Palstar HF Auto

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I purchased a Palstar HF Auto tuner and I have plans set aside to mount it as close to my antenna as possible.  This will be in a shed some 75 feet from my 6500.

My setup is going to be to keep my 6500 inside near where I operate.  Run control and coax the 75 feet to the shed.  Install my SPE amp and tuner there.   I can completely control my SPE amp via software I've written and using an IP to serial device to send data to the SPE amp over my LAN.

I wanted to include some rudimentary control of the Palstar HF auto in the same way. But...

I recently received a very disturbing email from the manufacturer.  I has asked if they could give me the RS-232 protocol ONLY for basic control of the tuner like switching antenna port, perhaps reading the SWR, etc.

Paul from Palstar wrote me a very nasty toned email that he would NEVER release *his* code for which he paid a fortune for and that the only way this could be done was to download the free utility by Terry.  Terry's utility is nice but it does not fit into my station model.

I was quite shocked by his reference to "his code".  I realize you can consider a protocol for communication to be proprietary but my question is why?  The whole point of a communication protocol is to communicate.  Why would anyone want to keep people from doing just that?

Sharing the details on how to change antennas, cause the tuner to tune, perhaps read back the SWR seems like a great feature for people that might want to remote the device.  Paul's approach was that this was proprietary and pretty much in his email said:  "screw you", never gonna happen. (he didn't type that exactly but the tone implied it).

Quite a strange approach these days I think.

Anyway, like in the movie Taken I have a very special set of skills I have developed over a long career of having to deal with exactly this kind of thing.  My shop is packed with sniffers and various other tools that I have used for many years to figure out how to talk to some finicky device.  I spent most of my time analyzing RS-232 so this is right up my alley.

So I will be communicating with my Palstar HF Auto over the RS-232 port in the way I want to regardless of what Paul from Palstar says.  If he really didn't want people doing this he should not have put the RS-232 port on the device.  He could have done firmware updates the old fashioned way and set out new chips.

Please don't ask me to share this as I don't want to get into trouble with Palstar but perhaps with a little pressure from people Paul will figure out that his policy is seriously outdated and he should do more to ensure his tuners are accepted by the general move in Ham radio to provide control of the various devices in your shack.

Frustrating but I guess that is life.
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Mark WS7M

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Posted 2 years ago

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Tim VE6SH

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Mark

Have you looked at the Palstar remote head for the HF Auto? I am using that with a 50' run of control cable and it works very well.

Tim VE6SH

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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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One wonders if Paul at Palstar will ever quite get over his unhappy legal dealings with Kessler on the previous AT-Auto code ownership fight?

It also seem pretty clear he won't release the interface/command table for the HF-Auto requiring owners to use this one program.

I've stayed with the AT-Autos, one stock and one with all the Kessler updates.

The are being replaced with 4o3a TunerGeniusS units or another if I don't like those.

73

Steve
K9ZW
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Rich McCabe

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Yea Kessler came to mind when I first read this. 

Paul's bedside manner is hit or miss for sure.

I need to check Kesslers updates... I did not realize he has done anything.
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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For AT-Auto items:  http://kesslerengineeringllc.com/

AFAIK Palstar owned & produced the AT-Auto from roughly Dayton 2005(+/-) until rights went to Kessler middle of 2010.

Uncertain if Kessler AT-Autos were produced or assembled from work-in-progress.

Don Kessler is producing an antenna switch and cables as companion products, and a couple AT-Auto Upgrades.

Kessler has shown a successor Auto-Tuner a few years back with no announced production plans yet.

For the Palstar HF-Autos the website is http://www.palstar.com/

The Palstar Hrivnak's (Paul & Eva) and Don Kessler are all fine folk, simply unfortunate that circumstances are what they are. 

73

Steve K9ZW


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Mark WS7M

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Steve, I am sure you are right.  I just did not find Paul's email to be the least bit friendly.
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Mark WS7M

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Steve,

I'm not aware of the legal dealings with Kessler.  Sounds like that is what drives this.   I had an MFJ auto-tuner but it is flaky as heck.  I borrowed an AT Auto and it works well so I dove in.  I was not expecting the response I got from Paul.

Tim,  I read about that head but I don't even have the tuner yet.  It gets delivered this Friday.  I am not sure I want the remote head as I'd rather have the controls be available when I'm remote which I hope to do more of once 2.x is released.  Good to hear it does work!
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Steve K9ZW, Elmer

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@ Mark WS7M

Confusingly the AT-Auto and HF-Auto are different tuners.

The settlement with Kessler might have limited Palstar talking about the original or doing comparisons between the generations.

They have completely different software and may have different connectivity.

73

Steve
K9ZW
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Mark WS7M

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Hi Steve, Yes... I do know they are different.    I have the HF Auto coming.

Again my point is and I don't know the ramifications of the legal battle were but I maintain that there is almost nothing but benefit from posting a quick doc that says:

Connection:  9600, N, 8 1

Send: XX.YY <CR> to set antenna 1
YY.XX <CR> to set antenna 2

etc.  Anyway it is what it is I guess.
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David Decoons wo2x, Elmer

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Well the code in the HF Auto is proprietary. He has the right to not make it public. At least he let Terry write a very nice app for controlling the tuner. Terry's app accepts UDP XML packets with frequency information so the tuner can follow the radio. 

I personally use Steve K5FR's DDUtil to send UDP XML info to W1TR HF Auto app. The config for W1TR program is set up so that the tuner switches antennas automatically between my 5 band Yagi and the G5RV dipole. The tuner is switched to bypass when using the Yagi and in circuit for the G5RV.

You can also use FLDigi_UDP or N1MM+ to send UDP XML packets to W1TR HF Auto. I think there are other programs as well.

As far as placing the tuner near the tower, remote from the station, you can use short haul RS-232 modems. RS-232 on each end and use a 4 wire connection between them.

My next step here over the next couple of weeks is to install a terminal server here with all RS-232 devices plugged in. Then I can access the ports from any PC anywhere (with the proper network setup). This will eliminate the need to have a PC running at the radio but still have access to the peripheral equipment. Obviously this is fine WAN for devices where real time communications is not needed.

Dave wo2x
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Rich McCabe

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One of the unfortunate parts about being a AT-Auto owner is the lack of support.

Because of the lawsuit Paul literally cant support a tuner he built and Kessler cant seem to tell you what parts Paul used to build the thing or where to get them.

I really could use a new mode switch. No one can tell me what it is.  I need to do a total tear down and see if I can find a number on the switch because I cant just order one.