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Random Comm Port Failure during Antenna Rotator Control Operation

Jim
Jim Member ✭✭
edited April 2020 in SmartSDR for Windows
Greetings Flex Users, 

I am using a Flex 6600M in conjunction with Smart SDR for Windows on my Windows 10 machine. I also have N1MM for running SO2R. 

I have an issue with a random failure of one of the COMM ports assigned to my Green Heron Everywhere (GHE) Server software that is running on my Windows 10 machine. 

Currently, I have a Windows 10 Dell OptiPlex 790 mini tower that is my primary computer in the shack. 

It has Smart SDR version 3.1.8, N1MM+ Contest Logger, and the GHE Server Software to control two antenna systems: 

System 1 is an RT-21 Rotator Controller that controls a K0XG rotating tower system

System 2 is a GHE Wireless Base in my Shack that has a wireless connection to two the GHE Wireless Remote out at my tower. This Wireless Remote has relay outputs that controls a COMTEK box at the tower in order to control a Four (4) direction, Sloping vertical Dipole, 4-Square Antenna array for 80 meters. 

The following are the  COMM Port Assignments that are provided by the Windows 10 machine as shown in the Device Manager: 

COMM 1

COMM 3 (Flex Control Knob)

COMM 4 (USB Comm Port between the Shack Computer and the GHE Wireless Base Unit also in the Shack)

COMM 5 (USB Serial Port between the GHE Server Software on the SHACK Computer and the RT-21 Rotator Controller in the Shack connected to the SHACK Computer with a USB Cable)

The four COMM Port Pairs below are also displayed in the Device Manager and were created with the SMART SDR CAT Version 3.1.8

COMM 6 / COMM 106 (N1MM Slice A for SO2R)

COMM 7 / COMM 107 (N1MM Slice B for SO2R)

COMM 8 / COMM 108 (Flex / N1MM OTRSP (Two Radio SO2R) protocol

COMM 9 / COMM 109 (WINKEYER Software for Flex CW)

All operations are normal most of the time, however, after a random time and not always the same time I am unable to rotate the K0XG rotator with the GHE Server Software control. 

At that point when I go into the GHE Server Software Device Manager I observe that COMM Port 5 is now in an "ERROR STATE"

when I attempt to disconnect Comm port 5 in the software control and then attempt to Re-Connect the Comm 5 port, it will never Re-Connect and only continue to attempt re-connection to no avail...…..

At this point I have to shut down the GHE Server software and also shut down N1MM and Smart SDR and completely Reboot the Shack computer in order to get back into operation......


The GHE Server software runs locally as both a server and local client on the shack computer. The server software uses a UDP or TCP Port number 10,000 for its internal computer communications across the Ethernet. 


I have to be very careful not to "Double Click" on the GHE Server launch Icon or the GHE Server starts "Two simultaneous instances of the Server Software" ……...A second instance would be running in the background...…..Therefore, only a "single Click to launch the GHE Server software application"


Has anyone seen this type of random error? 

Is there some sort of hidden Comm port conflict that arises after a period of time? 

Since I corrected the Double Click self-induced issue...…...It seems to perform better, however, I still have experienced a COMM PORT 5 error for the K0XG rotator control...…..All other COMM ports operate normally...……...

Does the Ethernet traffic between the Flex radio, Power Genius, Shack Computer, the Home ORBI Wireless Lan Remote Network, and finally the ethernet connection to the Media Comm Internet Modem have any relationship to the Comm Port failure such as do to Dropped Packets on Ethernet? 

Hopefully, the ethernet traffic between all LAN devices is not related...…..



Also, there is the Fabula Virtual Serial port Kit software that comes with Windows 10 that is also a service on the Computer that I am not influencing.  Does this Windows 10 VSPE control the Comm Ports 1,3,4, and 5 that were already there? 

Any suggestions as to the issue? 

Thanks for your help, 

Regards, 

Jim 
K4PV
 

Answers

  • Paul - K6HR
    Paul - K6HR Member ✭✭
    edited April 2020
    Just a guess. Have you tried substituting a different USB Serial cable? I had similar problems in the past before changing over to 'genuine' FTDI based cables. (with ferrites added) I haven't had a COM port drop since.
  • Steve Sterling
    Steve Sterling Member ✭✭
    edited April 2020
    Unfortunately yes, I have a bit less complicated but similar situation. Occasionally, not with any specific action, and usually as it sits idle, usb serial port session attachments to the rotator and/or Steppir antenna control clients are dropped. Both use Genuine FTDI cables.
    I used a serial port monitor and captured what I suspect was some type of operating system enumeration or possible probing by some unknown software communicating with the rotator controller. It disconnected the rotor client software (normally attached to the controller and making/receiving 1 second status polling) and instead connected to associated com port and sent the rotor controller several strings of ascii characters. None of the sent strings correspond with the command strings the rotator controller expects, but it doesn't like them and will turn the antenna to its home position.
    Of course the rotor client control software can no longer access the port and displays an error. Restarting the rotor client software doesn't help because the associated com port is still "in use". Disconnecting/reconnecting the FTDI cable resets the com port and then the control software can be restarted.
    I have not been able to determine what is actually doing this. Operating system, some other mis-behaved software??
  • Erika - KØDD
    Erika - KØDD Member ✭✭
    edited April 2020
    When a windows 10 computer starts doing strange things on its own and doesn't have a virus... I seriously suspect the o/s itself. When I hear you saying characters that do not belong to any command set, and they aren't coming from RFI I suspect spy software probing ports. You might think this is a goofy direction to trouble shoot / Repair. But think about this.... You're now running a control computer... not a home PC or gaming toy computer... I started my computer career In commercial automation controls.... None of those machines are snooping on what you are doing and sending that info to a mothership. Intelligently written control software uses tools to deactivate things and lock them in their last state or a safe state when they detect unexpected control signals or activity. I have no idea what level ham programmers go to . Probably nothing but then the software may get confused when something non related to the control function grabs the port to see what it's up to..... interesting. That's the main difference between win 7 and 10... so the first thing you need to do is convert win 10 to a controller is cleaning up its counter productive processes... You guys are not the only peeps using win 10 in control applications. Theres other industries who are Way Ahead Of U. Do searches on using win 10 as an industrial or commercial or security control o/s and apply their suggestions too tighten machine security. Much of this should be done right from the start before ever installing the first piece if ham software. Good luck, Erika DD

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