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FAQ: Digital Interfaces

Digital Interface FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)


QUESTIONS:

Do I really need an interface to run digital modes? I have a friend who just hooked two wires between his computer and radio and he runs PSK31 and SSTV without an interface. No, you don't absolutely need an interface. However, if you only run wires between your computer and radio, you run the possibility of having both expensive pieces of equipment destroyed by a ground loop (which does happen often), or stray voltages, or single energy spike. An interface offers you the protection of isolating the two from such spikes and stray voltages. I have seen what a stray energy spike can do to both the computer and radio and it is usually terminal for both pieces of equipment.

Why do I need an interface that is made for my radio? Won't just any interface do? Most radios have different pinouts on micsockets or data ports. Some need larger or smaller dropping resistors in the audio lines to bring the audio to a manageable level. Some use blocking capacitors which will not allow feedback voltages from the micline. In short, most radios are different from others, so you need an interface designed and built for your radio.

Why don't you use printed circuit boards in your interfaces? In a word ... to keep the cost of the interface down. The circuit board used is small and has very few circuits on it, making point to point wiring a plus.

What sockets do I plug into on my computer sound card? The red plug from our interface plugs into the line out or speaker port on your computer. The black plug on our interface plugs into the line in or microphone port on your computer. If you need to hear your speaker while using our interface, use a "Y" stereo connector which will allow you to plug the interface cable and your speakers into the same port on your computer at the same time.

What computer operating system(s) will your interfaces work with? Our interfaces will work with all operating systems: Windows 98, 2000, ME, XP, Vista, and 7, MAC, and LINUX. The interfaces don't care what operating system your computer is using. However the software you choose may have limitations, so be sure to check that the software program you choose will work with your operating system. As new operating systems come out some older digital software programs take a while before the software manufacturer upgrades them to work with the latest operating systems. If you have a problem with a software program not working (in whole or part) with your operating system, please contact the software manufacturer, not us. We can not help you with specific software problems.

Why do your interfaces connect to the computer through a serial port instead of a USB port? Because the digital software programs require you to set a serial/comm port number for PTT. The software programs will not allow you to use a USB port. Someday maybe they will, but for now we have to use serial/comm port connections. If your computer does not have a serial port, you can use a USB port if you also purchase a USB to serial port adapter. We make these adapters available for our customers to purchase if they need them, but you can actually purchase one at a local computer store or you may already have one. As long as the USB to serial adapter works with your computer's operating system, our interfaces should work with it.

Can I use VOX with your interface? Yes, but some radios (and some software programs) will not allow VOX to be used with their ACC or data ports, so make sure your radio allows VOX to be used with the port a digital interface plugs into.

I am using a Rig Control Interface and a Digital Modes Interface together. Can I use the "PTT through Rig Control" setting on my software with your interface? Yes, but make sure your radio will allow it. Some radios will not allow you to use any port for PTT except the ACC or DATA port when using a digital interface.

I sold the radio I bought your digital interface to work with and/or bought a new radio. Can I alter your digital interface to use on two radios, or change it so it will connect to a different radio? In some cases this is possible. It depends on the radios you are wanting to use it for. We will be happy to answer any questions you have about this by e-mail. However, please remember ... Donner's Country Crafts LLC makes digital interfaces to work with specific radios. Any alteration of an interface is at the customer's own risk and Donner's Country Crafts LLC is not responsible for results that may make the interface unusable or may harm any radio or computer the altered interface is used with.

TROUBLE SHOOTING

We can not supply answers for specific computer, radio, or software problems. You should always consult the manual for your specific computer or radio, and the documentation that comes with whichever software programs you decide to use. However, we have noted some general problems that seem to come up for first time interface users. The list below may be helpful if you are experiencing problems.

PROBLEM: When I plug the interface into the radio and computer, it immediately goes into transmit mode and locks in transmit.
SOLUTION 1: The serial port on your computer is locked by some other software program (for instance, a digital camera program, or any program that uses that serial port). Try rebooting your computer to unlock the port, or use a different serial port that isn't already controlled by a software program.
SOLUTION 2: You may not have something turned on/off or set properly in your radio's menu. Please consult your radio's manual.
SOLUTION 3: You may have something turned on/off in the software program. Please consult the software manual.


PROBLEM:When I transmit, nothing happens.
SOLUTION: Check your software setup. Make sure you have the commport set for an available comm port on your computer and your sound card has nothing set to mute.(see the TUTORIALS section on our website for information on how to determine your computer's comm port number.)

PROBLEM: I can hear signals through my radio speaker, but nothing appears on my computer screen from the software program.
SOLUTION: Check your computer soundcard settings to make sure you do NOT have anything set on MUTE.

PROBLEM: My Push to talk does not work when I click on the TX button in the software.
SOLUTION: Make sure you have the software set for an available comm port and for switching via RTS. (DO NOT USE DTR!) (see the TUTORIALS section on our website for information on how to determine your computer's comm port number.)

PROBLEM: I have a Yaesu radio and am using the dataport but nothing seems to work.
SOLUTION: On many Yaesu radios you have to turn the dataport ON in the radio's menu. Please consult your radio's manual for how to do this.

PROBLEM: I have a Kenwood radio using the 13 pin ACC port and am trying to do PTT through my rig control instead of the digital interface, but no audio sound goes out when I hit TX in the software program.
SOLUTION: With Kenwood radios using the 13 pin ACC port you need to use PTT through the digital interface (NOT THROUGH THE RIG CONTROL), because the PTT on the ACC port automatically turns off the microphone and then allows the audio to go out through your radio's ACC port. Otherwise the microphone is not switched off and the radio will not allow audio to be transmitted through the ACC port.

PROBLEM: I am using a digital interface and a rig control interface, but I only have one serial port on my computer.
SOLUTION: The easiest solution to this problem is to simply purchase a USB to serial port adapter. We can not make an interface that hooks directly to a USB port because the software programs REQUIRE a comm/serial port setting within the software program to use PTT. Therefore you MUST have a serial/comm port on your computer. The best and quickest way to handle this is to purchase a USB to serial port adapter. This adapter tells your computer to think the USB port is an actual serial port and assigns it a number that you can set in your software program for PTT.

PROBLEM: I purchased a USB to serial port adapter from you and plugged it in, but it does not work.
SOLUTION: Install the driver from the CD that came with the adapter. The CD is often located between the cardboard in the adapter package. Please look for it. It is a small CD and is often discarded with the packing materials. (see the TUTORIALS section on our website for information on how to install the driver for the USB to serial port adapter.)

Summary:In short, all our interfaces that you purchase are checked before being shipped. More often than not, problems arise from not having a comm port on your computer set properly, or sound cards that are not setup properly. And in some cases problems arise from not reading the setup docs for software you are trying to use, or a general misunderstanding of how your equipment operates. If you are having trouble setting up your software or radio, consider joining one of our forums ... either on Facebook or Yahoo Groups and asking your questions there (or look for a forum for your radio or software program). We have setup these forums because we can not own every radio made and can not provide information about specific software programs. Other customers who have the same radio or same software or computer that you do may be able to help you setup your particular equipment. It is our hope that our customers will be willing to post information about specific radios, computers, and software programs that will help other customers. People helping people is one of our goals here at Donner's Country Crafts LLC.
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