My Proposed Remote Smart SDR Setup -- Will it work? Obvious Problems?

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I know that, eventually, the SmartSDR will take care of all of my remoting problems.  However, I want to get going and handle both audio and CW with something I presume to be well-proven.  I also want to be able to deploy a non-Flex rig as a backup for that rare day the Flex has to go to the shop.

So, here is what I propose to deploy (some of this is already accomplished).

I think I largely have this figured out, but there are some questions to follow, especially if anyone has done something like this already.  This is a long post, but it is also a pretty complete solution.

I apologize for how cramped the image is, but that's what I could readily accomplish and upload.

To describe the picture:

On the left is a PC, the "local" half of the remote rig RRC 1258MkII, a CW paddle and the microphone that came with the 6300.  The home PC runs TightVNC to reach the shack's PC.

On the right is an internet-addressable power controller, the "remote" half of the RRC 1258MkII and a shack PC.  The shack PC runs SmartSDR and also software that controls the power amplifier (PA, actually a Alpha 9500) and a Green Heron rotor.  I propose to use the Yaesu cables made by RemoteRig to access the Flex 6300 by hooking up the audio cable from the 1258MkII to the regular stereo output in the back of the 6300.

The routers are specially flashed.  They find each other and set up a remote VNC between them, so either PC "sees" the other network "as if" I had two different local subnets.  That means I can operate the power controller (and the 1258MkII for that matter) even when the PC is powered down.  So, I can cycle the PC on and off if need be to re-establish control of it.

So much for the picture.

Today, I operate the Flex 6300 by being physically present at the remote shack.  So, the basics work normally.  The 6300, the PA, and the rotor all work fine and all can be controlled by the PC.  TightVNC works, so I know I can control the shack PC from home, including the PA and the rotor.  I haven't really worked with the Flex 6300 remotely yet, having no audio transfer and because the AC power control isn't present yet.  The RemoteRig solution is the thing that is the big question -- is that the right solution?

I am also about to deploy the Digital Loggers Web Power Switch 7 (on order).  This should enable me to obtain power control for the PC and (indirectly) for the Astron RS 35m 12v power supply that drives the Flex and a small Ameritron ALS 500M.  Total wattage would be 12A max, but in practice, much less, because the ALS 500 is not remotable and would be only available, if it is available at all, as a 200 watt source for 30 meters. 

Right now, the ALS 500 is not available, because the Flex 6300 has only one amplifier relay and I haven't worked on switching between them.  So, 30 meters is 100 watts only and is the only band that sees an antenna wire (through a fixed antenna tuner, set for 30m).  Everything else goes through the Alpha.

For antenna control, it's in pretty good shape.  Flex 6300's ANT 1 goes to the Alpha which, even in standby, gives me remote antenna switch control that is today adequate.  It switches between my Force 12 6BA 40 meter antenna and the second feedline to the 6BA that runs 20/17/15/12/10.  When I get my 80 meter antenna installed, it will go to position 3.  30 meters runs from the Flex 6300's ANT 2 position through an antenna tuner.

Questions:

1.  Will Remote Rig's accessory Yaesu ("8 pin") cables work for the Flex 6300 on the shack side?  Seems like they should.  Ditto on the local side.

2.  Do I want ordinary CW paddles or do I want the paddles through a memory keyer?  For contesting, I eventually want the local PC to do Winkey or something and that (I presume) implies that it "looks like" a straight key from the home shack all the way to the Flex 6300 input.  I would want to have both shack control (e.g. N1MM+ or other software) and regular paddle availability.

3.  For the remote power on in this scenario, I am assuming I enable the feature and then short an RCA jack in the back.  True?  Primary power off would be via simply turning the 12v power off and on.  The RS 35m seems to buffer things pretty well -- it has big capacitors and should buffer any power shocks to the Flex as well as possible (and some part of the Flex is always on anyway).

What I hope to accomplish is to gain a quarter or a half year or so or whatever it may be in that while I know the Flex team is working hard on remote capability, and will deliver, I can deploy something proven for CW, RTTY, and SSB, right now, and wait on whatever schedule Flex comes up with.  I also have a TS 2000 as my backup rig and by simply switching to Kenwood cables on the shack side (local side too??), I can fearlessly ship the Flex to the shop on the rare day I do that.

