Noob Question - SmartSDR and operation w/in Local Network and via Internet

  • 1
  • Question
  • Updated 2 months ago
I am very close to pulling the trigger on a 6400 (awaiting HOA approval on antenna and passing General test Monday!). 

I want to stash the radio in a large closet with power supply and other electronics (closer to external antenna entrance and further away from Internet/modem/router electronics).  So no operating mic/key at the radio - just power and ethernet.

I want to run all modes - ie: HF, Voice, CW, Digital and explore the stuff that's new since I was on in the 90's.... (JT65, PSK31, MFSK31, FT8...).  There won't be a PC there but that's an option if needed.

  1. I want to run on my internal network while home (iPad, mac, windows (I presume best functionality with windows client)).  Laptop centric...
  2. I want to be able to run remotely via Internet

There's lots of great information about some of my questions on the forum but I suspect they may address how to solve with prior version of SmartSDR (pre 2.0).  Many posts are 2-4 years old about running remote.  So bear with me as I want to know:


Is this all inherently possible with SmartSDR 2.3.9+?

  1. For Internal Network (general yes/no and any gotchas I should consider - I need to study the how later).  This is the primary mode and the one of most focus.  Is it really feasible to put the radio elsewhere and do all it can do via SmartSDR and my internal network via a Windows SmartSDR client?
  2. For internet access:I read older threads about setting up VPN for remote. Other threads about CAT and other things I'm not hep on yet.  Was this need eliminated with SmartSDR 2.x?  I read other gotchas/complications but from many years ago.  Can I generally run all of the above from a hotel room/starbucks with just SmartSDR? Again - yes/no - gotchas - I have to study once I get the setup going

I don't expect full tutorials - just guidance about what 2.X does that eliminates old thread confusion and what might I need to solve...or live with.  If there's a similar thread or someone has a block diagram showing how they pull it off I'd love it!

Many thanks in advance!

Photo of Dave Egan

Dave Egan

  • 31 Posts
  • 3 Reply Likes

Posted 2 months ago

  • 1
Photo of Jim Gilliam

Jim Gilliam

  • 858 Posts
  • 183 Reply Likes

Reading the latest instruction manual on 2.39  should answer all of your questions.
Photo of Rick - W5FCX

Rick - W5FCX

  • 208 Posts
  • 52 Reply Likes
I find best operation from Windows client on local area network (LAN), especially for digital modes where you need the higher bandwidth DAX audio streams between WSJT-X and the radio.

I run pretty much how you describe regularly. 6300 is on table in upstairs bedroom (could be in a closet, I suppose, except for air flow and temperature concerns). I generally operate downstairs from my office desktop PC, where I have many additional software applications and drivers installed. I can also use the Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Surface Pro and Maestro over the LAN.

Remote access via the Internet to just the radio is now possible in 2.x SmartSDR, as you have seen. I say just the radio as it’s possible you can have additional peripherals you need to remotely control (eg, amplifier, antenna rotators, antenna switches, tuners, etc.), where a VPN connection, TeamViewer or some means of Remote Desktop and/or remote serial operation may be desired or required.

Because I operate two stations remotely on a regular basis, I also use a Web Power Switch to power up/down the 12V power supply to the radio, to ensure I have absolute control over the radio and station peripherals.

I think you’ll have a blast learning the ropes and exploring the increasingly vast amount of flexibility Software Defined Radio brings to the table. It’s been 2 years for me now, after 45 years of non operation and its a real blast learning and experimenting with the spectrum of potential modern day SDR and ham radio has to offer in the digital age.

This forum is chock full of tips, techniques and advice. Lots of great people, too.

Enjoy!
Photo of Bill Carnett

Bill Carnett

  • 29 Posts
  • 2 Reply Likes
Good luck with the HOA, aka bad dream...become President then blow the damn thing up!  

Best Wishes
BC
Photo of Rick Ciotti

Rick Ciotti

  • 13 Posts
  • 5 Reply Likes
I joined the HOA with hopes of getting  leniency with a end fed antenna install. When returning to the QTH, from HOA related duties, I noticed a warning notice posted on my door. Apparently my grass was 2" over the limit. In response I quit the HOA and moved. W3DIY
Photo of Dave Egan

Dave Egan

  • 31 Posts
  • 3 Reply Likes
I am on the board but have to recuse myself from the vote.  In reality its the deed restriction that can't be overcome without approval.  Our HOA just says with written permission one can do it.  They are just waiting for the last board member to ok it.

