FT8 Remote setup 2.4.9 SmartLink

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Setting up a Remote using SmartLink has been a learning process. Many things have been discussed previously and have been a big help. Understanding the setup of the registration of the radio and using account logins was somewhat confusing and involved trying things to see how it works while not being able to setup a testing configuration. I finally was able to use my iPhone as a hotspot to access my radio through the WAN.

This got me success with CW and SSB but FT8 was more challenging. The problem was solved when I learned that I had to do 3 separate logins to SmartSDR, DAX and CAT, all with the same email and same password. Finally things started working. What is going on from a block diagram point of view in using a Remote station is not well understood but it works. 

The next thing I had to learn is how to reduce my bandwidth needs by what I selected. All DAX IO channels had to be turned off. One DAX IO channel at 48000 bps takes up 3.0 MB of bandwidth. dropping it to 24000 reduces it to 1.6mb if you have to have it. But it is not needed for FT8 so turn it off. A receiver runs an 0.5 MB and that doesn't include the other functions in SmartSDR. You can see that by hovering over the DAX button to the left of the slice DAX window. From my Task Manager eithernet Performance the data used it 1.6 GB of network capacity. Running the Comcast performance tool in Support my Speed is 11mb down and 3.5mb up over the iPhone hotspot. At the radio the speed is 110mb down and 11mb up. So what you send up at your laptop will be limited by the down speed at your remote radio. Thus balance is significant in up and down speeds it seems but I am not the person in that area. 

I have learned that latency is one thing but max latency is important to keep things running and dropped packets can be a disaster in dropping your session. I originally thought if latency was good then everything else would fall in line, well that is not the case at all. They can be independently caused it appears. I am replacing using the router in the Comcast modem with a switch. I will probably change out the Comcast modem with a duplicate replacement just to see if it helps as the WiFi dropouts are bad even though I have taken WiFi out of my configuration for Flex long ago.

Its a work in progress but wanted to share what I am going through. Windows 10 and back to Windows 7 is a poor real time audio system because of its interrupt processing. I have seen it in transmitting noise bursts while operating FT8. You can see it transmitted and hear it in the receiver if you are looking for it but is often covered up by the noise. This is a separate work in progress but have to adjust a lot of things to give the system a lot of headroom in CPU speed, NVIDIA Video GPU drivers, updating all software drivers, BIOS settings and added computer RAM memory.

Hardware: Flex-6600, Dell Insprion 3668 I7-7700, 16GB RAM, SSD drive, Comcast ISP, Remote operation when I am traveling(in process) SmarSDR 2.4.9, wsjt-x 2.0, JTAlert, Slice-Master 6000, Ham Radio Deluxe, DM780, and N1MM+.  On local network I run 4 bands of FT8 and spots.

Dont forget login to DAX, CAT and SmartSDR for FR8 remote and it will work like a charm,

73
Bill W9JJB
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bahillen

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Posted 5 months ago

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Michael Walker, Technologist

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Bill

Excellent work.  I've been there.

In the end, I found it so much simpler to keep a PC local to the radio and then do a remote desktop connection to that PC.  It really helps to keep your internet uplink on a diet!  :)

The one thing we can't control is the part between the 2 routers (aka, the actual internet).

Mike
(Edited)
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Jim Gilliam

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Using a VPN is much better than using a remote desktop. It is worth the time and effort to learn how to install one with your router.
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Bob G W1GLV

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Jim, I use Microsoft Remote Desktop on my MacBookPro and it works like a charm, no visible latency. SmartLink works just as well, at least for me. As we all know there are many variables between the connections. It's always good to have plan B. For the uninitiated, DAX is very data hungry.
(Edited)
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Neal Pollack, N6YFM

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Wait, I'm confused.   I don't do remote yet, but I have read over the last year, that recent changes
in the SmartSDR 2.x series removed the need for people to configure a VPN.   Is that not true?
Or, can you still build your own VPN as one way to not be depending on Flex's server for smartlink
connections to start?

In other words, when would you need/want a VPN, or not, with current v2.4.x software?

Cheers,

Neal
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bahillen

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Neal
I am still investigating alternatives an impact to function and bandwidth needs. I have used TeamViewer in the past before recent releases. The new releases do what they claim. I am able to run CW and SSB in a contest. As you add more receivers you use more bandwidth. When it came to digital DAX was needed and more bandwidth.