Thoughts?
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Larry Loen WO7R

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Posted 4 years ago

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KT0AM - Mark

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Larry, I don't yet have the experience with the SmartSDR software to guess if this will work but it's an intriguing solution. I hope you'll keep us posted as you move forward.

Cheers!

Mark
KT0AM
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Ric Plummer

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Larry,

I had the TS200 remote for several years with the RRC-1258 and now use them on the Flex6500 This is a great way to get PTT, CW Key and audio across. I hope that the Flex solution will do as well when it comes out. A few comments:

The biggest problem I have is bandwidth, both in the radio CPU which in a Core 2 Duo with plenty of memory and in the network. I have FiOS at the remote end and cable at the radio end. The upload at the radio is only 2 Mb/s and at times causes receive audio to stutter. Transmit is fine as there is no heavy GUI activity going on in transmit. I can help this by reducing screen size of the panadapter and closing the waterfall.

The other thing that caught my eye is the VPN. I tried this for a while and could at best get 1 Mb/s. VPN requires a lot of compute performance in the routers and unless you spend thousands it won't be there. I use VNC or LogMeIn directly port forwarded tot he radio computer and DYNDNS.

Also, for contesting, I run Writelog at the radio end, so CW keying would be done at the radio site. I don't believe it will succeed if you try to send characters up the internet. As you know, the RRC boxes regenerate it at the radio.

I am sure there are many other nits you would like to pick from my brain. so email me at ricp at alum dot wpi dot edu for a cell number if you want

Happy remoting !!!
Ric KV1W
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Ric Plummer

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Forgot to mention
To turn the Flex on, I use one of the control bits fro the 1258 that can be programmed to go active when the two boxes make their connection on the internet and go directly to the RCS jack
As for cables, I always have to figure the out pin by pin for the application and of course the jumpers on the 1258 may or may not be the same for the two radios
Ric
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Asher - K0AU

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I have run a similar LAN remote configuration for over a year using the RRC-1258.

I use the Flex RJ45/RJ45 mic cable (for the 1500) on the client side and the Flex RJ45/8pin Foster cable for the radio side.  I key on the client side and disable the keyer in the Flex.  For contesting I add a K1EL Winkeyer since it interfaces with N1MM better than the current version of CWX.  I also have PTT switches connected to the client side.

One big difference: I run SSDR on the remote side of your diagram and have no PC on the radio side.  Curious whether SSDR or VNC will have better remote performance.  My configuration has 3 switch hops from PC to Flex and about 1mS of end-to-end delay.

I use a Moxa 4-port serial server on the radio side.  The RRC serial, USB ports and Winkeyer support are a complete mystery to me: I've been unable to get them to work reliably.  Moxa has bulletproof remote COM port drivers that I use for a GH rotor, various amps, a remote wattmeter and a remote keyer.  The control apps have no idea the COM ports are remote.

When Flex releases LAN remote support I plan to move the audio streams to DAX, but waiting to see how effective the 1.4 PTT solutions are.  We already know that client-side paddle support is post 1.4.

I strongly recommend following KY6LA's suggestions about grounding, single power supply and ferrites to tame audio ground loops and RF feedback.

Your configuration should work great. 
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Larry Loen WO7R

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K0AU wrote:

"One big difference: I run SSDR on the remote side of your diagram and have no PC on the radio side.  Curious whether SSDR or VNC will have better remote performance.  My configuration has 3 switch hops from PC to Flex and about 1mS of end-to-end delay."

How exactly do you make that work?  How "remote" is your remote?  1 mS suggests a very "local" setup.  This is one thing I wondered about.  Sooner or later, I want to get rid of the shack PC anyhow.  If I can run SmartSDR from the "home" (client) side now, then I could dispense with the PC on the server (shack) side in the end. I can probably install the rotor and Alpha control software locally and use the RRC 128 (except that I see you have problems with it.  Hmmm).  I have yet to test exactly what the art of the possible is here, but I am currently assuming I can't run SmartSDR outside of the immediate local 'net.  If that is incorrect, if I can run (say) a network with IP addresses from 10.1.1.x at home and from 10.1.2.x at the shack and have them "see" each other, including SmartSDR finding the radio, then I would strongly consider running SmartSDR at home.  It probably works better and consumes less bandwidth.  I can "export" all the waterfall/panadapter to the home PC.  All I really need is for SmartSDR to find the radio.  Because of VPN, I don't really have to worry about defending the radio from some sort of takeover.  But, while "visible", they are on separate IP ranges.

