Push to Talk for SmartSDR On My Tablet Plus some other things I've learned

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  • Updated 2 years ago
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I've been wanting microphone PTT for SmartSDR on my Windows tablet for a long time so this morning I tackled it and got it working.  I'll share how below.  But first some background.

I've been using a Lenovo ThinkPad 8, eight-inch Windows tablet for running SmartSDR for several months and it is the best tablet that I've found for the purpose.  For full disclosure, I've not tried a Surface for reasons of cost and size and my ThinkPad has been upgraded with the Free Windows 10 update without difficulty.

The Thinkpad 8 runs SmartSDR with all five performance bars at full green here at home.  I am truly happy with it versus some lesser tablets I've tried.  The best thing is that these tablets are plentiful on eBay right now and many are listed as manufacturer refurbished for under $200.  These were originally expensive, enterprise grade tablets.  Most of the eBay listings at this price have a 64GB SSD, 2GB of RAM, a full HD 1920 X 1080 IPS display and one of the higher end Intel, four-core Atom processors, the Z3770.

At home I usually use it over 5 GHz Wi-Fi.  I've discovered that Bluetooth slows my Windows machines down and constant use of a Bluetooth mouse slows it even more. Bluetooth runs on 2.4 GHz and can interfere and degrade 2.4 GHz Wi-FI but up to now the mouse wheel has been essential for tuning the Flex.  This is no longer the case. 

A few months ago I had tried a free piece of software to replace the mouse called Touch-Mouse-Pointer but it didn't work very well.  The other day I was looking to see if there was an update and I discovered that Touch-Mouse-Pointer is now a component of Tablet-Pro in the Microsoft App Store.  It costs a few dollars but has been well worth it in its new, updated form.  The tablet version also offers the opportunity to download a desktop version which is included in the cost.  This is how I use it with SmartSDR and everything else on the tablet.  No more mouse to carry around.  I also use the tablet away from home using the free SoftEther VPN  server at home on my PC and connect to it with the built in VPN client in Windows 10 on the tablet. This combination operates my Flex from any decent Wi-Fi connection, including McDonalds.

In Tablet-Pro, be sure to adjust the settings so that "two-finger" scrolling simulates a mouse wheel.  Two-finger scrolling defaults to a combination "RClick+Wheel" mode which doesn't work well.  Also, scroll down the settings page and slow the scrolling down for easier fine tuning.

I use my index finger and thumb for scroll tuning.  These two work much better for me than my index and middle fingers as shown in the pictorials.

Now to the final step, the Push-To-Talk.  Up to this morning I had to click "MOX" on the SmartSDR window.  A small target to be sure.  As of today I use a microphone button for that purpose and it works great.

I've used the mic for a long time and the audio has been very good.  I started with the mic/earbud combination linked below after trying dozens of others types with varying poor audio quality reports and ear pain from the thing sticking in my ear for many hours of ham radio.  The Sundely Mic/Earphone uses the standard four conductor, 1/8" phone plug that fits most smartphones as well as the ThinkPad.

http://www.amazon.com/SUNDELY%C2%AE-Cancelling-Acoustic-Headphone-Blackberry/dp/B00DI3IER2/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459886628&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=FBI+Covert+Acoustic+Tube+Headset%2FEarpiece+For+Blackberry+Smartphone+Cell+Phone

Since the mic was so good but the earpiece so bad for my ear, I cut off the earpiece and soldered the wire to a "Ring" type earphone which sits on top of my ear, not in it.  I use the DM1 earphone from Workman Electronics for this. 

http://www.workmanelectronics.com/itemcatalog.htm

Up to now the PTT switch on the mic was useless but then I remembered AutoHotKey, a free Windows application that traps keyboard and button presses and triggers functions in the computer.  The script below traps the mic button and sends commands to SmartCAT over a virtual serial port.  There is no hardware.  Just follow the https://autohotkey.com/ WEB site instructions to download & install AutoHotKey.  Substitute your favorite SmartCAT COM port number in the script below in two places.  Copy & paste the script into Notepad but change the suffix from txt to ahk when you save it & it will become an AutoHotKey script.  Double click the ahk script & it will run.  You won't see anything but it should be working.  You can verify that it is running by looking in the Task Manager.

I wish you happy portable operating with this little thing.  I'm sure having fun with it.

It's is push/release to talk, then push/release to listen.  The switch shorts out the mic when held closed so true push-to-talk, release-to-listen isn't possible.  Despite this slight difference, it works very well.

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#NoEnv  ; Recommended for performance and compatibility with future AutoHotkey releases.
; #Warn  ; Enable warnings to assist with detecting common errors.
SendMode Input  ; Recommended for new scripts due to its superior speed and reliability.
SetWorkingDir %A_ScriptDir%  ; Ensures a consistent starting directory.
#InstallKeybdHook

Media_Play_Pause Up::
port := FileOpen("\\.\COM4", "w")  ; Open for writing only, not reading/appending.
port.Write("ZZTX1;")  ; Write an ASCII ZZTX1; to COM Port 4, SmartSDR CAT.

Media_Play_Pause::
port := FileOpen("\\.\COM4", "w")  ; Open for writing only, not reading/appending.
port.Write("ZZTX0;")  ; Write an ASCII ZZTX0; to COM Port 4, SmartSDR CAT.
return

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73,

Bob, W7KWS
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Posted 2 years ago

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Rob N4GA

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Great info Bob, thanks!
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Rob N4GA

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Bob - how do you find the battery life on the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 while running SSDR?

Thanks,

Rob
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Hi Rob...

Thanks for the positive feedback.

Sorry but I don't have good insight into the battery life. I use it plugged in almost all the time either in the living room or the RV. I'll see if I can develop an idea over the next few days & get back to you.
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Rob,


My one year old (to me), Mfgr. Refurbished Thinkpad 8 is getting just under three hours screen-on time while running SmartSDR the whole time along with other activities.
(Edited)
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Rob N4GA

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Bob - good info, thanks. This sounds like a nice inexpensive option for running SSDR all around your LAN.

Right now, I use DogParkSDR with my MacBook Air and while this works great, I'm always looking for alternatives and SSDR offers full control, where DPSDR has some limitations, which are no fault of Don's btw.

Another question if I may - can you run SSDR in the background with the screen turned off with the TP8?

Thanks,

N4GA
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Bob - W7KWS -

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Rob,

I've tried to turn off the display & continue listening to SSDR but so far I can't find a way to do it. The option doesn't appear in the Power Settings, only things like Dim, Sleep , Hybernate, Etc. Dimming to a very low level was as close as I could get in the time I have this morning.
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Rob N4GA

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Roger that Bob, thanks for the tests. Have a great weekend!