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Flex, Steppir and Ver3

Sergey KN7K
Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
edited March 2020 in FLEX-6000 Signature Series
I would like to share my observation and learn if anyone figure out how to deal with Steppir and Flex radio.
I have Flex6600 and AG.
My Ant 1 is configured to Vertical for 80/160m and Steppir 40m-12m. My Ant 2 configured to 6el 6m Beam.
I plan to redefine connections as Ant1 Vertical and Ant2 Steppir+6m Beam. That way I can use 40m Steppir and 80/160m at the same time.

Now about Steppir:
With ver3 (or even 2.4.9) I can open few slices but my Steppir will constantly switch back and force depends which Slice is active. 
It is not practical and even if I can keep it on the same segment in contest, let's say CQ at 14005 and look for multiplier around 14050 or higher, I have to wait for Steppir to retune every time it going to another segment.
My conclusion, that Steppir is not so practical for Flex radio with so many choises to operate, Steppir is just a bottlneck to operate effecitiently.
It seems like multibeam antenna or monobeam antennas are better choise for Flex. Unfortunatly it is not solution for me as I live on a very small city lot.
I do not want to open any complains about any product, i just trying to figure out if anyone use Steppir with multiflex function or few slices on the same band and what is your experience.
Thanks
Sergey, KN7K

Answers

  • Dwayne_AB6A
    Dwayne_AB6A Member ✭✭
    edited May 2019
    I don't have a Steppir but have quickly realized that antenna diversity is an additional complexity with Multilink... I have a narrow bandwidth dipole. When it is tuned to one band, other bands will be unusable.

    All I can think to do is install some wideband antenna for receive only on Ant1 and dedicate a narrow bandwidth antennas to Ant2 for transmit... My Palstar HF-Auto can auto select antennas so two narrow band antennas could be connected to the Palstar and depending on band, the correct antenna would be chosen for xmit.

    With this setup, two users could be on different bands sharing Ant1 and transmit would use the correct narrow bandwidth antenna. Personally, I don't have a wideband receive antenna yet.. This is just what I have come up with so far.
  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited March 2020
    Hi Dwayne, In this case palstar will have to retune as well, will take time, right? Let’s say you operate 15 and 20m at the same time
  • Andy - KU7T
    Andy - KU7T Member ✭✭
    edited May 2019
    I have found that auto tuning is not worth the trouble. I have a SteppIR and just manually tune it with the controller. If I put it in the middle of a band segment, I can work anywhere on that segment without retuning. Whether you tune it with the SD100 controller on your desk or with software (Pstrotator can do it) is your choice. 73, Andy KU7T
  • Dwayne_AB6A
    Dwayne_AB6A Member ✭✭
    edited May 2019
    Correct... Each user ideally would know to hit tune button before xmit.
  • Eric-KE5DTO
    Eric-KE5DTO Administrator, FlexRadio Employee admin
    edited April 2019
    Sergey,

    If you are using a USB Cable to drive the SteppIR controller, you may want to consider using a different signal source other than Active Slice.  TX Slice is probably more appropriate.  Note also that when multiple Stations are using the radio, you will want to have the TX Req line run to the SteppIR controller to ensure that no transmissions are allowed while the SteppIR is tuning.
  • Dwayne_AB6A
    Dwayne_AB6A Member ✭✭
    edited April 2019
    Correct. Each user needs to hit tune before transmit. I do that anyway.
  • Dwayne_AB6A
    Dwayne_AB6A Member ✭✭
    edited April 2019
    The context is simultaneous multiband use.
  • Mark - W6MSB
    Mark - W6MSB Member ✭✭
    edited April 2019
    Eric - a bit unrelated to this thread, but I've never been able to get this to work. Can you be more prescriptive on how to connect the TX Req Line to my SDA 2000 (which includes the tuning relay)? Thank for your help.
  • Eric-KE5DTO
    Eric-KE5DTO Administrator, FlexRadio Employee admin
    edited April 2019
    The best place to start is here: https://www.flexradio.com/downloads/usb-cable-interface-guide-pdf/. See SteppIR on p12.
  • Mark - W6MSB
    Mark - W6MSB Member ✭✭
    edited April 2019
    My SteppIR controller talks to my 6700 just fine via a USB cable. My question had to do with how to connect TX Req (the RCA plug in my case) to the SDA 2000 (or SDA 100 for that matter) in order to prevent the radio from transmitting while the antenna is tuning. I thought that was what you were suggesting in your original post, and for which I have not been able to get to work. I have studied both the hardware and software manuals, and have posted to this forum previously but to no avail. If you know the details, great. If not, no worries.
  • Mack
    Mack Member ✭✭✭
    edited April 2019
    Eric, with FlexRadio, asked that I weigh in on this topic.

    If you have the SteppIR SDA 100 controller you must purchase the tuning relay board from SteppIR. (as an aside if you're somewhat technical there are pointers to build your own on the SteppIR.groups.io forum) The SDA 2000 controller has a tuning relay included. 