My current setup is bandwidth constrained; I am probably going to make that oft-delayed phone call to get "real" internet on the shack side of it no matter what I do.  At the moment, I have MiFi running, which probably won't really do "for real" but it has worked for demonstration purposes.  Originally, MiFi was all there was available at the shack, but one of those "over the air" rural internet operations has set up shop; a buddy has it for his regular internet and likes it.  Brief tests suggests that MiFi has latency around 100 milliseconds or so, which I hope is acceptable, but I think even audio only (or DAX I/R stream only), the bandwidth is simply going to be too great, so I have to get the over-the-air with a decent amount of bandwidth.  I can get 2 mbs "down" and 3 mbs" "up" for 45 dollars a month.

BTW, I have plenty of CPU on both sides; both the shack PC and the home PCs are i7s running Win7 (64) with plenty of memory.


Larry WO7R
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Asher - K0AU

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As far as I know, SSDR (at least up to 1.3.8)  needs L2 access - including broadcast - to find the radio.  You'll have to figure out if you can get L2 support from a VPN to run SSDR remotely.  Don't know if radio discovery is changing in 1.4 with LAN support.  Several of us have lobbied for fixed IPs!  Fixed IPs make infrastructure easier to manage.

I have 3 Netgear switches between SSDR and the Flex.  One is a computer/RRC mux at my operating position.  One is a rack switch connecting to the Flex, RRC, COMserver and remote power.  The other is a copper/fiber switch connecting the rack to the rest of the network.  I only have a MM fiber connection from the radio rack to the rest of the network.  Total latency is under 1ms with 1Gbps links.  My guess is you'll find 100ms acceptable for casual operating and borderline for contesting or serious DXing.  The 8 port switches with 1Gbps SFP fiber modules cost $90 each from Overstock.com.

The RRC1258 is great for audio and keying, but I cannot recommend its COM support.  Who knows if it's Win8, or presence of other virtual COM ports, or the way Windows does COM enumeration.  I have run the Alpha app, the GH rotor app, N1MM, DxLabs, the SPE1K app and the PowerMaster app over the Moxa virtual COM ports with no trouble.  Be aware that some of these apps poll over their serial ports and add a bit to your network budget.
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Larry Loen WO7R

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Fixed IPs (as one of the options) is a good thing.  But, if you have a modern enough router, you can accomplish it right now.  I have.  My router has some settings such that you can (by MAC address) tell it to assign that MAC to always have the same address.  Thus, the client device (e.g. the current Flex 6xxx) performs DHCP, but it always gets the same assignment.  So, you get the effect of fixed assignments even on devices that think they are getting it dynamically.

Check out your router.  It may have that feature somewhere.  If Flex gives me a fixed IP choice, then I will just set it.  But, if it doesn't, all my software on "the other side" will be able to treat it "as if" it had a fixed up.  Starting a week ago, as a matter of fact.
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Larry Loen WO7R

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Update:  I have this configuration "somewhat" working.  As recited elsewhere, CAT has deserted me -- it doesn't seem to "register" itself with Windows (this is the reverse of the well-documented "phantom ports" problem, which I have dealt with).  However, CW is working (with some audio dropouts -- VPN may be a bit more than my router can handle).  I can decode RTTY at the remote PC (I just can't transmit because of my CAT problem).

No SSB at present because I am waiting on some cables.  When those come, I should be able to give SSB a try (again, a transmit problem only).

When 1.4 comes out, I have high hopes of getting rid of my shack-side computer altogether.  But, so far, I haven't figured out how to get the remoterig's COM port stuff working.  It may simply not work, but it is probably operator (configuration) errors of some sort.  It took me a while to get the CW config right after all.

If I continue to use the shack computer (which I must for now anyway), I can control the roter and the amp (which includes my remote antenna switching -- even when the amp is in standby).  So, I have the makings of a pretty complete solution.  I just need to get RTTY and SSB rolling.  Probably not in time, alas, to get EP on RTTY.  Ah, well, you can't have everything it seems.
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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I don't understand why you need remoterig and all thoseextraneous cables and connections to operate a 6000 remotely

For the past couple of years I have been operating remotely via my iPad to 6700 from 20 different countries. Using all modes except CW which I do not use by choice ...setup is simple

Suggest you look at

https://community.flexradio.com/flexr...

