SmartCAT broken

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  • Problem
  • Updated 3 months ago
Every time I try to add a CAT serial port, SmartCAT gives me an error message:

The Virtual Serial Port (VSP) failed to create. Double check the Serial Port Settings.

Flex 6700
Smart SDR 2.3.9
Windows 10 Pro 1803 74-bit

When I look at device manager, I see two devices under unknown:
FabulaTech_VirtualPort_10
FabulaTech_VirtualPort_110

If I try to remove these devices, and scan for hardware changes, they always comeback.

On the Windows Control Panel Devices, screen, my computer shows up with an error badge. When I run the troubleshooter, it says:

FabulaTech_VirtualPort_10 doesn't have a driver, and
FabulaTech_VirtualPort_110 doesn't have a driver

I have a Timewave Navigator and Elecraft USB serial port (both of which use FTDI drivers) and a standalone FTDI USB serial port installed.

I saw a similar message and the reply was to open a help desk ticket. I went to www.flexradio.com and didn't see an option to create a help desk ticket under support.

One other thing. Based on security recommendations, I have two user accounts for my PC. The one I use for day-to-day operations, including SmartSDR, does not have administrative privileges. I have an administrative account I use to install programs. I tried created ports in SmartCAT while logged on as administrator. That didn't help. 

Help!
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Mark Erbaugh

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Posted 3 months ago

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Jay / NO5J

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Mark
I can fix your problem, I'm available in the #Flexradio IRC channel on Freenode. 

    #FlexRadio IRC chat

For real-time discussions

        SDRgadgets

User created documentation.
           Volunteer!!

         73, Jay - NO5J

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Mark Erbaugh

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With Jay's help (and a very long IRC session), the problem has been resolved.

We tried lots of things, but here's the steps that solved the problem:

Uninstall SSDR
Use Device Remover (3rd party Device Manager) to remove the unknown FabulaTech_VirtualPort devices.
In Windows Services disable the Virtual Serial Port Kit service (for some reason this wasn't removed as part of the uninstall), otherwise this service recreates the VirtualPort devices
Reinstall SSDR
Reenable the VSP service.


Here's what I did that probably contributed to the problem in the first place:

At the monthly Dayton ARA General meeting Friday night, we had a presentation by a cybersecurity expert. One of the things he mentioned is that for routine use on a PC, the user should not be running with administrative permission. The idea is that if you do something stupid like click on a phishing link, the malware won't have administrative access. So I went into the computer I use with the Flex and added a new user with administrative permission and removed the administrative permission from my regular user.

Prior to the admin change, I had done a complete uninstall of SSDR. I even went into the Device Manager and removed all devices associated with SmartCAT and SmartDAX.

I then installed SSDR using the administrative user. I appears that SmartCAT keeps track of the created serial ports per user. My guess is that if I had installed as the original user, the install program would have updated the saved port settings, but since I installed as a different user, it didn't erase those settings for the original user. Compounding the issue, I had installed new devices on the machine and the port number that had been previously used (COM10) was already taken up. The service blindly tried to create a COM10 and had an error, so the device was partially installed.


Another thing we found. Again my computer is a little different. This computer has a SSD for Drive C and a regular hard drive for Drive D. I install most of my programs (including SSDR) to a Program Files folder on Drive D, not the usual Drive C. Even though I told the SSDR Installer, to install to drive D, it looks like it installed the FlexVSP stuff to Drive C.


Hopefully, this may help people who run into similar issues in the future. Perhaps someone from Flex can flesh out the install and uninstall procedure to explain the items that we found.


Thanks again to Jay for all his help. Everything seems to be working again, although I haven't tested any DAX stuff yet.


73,
Mark


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Andy - KU7T

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Hi Mark,

if this indeed is the case, this would be a bug on the installer for SmartCAT. I believe SmartCAT and SmartSDR are applications like many others that should run without elevation (installer needs admin privileges off course). 