    Coming out of the back of the SDA 100/2000 is a 3.5mm jack. Build a  cable with a 3.5mm plug on one end and an RCA male connector on the other end. One pin on the plug is normally open and the other is normally closed. Use the common and ring pin that is normally open but closes (continuity) when the SteppIR is tuning. Plug the RCA plug into the TX Req jack on the back of your Flex radio. In radio settings | transmit set the RCA jack to Active Low. 

    To simplify the above description, when the SDA 100 is tuning the internal tuning relay closes creating a short circuit. The Flex radio senses this closed circuit and will disable transmit during the period of time the SteppIR is tuning.

    This should get you going. 

    73,

    Mack
    W4AX 
    Alpha Team
  • Mack
    Mack Member ✭✭✭
    edited April 2019
    Dwayne,

    I realize my solution may not be practical for everyone but here's how I address "retuning my SteppIRs" by a second multiFlex user. 

    I have three HF towers. Two of the towers have SteppIR antennas and the third has a Mosely 7 Band antenna. Via lock out antenna switching I assign one of the SteppIRs to one user (perhaps the run station in a contest scenario. And the Mosley 7 band antenna to the other user (perhaps the multiplier station). This is for all bands 40M-6M. For 160M and 80M the antennas can be shared between both stations. Of course the 8 element active receive array can also be shared on 160M and 80M.

    In summary I either share a multiband antenna or the second SteppIR with the second multiFlex station. Hopefully this will give you some ideas.

    73,

    Mack
    W4AX
    Alpha Team 
  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited March 2020
    Eric, thank you for suggestion about TX slice, works fine.

    Mack,
    Thank you for posting that, it could help to other guys.
    Last night I actually did what you described.
    I measured 3.32V on Tx Req input of my 6600 and took risk to short it, radio would not transmit when it short.
    On SDA100 turning relay board 3.5mm stereo connector has 2 outer rings short when it tunes (not common).
    I ordered this relay board that come with small adapter - 3.5mm connector split to 2 RCA's that suppose to be installed in the chain with other equipment. 
    All my testings shows that 2 outer rings on SDA100 relay output getting short during antenna tuning.
    Anyway, I am planning to complete permanent connection tonight or tomorrow and will report back.

    On another note - documentation could be improved to make it more clear.
    Sergey, KN7K

  • Mark - W6MSB
    Mark - W6MSB Member ✭✭
    edited April 2019
    Eric - thank you for following up and asking Mack to chime in. 

    Mack - thank you for taking the time to write this up. In my last attempt, I tried to take advantage of the SteppIR supplied Y-cable where I ran a RCA patch cord from one female connector on the Y cable to TXREQ, and put a shorted RCA male connector in the other RCA  on the Y. I don't recall how I set the software, but I believe I set the RCA jack to Active High (which would have been wrong). Regardless, I'll try anew by just building a straight cable as you suggest and will report back. I'm in the midst of some intense travel, but will jump on it as soon as I can.

    Thanks again!

    73,
    Mark
    W6MSB
  • Eric-KE5DTO
    Eric-KE5DTO Administrator, FlexRadio Employee admin
    edited April 2019
    Thanks Mack.  It's always great to have first hand information from someone who has done it.
  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited March 2020
    Hi Mack,
    Based on your information
    "Coming out of the back of the SDA 100/2000 is a 3.5mm jack. Build a  cable with a 3.5mm plug on one end and an RCA male connector on the other end. One pin on the plug is normally open and the other is normally closed. Use the common and ring pin that is normally open but closes (continuity) when the SteppIR is tuning. Plug the RCA plug into the TX Req jack on the back of your Flex radio. In radio settings | transmit set the RCA jack to Active Low."

    - need more clarification.
    My measurement show me opposite results:
    Steppir SDA100 relay board output show me ZERO Ohm when antenna Not tunning, relay closed. Anytime i tune antenna, it switch to open.

    Now, I made a cable like you suggested. I used Mono 3.5mm cable to a single RCA. I tried stereo 3.5mm cable, but need to resolder it to use only 2 outer rings, not common in order to see relay react to changes.

    I enabled checkmark in TX Band Settings for "RCA TX Req" - SW Ver3.
    This way I cannot TX at all as radio should see open during antenna standby.
    I can TX if I change Radio Setup-TX-RCA from "Active low" to "Active High".
    Is that right thing to do?

    Another notes:
    1. If I start TX during antenna tune - Radio will not TX. That's what I expect.
    2. If I transmit and during this time tune antenna (let's say by accident) - Radio continue TX! Conclusion: Radio will stop TX when antenna tune and if TX started at that time. This is not desired scenario.
    Am I doing something wrong?

    Thanks
    Sergey, KN7K

    Here is demonstarion - https://drive.google.com/open?id=1GbODlYnZn36d9L8OaJ6yIUG-j9onSYMS

  • Pat N6PAT
    Pat N6PAT Member ✭✭
    edited April 2019
    I use a Hustler 6BTV vertical with an LDG 600 Pro II auto tuner. With this configuration I can operate all 8 slices on my 6700 with different bands and modes. All I have to do is select a slice and click on tune. It takes about 2 seconds. The 6BTV takes up very little space.