I know HOA's can be a pain.  One of the things I'm learning is the rules and covenants are setup by a builder and they are many times boilerplate from their last project or legal firm.  Very hard to change them.  And I believe virtually bulletproof when codified as a deed restriction - not much federal law can do to override a deed restriction.

I do anticipate being on the good side of this shortly.  
Photo of Ken, K2KXK

Ken, K2KXK

  • 23 Posts
  • 6 Reply Likes
I second Ricks thorough reply. You can do all of what you want with SDR 2.x. I am a computer freak so I run a lot of additional 3rd part programs but this is more icing on the cake. I love my 6300 and have more fun with it every day. Go for it.
Photo of K3SF

K3SF

  • 186 Posts
  • 53 Reply Likes
one gotcha...you can not run any digital modes over the internet.. under SDR V2.x, DAX is not currently supported over the internet.

Currently, the only way for digital modes over the internet  is to run a VPN connection.



Photo of Dave Egan

Dave Egan

  • 31 Posts
  • 3 Reply Likes
Ah. That’s a nugget I needed clarity on. Great. Thanks!
Photo of Rick - W5FCX

Rick - W5FCX

  • 208 Posts
  • 52 Reply Likes
Correct. And if you plan to run DAX remote, you’ll need significant bandwidth (more than DSL), which will entail some testing. Hopefully you won’t be limited by DSL, which isn’t great fir remote operations in my experience.
Photo of John - WA7UAR

John - WA7UAR

  • 113 Posts
  • 25 Reply Likes
One other thing Dave about Dax over the Internet — while it is true at the moment (for PCs) there are the third party products “xDax” and “xCat” that operate over the Internet in conjunction with the DogparkSDR product that runs natively on a Mac. So until this feature enhancement is made available on the PC you can still enjoy these features on our other favorite platform!
Cheers!
John WA7UAR
Photo of Dave Egan

Dave Egan

  • 31 Posts
  • 3 Reply Likes
Ah - most excellent.  Thanks.  I'll explore that when I'm up and running.
Photo of Mark WS7M

Mark WS7M

  • 415 Posts
  • 114 Reply Likes
Hi Dave,

Welcome to the flex.  It will do everything you state but here are the facts:

1) It is a complex system.  There are many pieces that have to work right for everything to function and even then you will have to keep things up to date and fix issues.

2) Putting your gear in a remote closet is great.   I have my 6600 actually in a shed about 25 feet from my "op" position but frankly with the flex you don't have one op position anymore.  Be prepared to HARDWIRE your flex into your network.  That will give you the best performance.  Some have tried WiFi adapters without too much success.

3) With your flex being remote and you wanting to op full remote you will need to invest in internet able remote devices to cycle power, toggle the flex remote for reboot etc.  The radio is very stable but in my experience the radio finds a way to glitch when you are trying to op remote.  Not to say it is glitchy at all.  It is just murphys law.

4) Doing digital stuff fully remote will require you to setup a VPN as Smartlink does not yet pass digital data needed for digital modes.  But VPN setup is pretty easy.

5) Microphone audio can fully be done over the network.  However you will find that your best audio will be done using high quality audio components outside of the flex and feeding that high quality signal into the flex.   Now before the flames start, yes it is possible to get GREAT audio from the flex using digital and built in EQ.  But it simply cannot match external processing.

6) If you are not a CW purist requiring a key/paddle then CW using CWX on SSDR can be done from anywhere and it works fantastic!   I busted DX pileups running CW on my iPhone while at a restaurant.   I often work CW from the living room while watching football.  In fact it is sort of my fav mode because it is so easy.

Lastly...  What you want to do requires a complex system.  Take it slow, work out the bugs you will be happy in the end.

