Miscellaneous required equipment:
Once you get into remoting you will find that the devil is in the details.
What do you do if the IP address at your remote location changes?
What do you do if the computer hangs?
What do you do if the rotor control won’t work?
What about monitoring your Power output and SWR?
Do you want to monitor the linear?
Do you have a SteppIr antenna that you need to control remotely?
What do you do when your internet modem or router at the remote site hangs and only power cycling will reboot it and get it working again? (Remember you are miles away and in this case, you cant connect to your remote site at all. All you know is that your remote site won’t respond.)
First I recommend a basic computer at your remote site. You will need this to run the radio control program, to be the recipient of the Skype call, to run auxiliary programs to monitor, etc.
I would clean the computer of all unneeded programs and turn Windows update off or set to manual. Go basic with antivirus. Try to keep the system as clean as possible. Anything that can go wrong, etc. and what goes wrong may be 1,000 miles away. Donxt forget Malwarebytes.
Rotating IP addresses:
Many ISPs provide rotating IP addresses and not fixed or static IP addresses.
This is like the phone company changing your phone number at will and without telling you of the change. So, if your remote is 1,000 miles away and there is no one there to help figure out why your remote won’t respond ..what do you do?
A simple answer is to use TeamViewer to keep track of your current IP address. If your provider changes your IP address, TeamViewer tracks this in real time. You would just connect to your remote computer using TeamViewer, bring up your browser on your remote computer and type www.whatismyip.com in the address line. The web page will readout your current external IP address at your remote site.
Another option is www.DynDns.com. This is a service that gives you a unique URL which links through their service that tracks your remotes external IP address. You create a URL such as www.wa6icb.homeip.net within their service. Then no matter what your ISP does, you would always be able to connect using www.wa6icb.homeip.net. This DynDns linking tracking is now built into the Remote Rig box set up program.
Remote desktop software:
I really like TeamViewer and it is free for personal use. TeamViewer even has a built in VOIP. I have not used the VOIP except for a quick test but it is there and perhaps it is all you need. I have had success with SKYPE so I’ve stayed with it.
There are many remote desktop programs today: GoToMyPC.com; Logmein.com; Remote Desktop (on all windows computers); SplashTop and more. Some are free. Pick one you like. I keep two different access programs active. There have been times when one program does not work due to some system outage. When your remote fails to respond, you will need to eliminate possible failure points. More back up systems are better than less.
I have used SKYPE for years and get great audio reports. www.Remaud.com is a VOIP program written just for hams and I am told it works great. There are many others.
CAT programs to control your remote radio:
This depends a lot on what radio you are using as a remote. If using Kenwood, the Kenwood ARCP programs are mostly free and work fine. They are basic CAT programs and only control the radio. HRD, N4PY, TRX manager, etc. have many more features. These more advanced CAT programs also have the ability to split in two and have a control end and a server. The server runs on your remote computer. I have not done this but it does work. I like the remote desktop system where I only have one piece of a CAT program running. But, give it a try.
The devil is in the details…… or how to turn the radio on and off remotely:
This is one of the first issues you will run into with some radios. Kenwood is great with CAT software. You just push the on or off button on the remote computer screen and the radio goes on or off.
The K3 will turn off but not back on. (You will need to have an external relay to ground pin 8 of the Aux connector on the back of the radio to bring it back on.) Some radios can be left in the xon position and you just turn the 12v supply on and off..see Digital Loggers below.
For a good basic remote I recommend Kenwood radios such as the 2000, 480, 590, etc. I have even remoted a new 990. I have also remoted Yaesu and Icom radios. Each is a bit different but all worked.
I have been using a little free program xLPRotor from TelePostInc for my HamM/4 series rotors with an RS232 board installed in the rotor control box. Another great program is from Codrut, YO3DMU, called PstRotatorAz. This is a very flexible and expanded function rotor control program. I think it costs a few dollars and is worth it. Codrut provides prompt tech support via email.
Digital Loggers www.digital-loggers.com
These people make IP addressable AC plug strips. The basic model has 8 110VAC plugs that can be switched on and off or cycled remotely. This is great since you will find it necessary to reboot your computer (by pulling the plug) or power cycling a device such as a Remote Rig box, etc. These devices cost about $120. You can access this device directly from any browser and control any outlet.
Monitoring your transmitter output and SWR.
There are many remote reading watt meters now available but one I have used and really like is from www.wavenode.com. This device will also help with other functions that will be handy.
Aube CT240 phone controller:
What do you do if you really need to reboot (power cycle) your remote cable modem? We normally just unplug the power supply give it 30 seconds plug it back in and this fixes most issues. The same is true with routers. But, if your cable or DSL modem is hung you cant connect at all and it could be 1,000 miles away. So, if possible, have a work around. If you have a standard telephone line available you can install an Aube CT240 Phone Controller. The Aube controller has four SPDT relays that can be controlled from any touch tone phone/cell phone. Run one leg of the power wire low voltage from the wall plug transformer through one of the relays to the modem and do the same for the router. Use the NC contacts. If you need to interrupt the power to the modem or the router, call your Aube controller from a phone and use touch tones to cycle one of the relays that pulls the plug to the device.
There are now alarm company supplied devices that will accomplish the same dry contact relay function from the cell network. Any device that will turn on/off a lamp will work.
There may be more. Just search for some device that will allow you to control a relay without using the internet. Remember, its not responding right now. This is a function you will need at some point in time. If there is a person at your remote site, you can talk to someone on the phone and walk them thru a reset, etc.
As you develop your remote you will run into issues that will need a solution.
No problem put your thinking cap on and figure it out. After all, it is why we are in this hobby. We are tinkers.
Stuck? Ask on the air, send me an email, I am here to help.
Good luck and 73.