    Give it a try. .
  • Mike VE3CKO
    Mike VE3CKO Member ✭✭✭
    edited April 2019
    I love using my SteppIR 3-el with 40m & 6m addon. We moved in January 2018 and have not put up the tower yet for the SteppIR and I truly miss it. I basically hunted for DX so I'd set the band and panadapter looking for weak signals. Did not follow the frequency automatically so when I found something I would then tune the SteppIR never using the radio tuner. I'd have one hand on the rotator to peak in the signal or if got the callsign point in proper direction and use the 180 switch often. Got several hundred countries on 20 thru 10 in no time at all. That 180 switch is such a great feature, was surprised how much good DX was longpath.
    Been using a fullwave 160m loop and 550' bi-directional beverage with great results but anxiously anticipating getting the SteppIR back up in the air.
  • Sergey KN7K
    Sergey KN7K Member ✭✭
    edited March 2020
    Thanks everyone - i got the idea about Steppir usage or multiband antenna usage.
    I also going to open ticket with Flex as my notes above indicate either I not understanding the radio logic or SW bug and I would like to clarify it with Flex.
    Sergey, KN7K
  • Mark - W6MSB
    Mark - W6MSB Member ✭✭
    edited June 2019
    I finally got around to making this work. Again, my thanks to Mack and Sergey for taking the lead here,  and to Eric for kicking it off.

    My solution is similar to what others found -- my cable connects TIP and RING (not COMMON/SLEVE/SHIELD) to the RCA plug. In radio setup, Interlocks - TX REQ is set to RCA: Active High.

    Like others, I agree that TX does not cease if the antenna starts to tune during a transmission. Lockout is provided only if TX hasn't begun yet. For me, this isn't a particular problem, but I appreciate it is for others and I would like to see Flex fix this.

    73,
    Mark
    W6MSB

  • AC9S
    AC9S Member ✭✭

    Hi Mark,


    Did you connect tip to the RCA center connector and ring to the shield? I am not quite sure how this works; I interpret Active High to mean the transmitter will be disabled with +3v on on the RCA.


    Keith - AC9S

  • Mark - W6MSB
    Mark - W6MSB Member ✭✭

    Hi Keith,

    If memory serves (which is suspect because I'm not even sure what I ate for breakfast this morning), yes, the 3.5mm TIP goes to the center of the RCA plug, and the 3.5mm RING goes to the RCA shield (I think more accurately called the Sleeve). I definitely do not recall exactly how Active High works, but I believe you're mostly right -- the transmitter can't be PTT'd if the voltage is >~1.5v (I do remember it's explained in both the hardware reference manual and the software users guide). Note that if the transmitter is already key'd, transmission does not stop should voltage be applied to the pin from the SteppIR controller.

    What I can tell you, is that it all continues to work flawlessly to this day, except those times that my Flex seems to forget its configuration and I have to reset TX REQ back to RCA: Active High in Radio Settings (TX).

    Hope this helps.

    73, Mark, W6MSB

  • VK2PW
    VK2PW Member
    "Hi all,

    Please find attached a video showing how to link a SteppIR SDA2000 or SDA100 Controller to a Flex 6xxx series radio over a remote VPN network and control the controller remotely. All cables used and required are shown to achieve this. The video assumes you know how to set up and configure a VPN Server and have client level access to it from your remote location.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/t23hrbfsf7x22ve/SteppIR-SDA2000-SDA100-VSPE-FRStack.mp4?dl=0

    You may need to remove the QUOTES from the link above or cut and paste without them into your browser. I recommend downloading the video if you want to see it as full resolution.

    Adam
    VK2PW
  • Alan
    Alan Member ✭✭✭

    I just came across this discussion.

    FYI, Dave, WO2X and I used Node-Red and FRStack to build a control system for another ham's multi tower, multi antenna, multi SteppIR yagi station.

    The system is Flex Multiplex capable. Also, using Flex TCP commands, If either SteppIR antenna is "moving" and the Flex Client TX slice is using the "moving" SteppIR, Flex TX is inhibited.

    The key is using N1MM to select the tower (rotor), the N1MM band to select the available antennas, and "F9" to toggle thru the available antennas on that tower on that band. All flows from the N1MM antenna config page. Each of the two rotor's gets it bearing inputs from N1MM, or any other source (Log4OM) in this case.

    And then on the N1MM data entry page, you select the available antenna on that tower and that band with the band toggle "F9". Here is a screen sho of N1MM with Slice 1 on 15M and slice 2 on 40M. Antenna Genius does the antenna switching for each tower:

    Here is the dashboard with Flex 6600, PG-XL, Antenna Genius, SteppIR and Rotor controls. Note on tower two, control is from "Log4OM" to demonstrate the ability to change the control source, when not using N1MM.

    Alan

    WA9WUD

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