Flex to Flex direct communications. The problem is the tight timing requirements of the protocol coupled with the latency through the Flex. It sounds like some of the timing requirements have been relaxed in the protocol, and Flex has squeezed out some more latency in the radio, making TX/RX turnaround faster which further eases timing requirements.
After upgrading to 3.3.29, I listened to my Flex 6400 and my Kenwood TS-2000 simultaneously. The reduction in latency is very noticeable. It now sounds more like an echo than two separate audio streams. Another description would be that it now sounds like an echo in a room instead of the echo in a stadium.1
Ted, me too. I decided on the first system I was responsible for (1975) that unless the update fixed a known issue with our installation, no updates were applied.1
To resurrect this subject:
I have a brand new Flex 6600. Using vara or varac or winlink, I have tried setting up the sound card to all the available DAX 1 listed in the dropdowns, verified that DAX is set to channel one, but cannot get it to transmit.
What am I missing?
To add to my question above:
I have DAX streaming enabled, the radio does go into transmit mode, but no rf is going out.
Ken - W4CCZ0
Gary NC3Z Member ✭✭✭
Not sure what you are missing BUT a screenshot of your VARA HF Settings - Soundcard would be most helpful for starters. The Flex works very well with VARA and VarAC0
Do not use DAX IQ, use DAX. DAX IQ would be used for things likeCW Skimmer.
Here's a screeshot:1
Okay.... I set it up like that. From the settings in VarAC, I can test the PTT and it does show transmit on the Flex, but If I try calling cq nothing happens with the radio.
Are there any error messages in the log (VarAC certainly has a log, and I believe so does the VARA modem), Ken? And is the correct DAX channel connected to the slice you are using for VarAC? Does the Dax Tx and the Flex level meter show audio output? You say the radio is doing nothing - that would be strange if the “Test” buttons for CAT and PTT worked (you did test them on the VarAC settings window?)
Try putting a callsign in the “connect” box and activate the”Connect”. Also, make sure the modem is “connected” to VarAC (that’s near the callsign connect buttons).
My setup is pretty much like yours, and it transmits just fine (my only problem is no one is listening :-)0
All is as you said to check. No errors noted in the log.
Yes, if I click "Test PTT ON" button, power button is red and in transmit mode. Clicking "Test PTT OFF" also shuts it off correctly.
I spent the day on trying various things and about to give up, at least for today.
Thank you for your suggestions.
Ken - W4CCZ0
I decided to try again, but this time, I started with WSJT-X...... Same result. It hears, but does not transmit.
Below is my set up for it:0
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