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TR LOG in the RTTY Sprint

How To Set Up TR LOG for RTTY

Let's assume you already have a TNC (Terminal Node Controller) or TU (Terminal Unit) hooked up to a serial port, so the question really is: how do you set up LOGCFG.DAT to use the TNC? I started out from my LOGCFG.DAT file for the CW Sprint. First, you need to add the following two lines:


This assumes that your TNC is connected to COM1. As far as I can tell, the RTTY port in TR LOG is fixed at 4800 baud, so you may have to reprogram your TNC's data rate to match (unless it has an autobaud feature.) You should probably add:


These config lines are important, as the TNC incoming and outgoing data uses up the space where either of these would appear. It may be possible to have two of these windows active in the same LOGCFG.DAT file, but my guess is that you would have on-screen interference between the visible dupesheet and the TNC window. In a multi-mode contest like Field Day, you might want to use the band map in CW and SSB, and only have the TNC window active in RTTY, but this may be one of those "rough edges" that only sort of works. Next, add:


This ensures that your serial number exchanges come out as expected (cut numbers or short integers like ATN for 109 don't make any sense in RTTY.) Three-digit serial numbers take marginally longer than shorter ones, but they are more predictable and stand out better in noisy conditions.

The next set of changes applies only to the RTTY Sprint, not to other RTTY contests. This is because you are allowed to work dupes in this contest, provided there are at least three intervening QSOs in both logs (what I did during the contest was check whether the call sign was visible in TR LOG's on-screen log window, figuring that if it was, we were too close - that beat figuring out whether there were 2, 3 or 4 intervening QSOs.)


There will also be changes needed to the various memories and messages, but I'll leave that out for the moment. First, we need to make sure that the hardware setup will work.

Checking Out the Hardware

Use Alt-M to change modes until you are in digital mode. That switches my TS-850 into FSK mode. I don't know whether TR LOG can support AFSK. If you've got the serial ports working, when you switch the TNC on you should see something, even if it's only rubbish, in the TNC window. When you press F10 when TR LOG is in digital mode (as distinct from CW or SSB), anything you type after that is sent to the TNC. This includes the Enter key, which does not terminate keyboard input (unlike CW.) This is a good thing, because you will probably need to be able to send a carriage return to the TNC without terminating the keyboard input. The only way to terminate keyboard input is to press the Esc key (F10 doesn't take you out of keyboard input.)

With my MFJ-1278, after pressing F10 and turning the TNC on, I have to press Enter a few times to get the TNC to recognize the baud rate. I then enter the commands needed to put it into the correct configuration: MODE HB, 45 to select RTTY, RADIO 2 to select the HF radio, and K to take the TNC out of its command mode, before pressing Esc. Other types of TNC or TU will have commands with similar functions, as appropriate. You may have to specify the RTTY SEND STRING and RTTY RECEIVE STRING parameters in LOGCFG.DAT to values appropriate to your TNC as well. The defaults work with the MFJ.

If all this works, you should be able to tune to an RTTY signal and see it in the TNC window. One very nice feature in TR LOG is a small window at the bottom that shows the same incoming characters in the other figures/letters mode. This will translate all those annoying TOO PPQ exchanges that happen when the sent FIGS character is hit by noise into 599 001 and so on. To transmit, you can just hit F10 and start to type. Press Esc to go back to receive mode.

Programming the CQ and Exchange Memories

There are two aspects of RTTY that are different from CW, and affect how you program the memories.

The first difference is that when there is no signal, the other station's TNC will probably convert random noise into random characters, or "garble." To separate your message clearly from the garble, it's a good idea to start and end your messages with a space or two, or even a carriage return. TR LOG ends its messages with a carriage return, but the RTTYer's habit of ending all messages with a space and one or two K's is probably not a bad idea either, in case the carriage return gets hit by a noise burst. It's also a good idea not to make your messages too short, or they will be lost in the garble.

The second difference is that there is no way to identify who sent a message from the sound alone, as there often is in CW. This suggests that more messages should include your call sign than would be the case in CW.

In CW, you can begin and end messages with _ to force TR LOG to insert a space. Unfortunately, this doesn't work in RTTY; the _ is passed through to the TNC, which will probably ignore it (there is no such character in the Baudot character set.) Some of the other special characters used in CW messages don't work either ( ^, +, <, =, ! and &.) The control characters in Table 3 of the manual seem to work, but the ones to control speed, weight and various length dits and dahs do not work. They are passed on unchanged to the TNC, and may have undesired effects, so it is best to remove them from the programmed messages.

You can insert special characters in CQ MEMORIES F1-F9 and EX MEMORIES F3-F9 by using the syntax. I have found <20> (space) and <0D> (carriage return) to be useful. However, these do not work in the "Other" messages (Alt-P-O menu); they get passed through to the TNC, except for the > which zeros your radio's RIT.

Some useful lines from my RTTY Sprint config file:

CQ EXCHANGE = DE \ # name state K
S&P EXCHANGE = @ NR # name state DE \ K
CQ MEMORY F3 = <20>) NR # # name name state state DE \ K
EX MEMORY F3 = <20>@ NR # # name name state state DE \ K   

TR LOG automatically sends the other station's callsign and a space before this message. In some RTTY contest software, the DE tags the following word as a call sign, which can speed up the other guy's response, and the trailing K separates your exchange from garble. Unlike CW, where a simple EE or R or TU will do the job, in the RTTY Sprint most stations were using some variant on the above QSL message. In a non-Sprint contest, you would put QRZ? in place of the QSY. The reason for the last two config lines is that the F2 exchange memory does not yet work in TR LOG's RTTY mode. That means there is no way to send the REPEAT S&P EXCHANGE. My solution to this problem was to program it into the F3 memories as above.

I also programmed short messages to resend the exchange elements into EX MEMORIES F4-F6, and queries asking for repeats of the same elements into CQ MEMORIES F4-F6. That took care of most requirements for fills, and you can take care of the rest (questions in EX mode and fills in CQ mode) with ALTF4-ALTF6. As usual, in both EX and CQ I used F9 as a general repeat request.

The default CQ messages in CQ MEMORIES F1 and F2 needed a bit of work. The Alt-A and Alt-B don't do any harm (they're there for SO2R), but the Alt-F and Alt-S should be removed, and the ^ changed to a full space.

During the Contest

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the way the computer setup worked (how the rest of my station works in the Sprint is a different story!) I'll probably use this setup again in other RTTY contests where TR LOG can handle the scoring. If there are any with unusual scoring (ANARTS springs to mind), well, I still have a copy of WF1B RTTY, and I can try to set that up to work as similarly as possible to TR LOG.

73, -- Rich VE3IAY

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Last updated: 26 January 2006