TeamViewer or Windows Remote you reduce the bandwidth for radio data.

If you start running out of bandwidth, you may see dropped connection with radio and holes in the audio and maybe other issues. Watch your SmartSDR radio tab window for lost packets , latency and High Latency.

I have started setting up a VPN to compare different configurations but put that on the back burner. These are all tool to match you needs and operating. Without anything special out of the box SmartSDR will give you all modes and reliable remote operation. Your ISP factors into the network speed you will see and routing is out of your control. The weakest link I have seen is WiFi. Plugging my laptop into my iPhone using its hotspot works much better.

The other thing with VPN is you can do all the other things you want remotely like rotor, logging cameras resets, reboot, power monitoring and control.

For the casual use on vacation Flex workes great. It you want a complete remote station you need to dig deeper in my opinion.

Mike and Jim thanks for your input. What do you find performance with TeamViewer or Remote Desktop. I have heard it is slow.

73
Bill W9JJB
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Bill Ham

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Hi Bill, 
I too am struggling with FT8 remote operation.  I have smartlink working nicely for remote SSB, but can't figure out the configuration for wsjt-x for remote.  I'm loading it from the laptop and use the same configuration as I have on my home radio PC, but I keep getting rig control errors. Ham lib error: IO error while opening connection to the rig.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  MacBookPro with Parallels running win7 Pro 64 and wsjt-x v2.0.0.
Tnx & 73,
Bill - K0KO
(Edited)
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Bob KC9RF

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I run FT8 Remotely using team viewer with no problem. Using this method I frequently use two instances of FT8. Even if there are latency issues the QSO always completes . When Running smartlink to my PC remotely with a 10 meg speed there are some latency issues because of the internet speed and dropouts occur. I do run the PC for SSB but reduce waterfall and FPS to almost nothing to have success. Next year hoping for fiber optic .
Bob KC9RF
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Bill Ham

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I finally got FT-8 running in windows 7pro 64 via parallels on a MacPro and smartlink, but when first starting WSJT-X I get msg:  Error Loading LoTW users Data. Network error -SSL/TSL support not installed, cannot fetch https://LoTW,....
I have checked all of the SSL/TSL boxes in Internet Explorer/internet options/advanced/Security...
Still getting the error. IE is not my default browser, but since I'm not using the browser to connect, I'm not sure what to do next to get rid of the error.  Any suggestions? 
Tnx & 73,
Bill - K0KO
(Edited)
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Neal Pollack, N6YFM

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Smile, you ignored the installation instructions. :-)
If you go to the WSJT-X WebSite and read the installation instructions in the user manual, you will find that you skipped a step or two.  There is a second package that needs to be installed, then the fetch of that data will work and the error will go away.

Please review the user manual here;
http://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/k1jt/wsjtx-doc/wsjtx-main-2.0.0.html
and section 3.1 is what people need to pay attention to.

Cheers
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bahillen

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Be sure to use v1.0.2. There is a different version 1.1.1 that is fundamentally different, not workable.

74
Bill W9JJB
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bahillen

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73
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Bill Ham

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Thanks, Neal, N6YFM.  I had looked into user guide for v2.0.0, but only by searching for error and trying to find trouble shooting.  Completely skipped installation info as I had v2.0.0 working on my base stationeries PC without issue.  It took the manual suggestions to load SSL light package and the Microsoft VC++ 2013 Restributable download to get rid of the error msg.  I'm now going back over the manual to see what else I may have missed with the new revision.  

I have taken Bill's notes, W9JJB, added additional info that helped me out, and documented it in a Word document. If anyone wants an FT 8 setup in Word, contact me with your email.  

I have also documented K3 FT8 setup to work with my MacPro using WSJT-X for OS.  That was a learning experience getting ports to work with adapters, etc.  I probably won't use the OS version as JT-Alert doesn't work with it and JT Bridge used logging programs different from mine (DX4Win).  I'm looking at DX4OM and DXKeeper and will eventually migrate to an auto logging program that works with JT-Alert. Any suggestions?

