The FT-817 CAT and Digital Modes
We found the task of getting getting up and
going with the 817 on digital modes of operation to be a little daunting
as a beginner. It wasn't that the 817 isn't friendly or is overly
complex but rather it was rather time consuming to gather the
information we needed. That being the case here's what I've
learned all in one place in hopes it will help those who want to go
digital with their QRP rig.
software was where we started. We settled on Ham Radio Deluxe's
digital module DM780. We'd tried several other packages before
this such as DigiPan but found that since we already use HRD for
rig control and our logbook that DM780's integration into those
features was rather nice.
If you'd like to look at other packages
http://www.hamuniverse.com/hfdigitalmodessoftware.html has a good
summary of other packages out there.
While you should
be able to use just about any modern computer, PC or Mac, there are a
few additional things you should think about. Where you want to
operate, for how long, and what power sources will be available.
We use our FT-817 and KX3 almost exclusively off the grid, often times
while hiking and camping. We pride ourselves on being able to
run these rigs exclusively via solar. This being the case it
made sense to us that our computer needed to be able to do this too.
We found three different options that can be
run off of a 12VDC cigarette lighter socket, and thus portable solar
Dell makes an adapter model ADP-90ND which can
power many of their Latitude and other model laptops that require 90
watts or less to run. This is the larger power connector, not
the smaller ~1/8" ones on some of their newer laptops. We found
them available on Amazon and eBay.
Microsoft Surface and Surface Book.
Several thrid part manufactures make adapters that are suitable to
charge and power these units. We found them available on Amazon
Apple, inparticular the Macbook Air series.
Apple makes an auto/air power cable which is available from their
stores and online which can power their smaller, low power laptops.
When thinking about a computer for portable
and remote operations go for small and low power consumption.
Your computer will need more power than any other part of your
portable digital mode setup. It's best to start your operation
with a charged battery and a few spares if the battery is removable.
If not you'll need to augment your laptop's power with your solar
panels or plan operating periods based on how long your laptop can run
on its batteries. Optimizing your laptop for minimal power
consumption is also crittical. Close any programs you don't need
open, dim your display, limit your CPU's top speed, if your computer
has a secondary GPU for graphics disable it, and make sure you are
using a solid state disk rather than the older hard disk drives have
have motors to keep the platters spinning which use alot of power.
challenge we encountered is how in the world does one connect the
radio to their computer? Doing this for our base rig was easy,
the Icom IC-7600 has a USB port that connects directly to a computer
which enables both computer control and has a USB "sound card" built
If you choose to follow our path there are two
different connections you will need to make to your computer.
The first is the "CAT" connection as Yaesu calls it. The second
is the audio connections since most data modes take advantage of a
"sound card" type device to send and receive signals thru your radio.
CAT & Ham Radio Deluxe
The user manual was somewhat
helpful when it came to figuring what we needed to do. Too bad I didn't
think to look there until I started writting this article... The
clue that I needed to get rig control working was in the manual on page
70, the cable one needs is referred to as a CT-62 however the one
specified as an option available from Yaesu is 9-pin serial cable on the
computer side. Most modern computers no longer include a serial
port in favor of USB. Thankfully USB versions of the CT-62 are
available on Amazon and eBay but before you run off to buy one you may
already have one if you use RT Systems software to program the memories
on your FT-817. It turns out that the RT Systems USB-62C cable
works just fine for CAT and is of very good quality.
Please note that if you you plan to use an Elecraft KXPA100 amplifier
with your 817 that the required Elecraft "Y" cable does not seem to be
compatible with the RT Systems USB-62C. In this situation we
used the old CT-62 serial cable and a USB to Serial adapter. If
you want to copy our setup the USB to Serial cable has an identifier
of "UC-692 USB CONVERTER" on it. Their is nothing on our cable that
indicates a brand or supplier, an internet search found people selling
it but no specific manufacturer. It is compatible with Windows
XP thru 10 at this time.