One thing to note. With a current Windows OS, you do not necessarily need to run with a user that is not member of the Administrators group. All you need to do is let the UAC do its work. UAC is the thing that pops up when you really need to do administrative action.  So, I usually log in as a user that is member of the Administrators group, but I am very careful when the UAC pops up to ask me. That's the time when you want to make sure you know what you are doing...  And off course, never run apps that you do not need to in elevated (run as).  A few older ham radio apps need to be run elevated... but never a browser off course.

Thanks and 73
Andy
KU7T
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Gary L. Robinson

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I had almost the same exact problem 2 days ago and just uninstalled and reinstalled SmartSDR, DAX,CAT,VSP (latest versions) and it made me able to create new virtual ports.  I also saw the FabulaTech items but they did not see to be be causing problems at this time.  However, since it is painless to uninstall and reinstall (and get settings + profiles back from backups) I may do it again and get Device Remover to get rid of the FabulaTech entries.

Thanks for info Mark!

---Gary WB8ROL
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Jay / NO5J

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It's my understanding, that most first time SmartSDR installs, seem to just work correctly, barring hardware issues or, back panel connection errors. That's a good thing. Where we usually begin seeing problems is later on, say after a botched SmartSDR uninstall or as in this case a change in how windows is setup, and operated.

What I try to do before admitting defeat, is to take any and every step to return the PC back to the state it was in before that first time SmartSDR install. Which means a full, clean, and total uninstall of SmartSDR, https://helpdesk.flexradio.com/hc/en-us/articles/204975589-How-to-do-a-Complete-uninstall-of-SmartSDR-for-Windows-from-your-PC , along with any and every SmartSDR created virtual device, or service, along with any leftover *.settings files in %appdata\Flexradio Systems that are installed. Then after rebooting the PC, and then doing a thorough recheck that everything has been removed, I then reinstall SmartSDR. 

I can't stress enough the importance of removing all the Virtual DAX devices, and SmartCAT com ports, along with any Ghosted/Broken virtual devices, prior to running the SmartSDR installer to reinstall. Any ghosted leftovers tend to create device problems that are best fixed before any reinstallation of SmartSDR.

As far as user permissions go, I now try to avoid using Administrator privileges first, on the off chance that they won't be necessary, but if they are I don't have any issue with just right clicking the installers and selecting "Run as Administrator" to elevate my normal user to Admin.

I use Device Remover, "Run as Administrator", simply because unlike windows Device Manager, it doesn't hide hidden/detached devices by default. It also allows you to remove multiple selected devices in mostly a single operation. However be cautious with it. Carefully, only select the devices that you intend to destroy. It does give you a chance to bail out before any unintended destruction though. Just be careful, A full system image backup, is a beautiful thing to have, if you do anything incorrectly.  

Most times, this kind of drastic clean up probably won't be necessary, It's usually only after a failed upgrade, update or user created mess, has caused a problem.

It kind of all depends on whatever problems you run into trying this, and knowing how to get around them.

If your new to any of this get help first, maybe even someone to step you through this the first time.

I'm always connected to the #Flexradio IRC channel, and may even be at the keyboard quite often. and don't mind stepping anyone through this by text in IRC, or Google Hangouts video chat, a phone call, or using TeamViewer. Reboots will be required along the way and I need you around after any reboot.
       

    #FlexRadio IRC chat

For real-time discussions

        SDRgadgets

User created documentation.
           Volunteer!!

         73, Jay - NO5J

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N6NBD

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I've dicovered the problem is not with HRD. It is with the Flexradio FlexVSP program. If I restart or re-boot my machine HRD can't reconnect to the assigned port.
The solution is to go to the Flex Cat program and removed the port assigned for HRD, then go into control panel/programs and uninstall FlexVSP.
Restart or re-boot, reinstall FlexVSP then add the port back into the Flex Cat program. HRD connects fine. I will contact FlexRadio about this problem.