Of. Course, you can easily do the same with any PC or MAC until V2 SSDR arrives with native WAN
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Larry Loen WO7R

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Well, it's a sunk cost now, isn't it?  Anyway, I am big into CW and there does not appear to be a good solution without remoterig.  Also, when I ordered the gear, it was most uncertain when remote support would show up at all, much less for CW.  Even now, it may have advantages as the aforementioned CAT bug has made RTTY a nightmare.  Being able to remotely use my old RigBlaster as a kind of ultimate backup is looking really good right now.  I'm, not quite there yet as far as SSB goes (lacking some cables) but it will happen and when it does, I will be able to work around any bugs, now or in the future, as long as basic SSB and CW works, which doesn't really take much.  I suppose in a couple of days the bug will go away, but it's all part of the plan in the end.

Done the way I have it, I have some amount of "redundancy" of function in that I have minimal need for SmartSDR.  If there are bugs (heaven forefend, but they happen), I can drop back to remoterig.  Probably, in six months,  I will conclude that what I have is overkill, but right now, I _am_ making CW contacts and as far as I can make out, it would have been difficult without remoterig and will be for some time to come.  CWX is really not enough.  I find I need to take charge of the paddles with some regularity and in real time, too.

I am bringing a bit of a "production" mindset to this project.  I want it to work and work pretty much all the time.  So, a few extra dollars for any form of redundancy I can scrounge is OK.  Probably won't quite succeed quite that well, but I am farther down the pike already than I expected.
(Edited)
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KY6LA - Howard, Elmer

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I detest CW so needless to say the lack of it for my remote operations will never be an issue. I do enjoy digital modes which are extremely easy to run remotely.

Reliability. I run remotely much of the time,,,in fact, I am remote right now...about 135 miles from home albeit for once I am in the same time zone.

Other than having to remotely reboot the rig and/or PC. Which I accomplish with 2 WEMO Internet switches, my configuration has been really reliable... I must admit that I run my station at home from a bank of batteries with mains power recharging and a backup generator system just in case So my station continues to run even during power failures. Surprisingly cable for the Internet and telephone lines seem to continue to operate. During general power failures

Good luck with your configuration and I a really looking forward to SSDR V2.0
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Larry Loen WO7R

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Further update:  My SSB cables arrived and it all worked the first time.  I now operate CW and SSB (from home over remoterig) and RTTY (using SmartSDR and MixW2 or Fldigi on the shack/remote PC).  Works like a champ!

So, phase I is complete.  Next phase will be to eliminate the need for the shack PC.  I need to figure out how to get the rotor control and the amplifier control to work over remoterig.  There are supposed to be application notes to help with this. 

But, I'm not doing it yet because 1.4 hasn't arrived and it's kind of pointless until I can run 1.4 at home.  I may choose to run RTTY from the shack PC indefinitely.  The VNC solution is working better than I expected, but not perfectly.  Still some dropouts.  But, with the RTTY strictly local, that's not a big issue.  I can deal with it (so far) on SSB and CW.  I do this in part by cutting back on bandwidth requirements (e.g. running TightVNC with 256 colors, which is surprisingly workable).
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Larry Loen WO7R

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Further update on bandwidth.

I have (at the shack) 3 megabits up, 2 megabits down.

At home I have 1 megabit up, 10 megabits down

That means I have a minimum of 2 gigabits for the shack->PC traffic, which should be far greater.

I have some control over this, but as I have set up VNC and the remoterig 1258MkII at present, I consume under 300 kilobits a second.

The VPN is not a big burden; these controllers seem to be fairly hefty as embedded devices go.  I can run Linux "top" on them and see single digits of CPU utilization.

I do see, especially in the evening, evidence of congestion.  While I am well under my limits for data movement, I find that even minor tweaks can often eliminate the dropouts that do happen.  At other times, nothing helps.  Yet, my load is more-or-less constant (or at least predictable in a range).  That suggests to me packet queuing -- what else would be so sensitive.  I don't have the wherewithal to prove it yet, but as a working hypothesis, it has merit.

On the whole, then, I would say with a sufficiently modern router (still not very expensive) you can run VPN.  You can also get by with relatively basic internet service, albeit at the cost of some dropouts.