73 & Tnx, again, to all who helped,

Bill - K0KO
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Michael Walker, Technologist

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Here is my basic and very reliable setup:

  • UPS on computers
  • Web switches (mostly RemoteQTH Server)
  • PC local to the radio

For remote connections I have multiple options, all in use

  • Site to site VPN with 2 pfSense routers for when I am at home
  • Remote Desktop on a port forward (not default ports) so I can operate remote when I am away from home
  • VNC remote connection as a backup port - again, not default ports
  • Teamviewer which I only use if the IP address changes at the remote and DYNDNS hasn't caught up with it
  • Plus, a few more tricks like RPI that auto reboots the firewall and modem if the internet goes offline.
I run nothing but Windows 10 Pro now and I find NOT being not being on the Home edition much better and I don't have to deal with forced updates.

Having the PC local to the radio makes it very simple in many ways.  I only have 1 computer to maintain for ham radio apps.  I can log in from my PC laptop or my Mac laptop.  And, the big one is it is easy to lend my HF station to my friends.  They have nothing to configure other than the first remote desktop connection.

This helps to limit the data moving on the internet connection which is actually the weakest link in the entire solution.  It is the one thing I can't control.

Mike va3mw
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Using a similar arrangement as Mike above, with the Spectrum Scope set at 1-FPS and the Waterfall to 60%, full Remote Desktop control and separate audio via RCForb results in a total, up & down of around 500-kilobits per second. I do not use DAX as it's hard to keep going remotely. Instead I've wired my 6300 directly to a good quality USB sound dongle.

RCForb uses a codec which compresses the audio so it's fine for SSB & CW. I use a separate toll quality SIP VOIP solution for other modes.

The SIP, & Remote Desktop solutions are available on most platforms. I use Windows and Android interchangeably. RCForb is limited to Windows & Android.

To reduce cell phone Internet latency, I subscribe directly to AT&T Prepaid as resellers such as Tracfone introduce delays with ping times approaching 200-msec. AT&T & Verizon usually run under 50-msec.
(Edited)
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Rory - N6OIL

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Hey Mike, could you put together a flowchart and diagram explaining your setup? I'm an IT person so I get it but it might help others that are visual learners. 

Rory 
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Michael Walker, Technologist

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Let me see what I can do.  Maybe I'll do a video walk through of my station.  Would that help?
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KJ7G

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Hello Mike,
I suggest addition of Google remote desktop method as the simplest and most versatile setup for FT8 https://remotedesktop.google.com. You can work FT8 from any desktop w/o additional sw and apps for both iOS and Android are available too.
73,
Boris KJ7G
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Doug - W3UB

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I have considered have a PC local to the radio when remote, but we have frequent, and sometimes long, power outages. Sometimes when the power comes back on it is not stable for a bit. A UPS can power things for a little while, does anyone know of a good solution to power down the PC when the UPS is used up, and then power it up afterwards?

I see the APC Power Chute SW, but the reviews on it are terrible.

/Doug

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Michael Walker, Technologist

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Hi Doug

I use a big UPS I bought at Costco.  My PC is set to reboot once we have good power from the UPS.  But, I have also had power outages lasting days and it is recovered just fine.  You do  need to make sure you test the process to make sure it works.

In the PC BIOS I have the PC to reboot on AC power restore.  That seems to work just fine.  I haven't had the problem you mention in over 15 years.

Mike 
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Doug - W3UB

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Hi Mike,
Also in the great white north (Lunenburg, NS). Also have a nice big UPS from Cosco ... Do you have the UPS trigger the PC to shut down, or just let it die after the UPS is gone?
Doug
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Bob - W7KWS -

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I too set my "desktop style" PC's BIOS to boot when power is restored. Before investing time or money for a laptop to do this, check it. My experience shows that this function is only available in desktop PC's. Over the years none of my laptop machines have included it.
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Doug - W3UB

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Yep, I figured that. The PCs with "soft" power buttons may not have that option as well, perhaps?

Can anyone answer the other question, if you have a desktop with a UPS, do you sense the battery level in the UPS and shut down in an orderly manner, or just let it die?

/Doug
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Michael Walker, Technologist

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Doug

Yes, you should.  :)  I need to hook mine up when I get up there next (if I can find the cable :) ).  

Mike
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bahillen

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Gerald, Doug and Mike,

There is a need for a Flex Radio Systems White Paper on Remote operation with the fantastic Flex latest products. You know better than I but Tim and Dave, WO2X, would have things to contribute as well as maybe a 3 rd party developer like Don, K1DBO

I know the value of the Radio and SmartSDR has opened up a great opportunity for many hams to get the benefits of this combination. But we have limited knowledge of the Networking and ISP technology affecting the functionality and can become frustrated with working through the issues and decisions to be made. In searching for information it becomes difficult to separate the approach choices from 4 years ago and the ones available today. I know Flex has their hands full with the Radio and its Software but have seen some friends/customers get overwhelmed with the task (and not only with the remote). 