When you plug your "62" cable in for the first time it should load
drivers automatically however you may need to download them and
install them manually from the cables vendor. During the installation
process note the com port number the cable has assined to it as you
will need to tell you radio control software what port to use.
Also make sure that "number" is not in use by any other com port.
Sometimes the computer blindly assigns a number that is already in use
which may cause problems in communications between your radio and the
computer. For Windows users you can find this information in
Device Manager. While checking the com port number also note the bit
rate. Our cable defaulted to 9600 baud we opted to use 38400.
On your FT-817, goto menu item "14 CAT Rate" and make sure it is set
to the same speed as your port.
The round end of the "62" cable connects to your radios "ACC" port.
Be mindful when connecting the cables to the back of your radio, the
"DATA" port is also round but has a different pin layout. If you
try to put the wrong cable in the wrong port it could cause the pins
in the cable to be bent or broken.
When you start Ham Radio Deluxe it prompts you setup or select the
radio to conntect to depending if its the first time its been run or
not. Assuming its the first time select the "New" tab. For
company select "Yaesu", under radio select "FT-817". Next to
"COM Port" enter the com port number we noted earlier from your "62"
cable. Next to "Speed" enter the baud rate you selected earlier,
we chose to use 38400 during the cable setup. The section for
"Flow Control/Interface power" we were able to leave both DTR and RTS
unchecked for the USB-62C cable. We needed to use both DTR and
RTS for the CT-62 serial cable. When this is done click the "Connect" button.
The software should test and connect to the radio at this point.
You should now be able to use HRD to change frequencies on your 817 as
well as change modes, VFO's, etc... If you start HRD's Logbook
module you should find that Logbook will read your operating frequency
and mode and automatically enter them when you go to log a contact.
When it comes to the cable for
RTTY/PSK31/etc the manual just gives you schematics which is ok if you
like to make your own and have all of the tools needed to do so.
We elected to use a SignaLink USB by TigerTronics. With
SignaLink USB there are only two connections to make, the USB cable to
your computer and the 6-pin DIN to the DAT port on the back of your
radio. SingnaLink also gives you TX/RX level controls and delay
adjustment on the fron of the unit. When ordering you need to
select the right part numbers for your radio(s) so you get the right
cables. The main unit part number for the FT817 is SLUSB6PM.
Jumper module SLMOD6PM or you can just use jumper wires.
TigerTronics useful support info:
The SignaLink support site for the 817 talks about adjusting the 26
User-U, 27 Digital Shift, 25 GID MIC, and 39 PKT MIC menu settings.
So far the factory default setting from Yaesu have been working fine
for us with any adjustment.. We also found that menu 40 PKT RATE
was already set at 1200. It's very possible these settings could
vary between the original FT-817 & FT-817ND models so you may need to
experiment if thedefault does not work.
Audio Setup in Software
We found that we needed to
tell Windows that the SingaLink USB audio device is to be the default
device when it's connected. To do this go into Control Panel and
select Sound. On the Playback tab for Speakers select "USB Audio
CODEC" then click the "Set Default" button. When SignaLink is
not connected Windows will automatically default back to the built in
In the Digital Master 780 module of HRD you will need to HRD what
sound devices it should use for what. If you are using a
SignaLink USB then here are the settigns you'll need to change.
To start, click the "Soundcard" icon near the top left of the screen,
the SOundcard frame opens up. In the frames lower left corner
click "Options". For "Input (Receive) select "Microphone (USB
Audio CODEC)" for "Output (Transmit)" select "Speakers (USB Audio
CODEC)", you can now close this window.
In our experiece, for whatever reason, we found that we now needed to
exit HRD and all of its modules and reboot the computer for the
selection of the USB Audio CODEC to actually take place and begin
working the first time. This was the case for both our portable
laptop and the desktop for our base station.
That's about it in a nutshell. Neither of us are experts when it
comes to operating digital modes, at least not at the time of this
writting. The info we shared above is what got us on the air
operating digital with our FT-817ND. If we got something wrong
or could be doing something better please feel free to share with us.
You can find our email via QRZ.com.