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FreeDATA Open Source Terminal Program

One of the people in a net on a local repeater mentioned this young project, FreeDATA. My first reaction was to think, oh here we go, another chat program when we already have VarAC, and even Packet is still active (I use both of those nicely with my Flex 6400, as well as recently enjoying FreeDV digital voice). Although for chat it seems a steep climb to top VarAC, I thought I'd give this nascent FreeDATA project a try (they're still in alpha). Their main English website is https://wiki.freedata.app/en.

After watching a YouTube video, which basically walked the viewer through the installation steps on their wiki (at the link above), I got it installed and found the particular executable of Hamlib they need to use with their software. Their wiki doesn't match what I saw in the app window, and their transmit/receive audio entries seem backwards (the TX path is selected in the speaker icon pulldown and the RX path is selected in the microphone icon pulldown; see attached image).

The frustrating part was with the Hamlib setup, as it would not execute the settings that were entered into the Hamlib tab (shown in the image below).

I found a practical workaround on their wiki here: https://wiki.freedata.app/en/usage/hamlib. Scroll down to "Example Flex Radio 6xxx" and there is a Windows command line example to tailor for a TCP CAT port on the Flex. By running this directly in a cmd window, the necessary Hamlib connection is made with the FreeDATA program, and all is happiness. Here's the command I use:

"C:\Program Files\hamlib-w64-4.5.5\bin\rigctld.exe" --model=2036 --port=4532 -r localhost:60129

The extra cmd window shouldn't be required, but it works, and I show up on their PSK Reporter like display at https://explorer.freedata.app/.

Here's what it looks like when (I think) it's working properly:

I'm posting this hoping it will be helpful for someone trying to make this new software work with their Flex, and hope for maybe a QSO with some of you using it on the air.

Mark, AC3EW


  • marwalk
    marwalk Member ✭✭

    A useful page on the FreeDATA wiki is the list of frequencies here: https://freedata.app/frequencies. However beware of a typo on that page:

    It's easy to get 17m == 18 MHz mixed up and flipped. 😀

    Mark, AC3EW

  • marwalk
    marwalk Member ✭✭
    edited August 19

    One thing to be mindful of, if you launch the Hamlib rigctld process separately via a cmd terminal, is rigctld keeps running even after the FreeDATA application is closed (in that case it wasn't FreeDATA that launched it, you did). In that running state, rigctld still could and might key your transmitter and send a FreeDATA beacon if you had beaconing activated when FreeDATA was running (even if you've moved to operating in another mode and on another frequency). The thing to remember is to close both the FreeDATA app and the rigctld process when you're done running FreeDATA.

    A good startup sequence would be as follows:

    1. Open a cmd terminal, and launch rigctld; minimize the terminal window if you'd like and leave it running.
    2. Start the FreeDATA app; confirm that the Rigctld line in the Rig control section of the window shows a connected state.
    3. Click the Start tnc button at the top of the FreeDATA window, and you're in operation.

    The close down sequence would be to follow the above steps in reverse order, starting with clicking the Stop tnc button. The only way I've found to close the FreeDATA app is to X it out (like with Winlink). If CTRL-C isn't working on your computer (a separate Windows discussion), you can **** the rigctld process by killing (X out) the terminal window (its parent process).

    Mark, AC3EW

  • marwalk
    marwalk Member ✭✭

    Another behavior I've observed in (the current version of) the FreeDATA application is the Audio Devices fields are blank when the program is first opened (even though these settings were there in the previous session). Although the TNC is not (yet) running upon program launch, clicking the Stop tnc button causes the Audio Devices fields to be populated with their previous settings. And after starting the TNC all appears to function properly. Perhaps these are expected quirks of an alpha version.

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