As an example, when I ordered my Flex-6600 the position was you don't need much of a computer to operate the radio that is basically true. But when 3 rd party software is needed the computer needs jump rapidly that was not mentioned. The radio is a server and puts it in a different category than other products, it seems. It is truly incredible. Thus, there is a strong marketing need to offer information to help both technical and non technical hams to be able to successfully implement a station. Failure generates a lot of bad vibes that is hard to overcome in the market. The old saying is how do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time. We just need some help on a direction to start.

Tim created a community network document that was a break in the ice and should be supplemented.

At Xenia Hamfest the past two years I have seen neat remotes that tie in a number of different stations all over the country. I guess I have to set up a matrix of accounts and stations and coordinate the access to the accounts. Simple maybe but hard to understand the management without some documentation. So we have to cut and try and some may not want to open up access to their station without understanding what they are signing up for and I can't tell them. 

Where do the different tools fit in? TeamViewer vs Remote Desktop, the same or is one more functional than the other. I used TeamViewer to run FT8 on my home computer but struggled with changes to the password when the computer rebooted or got an update. TeamViewer seemed a little slow too??

Up and down bandwidth speeds, The Up speed at the remote is the Down at the laptop. Just finding the best tool for measuring speeds and relevance is a little unknown to many of us, like how much margin would you want. Also how do we measure the narrow point in the pipe. I now monitor the Task Manager ethernet bandwidth while turning things off like DAX IO, major hog of bandwidth. 

As I have been working with the help desk on pops in my TX audio, I have found tuning my computer for maximum performance made major improvements along with adding more RAM Memory (now 16GB) reduced the need for increased memory swapping even though Task Manager only showed use of 5.2GB. Computer is an I7-7700 SSD, no slouch. 

Some of the Flex Team have been pushing the envelope on this and have come to different solutions it would be great to get input on the trade offs and recommendations that are consistent with the current product and backed up with the future direction Flex Engineering recommends. I have been thinking that for a robust Remote, a local/co-located computer running Unix operating may have significant benefit with the better interrupt performance, I don't know but would not like to have to re-invent where you have already gone into a blind alley. 

I may be faced with having to relocate to a remote because I am in a HOA no antenna location. Communities are often not radio friendly. Now, pushing the envelope with wire antennas someday there will be a knock at the door. I want an alternative planned now. If you guys can give us a head start, it would be a big help to many customers. The Flex employee community have come a long way and have a lot to offer from your hard found lessons.

I hope this is not too wandering or disconnected but I am in the middle of the process and concerned for others on this path and the needed patience. Part of ham radio it the learning process and knowledge is critical to bringing us along. White Papers, UTubes and the Flex Community are part of the tools available. Other tools could be recommend internet training suggestions on fundamental needed like Networking.

I would still like to see a block diagram for a Flex6000 series radio of some level even if simplified. It may be company confidential and that is understandable as we don't want you to give up your intellectual properties.

As a development radio engineer in the mid 60s what is available at Flex is fantastic as I was on the bench when they(HP) delivered the first spectrum analyzer, now I have 4 in one box and more.

73,
Bill W9JJB


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Michael Walker, Technologist

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Hi Bill

All excellent questions and thanks for highlighting the 'traps' that we all fell into on day one and have long since forgotten.

A formal white paper might a time issue for resources, however, I do have on my list a walk through on remote operations.  I did just do one called "my buddy said I could use his Flex remotely".   I just went to get the link, and I see I hadn't finished editing it yet.  :0 ... my bad.  LOL.  I'll try to get it done after lunch.

The follow on to that will be exactly what you fell into.

Mike
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Neal Pollack, N6YFM

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Sometime recently, Flex or someone said that the latest 2.4.9 made something (DAX)? better
when trying to use a Maestro (local/remote?) and the audio and laptop at the maestro doing FT8.
Or perhaps it was Maestro for radio control, and the laptop running DAX back to the radio?

Anyway, I want to try that, but can't find the article or posting anymore.
Does anyone have notes or some other post that shows how to set up remote FT8 using the
maestro?   Does that only work remote from the shack but local on the same property, or can
it work across the internet away from the QTH?

Cheers,

Neal