Mark - WS7M
Photo of Dave Egan

Dave Egan

  • 31 Posts
  • 3 Reply Likes
Great points. Yes I expect it’s a learning curve of time that should be fun to traverse!
Photo of Matt NQ6N

Matt NQ6N

  • 91 Posts
  • 23 Reply Likes
Some great replies above, but I'll just add a few short comments: 

- If you can use wired Ethernet, try that first. Home WiFi coverage is sometimes spotty. However WiFi is less likely to cause birdies or suffer from RFI.

- SmartSDR does not have local paddle side tone  and cannot generate side tone when keyed via the WinKeyer emulation in SmartSDR CAT.  I hope that Flex adds it in the future. In the meantime I have created software that lets you use a paddle connected to your operating position computer: https://groups.io/g/RemoteKeyerInterface

- You'll be able to see in SmartSDR a visual indication of the network link quality between the computer and the rig.  If your network does not show all bars green and a <5ms RTT on your LAN, then you will want to troubleshoot and upgrade whatever components are necessary. With a wireless LAN I would consider <15ms RTT acceptable.  

- For remote access over the internet, you may benefit from a router that offers QoS if your current one does not.  The Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X is $49 and supports Smart Queue Management and high throughput.  I've found that there is some variability in the quality of my broadband connection during the day, and I ended up choosing a Cable Modem that supports DOCSIS 3.1 which results in less packet loss and better queue management than DOCSIS 3.0.   Try your existing setup first, it may be just fine.  My ISP only supports the 3.1 standard on the downlink at present, unfortunately. 

- I have set up a SoftEther VPN which I use for other station control (remote USB ports, etc.).  This usually works quite well, but for really bandwidth challenged remote operation I prefer SmartLink in Low Bandwidth mode.  I also use SmartSDR iOS from my phone now and then which works nicely.  I have not tried other VPN software. SoftEther has been recommended by others on the Flex forum and has various optimizations for low latency UDP traffic.  I get RTT latency numbers of <20ms most of the time over the internet using it. 

My 6600 works remarkably well over LAN and remote. It feels like the rig is right in front of me.  A few weeks ago when I sent my early serial number rig in for the PEN update I went back to RCForb and the K3 for a week or so and realized just how much more like a local rig the SmartSDR experience feels.  This made me appreciate it even more.

The various items listed above have been part of my effort to squeeze additional performance out of the system.  Most of my operating is during weekly CWT contests (fairly high speed CW) which I operate remotely, so the small improvements have helped a bit to remove a few preventable sources of latency. 

73,
Matt NQ6N



Photo of Dave Egan

Dave Egan

  • 31 Posts
  • 3 Reply Likes
Thanks Matt.  Yes I intent to hardwire it.  I have a good router that supports VPN so I'm covered there (it runs OpenVPN).  The fallback was building out a Raspberry PI VPN host but I think I'm good.

Thanks for the tip on RemoteKeyerInterface!  Looks intriguing.
Photo of Asher - K0AU

Asher - K0AU

  • 172 Posts
  • 21 Reply Likes
I've been running LAN remote with a 6700 for 5 years now. Short answer is you can get what you need for everything except CW with the native Flex features. If you want to use a paddle, or if you want sidetone for remote CW, then you need extra gear. I've used a RemoteRig.

Also consider what else you need to control remotely. I control antennas, amplifiers, WinKeyer, power meter and power switches across the LAN. I'd need a VPN to do it over the internet.

SSDR, DAX and CAT work flawlessly over the LAN. My whole RF deck (Flex, amps, switches, controllers) lives in the garage with only a fiber Ethernet connection to the rest of the house. I use Moxa Ethernet/RS232 adapters to control all the station accessories. They are designed for industrial automation, pretty cheap and rock-solid. I have the AntennaGenius 8x2 switch, which has a PC-based client and will not work with the Flex SSDR remote. I use an RS232 remote WinKeyer because early versions of Flex remote CW had bugs that have probably been fixed. They'd manifest an hour into contests, so I'm cautious about testing the upgraded versions. I also have a PGXL on order, and I have no idea if it'll work with SSDR remote or if it also has a PC client.

Bottom line: Building a contest/DX station using remote LAN will work fine with some careful engineering and some consideration of your audio and keying path. FT8 works great on DAX.
Photo of Dave Egan

Dave Egan

  • 31 Posts
  • 3 Reply Likes
Wow. Great and encouraging insights. Thanks!