The total remote shack

As I bought as my second radio – the very famous ICOM IC-7300. ICOM offered also their RS-BA1 Version 2 remote control software, which I ordered too. This, so I thought, would offer me the functionality to control the ICOM IC-7300 from a remote site. Yes it does, but at technical level I do not accept. First of all, the remote client is not available on MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux etc.. Second I have to request a dynamic DNS name which than connects from the outside by name (i.e. IC7300.dyndns.org) and adjusts the outside IP-Number of my DSL-Router every-time my provider changes it (every 24h), that the client software can find IC7300.dyndns.org and connects to the inside of my private (home) network. To allow this, I have to enable port-forwarding on the DSL-Router from the outside to the “Server” part of the RS-BA1 Software internally. This is what I do not want for security reasons and due to the limitations I described before.

For this reason I decided for a different remote control software, developed by a German company named TeamViewer (no patriotism here), which is used basically by each and every support organisation worldwide, what the installed base of 2 billion (!) TeamViewer ID’s shows. TeamViewer gives full control over a computer, mobile-phone or tablet, even a Raspberry-Pi and in both direction. That means you can control a mobile from your Mac or your Mac from your mobile. Some combinations make no sense of course, as the screen resolution does not really match, even if it basically works.

In terms of security with TeamViewer you do not have to open the firewall of the DSL-Router, TeamViewer uses a broker-mechanism which both, the controlling and the controlled device use to find and communicate to each other. When you run TeamViewer , you are assigned an ID on their broker server. You make a connection to a TeamViewer ID, and TeamViewer passes the connection down through the TeamViewer client’s established tunnel to the destination and you then you are prompted for password and then the connection establishes.

As I know TeamViewer for decades and know how easy it is to install and run, that was my choice to get the maximum out of my constellation consisting of the shack-pc, Mac’s, tablets, smartphones and I can use and show my stuff from any machine in the world where TeamViewer (compatible version) is installed. As it is cost free for private use it is a no brainer even more. Installed, tested, works as expected – next step.

As for my 5 year old iPad the latest version of TeamViewer was not available (the reason is not TeamViewer, it is the iOS on the iPad, which is no longer supported by Apple – no updates available – no TeamViewer possible), I bought a new Samsung Tablet with Android, which runs extremely well. But TeamViewer does not support audio in/out on this device. The reason is not clear to me, as others can use audio in/out on the tablet and TeamViewer supports audio in/out on most of the devices supported. I tested with Skype on the PC and on the android tablet and it worked even better as the TeamViewer sound on other devices. Skype has in all cases much lower latency in sound than TeamViewer has. OK, problem solved, plus service quality gained.

Another problem was that I could not switch the sound on the shack-PC on, as TeamViewer prohibits this “for security reasons and privacy”. Skype does not care, another good reason to use Skype for this project.

When you install Skype this way, you should create another user, just for this purpose which runs only on your Shack-PC.

Important settings in TeamViewer and Skype for unattended access are:

In TeamViewer check under Unattended Access the box “Start TeamViewer with System”. Each time the computer (or device) starts, TeamViewer is loaded in the background. Next, click on the “refresh” symbol and TeamViewer will give you choices regarding passwords, choose “Set personal password”. On the next page, type in the password twice and click OK, not “Configure” and you have now a password which works every time. (Windows Version, does not work when the remote machine is MacOS) In Skype “General Settings” switch “On close, keep Skype running” on. Further more make sure that Skype starts with the system (your PC for instance), in my case (Win7) I place a program shortcut of Skype into the Startup Folder in the menu. In Skype “Audio & Video Settings” switch “unmute for incoming calls” on.

Note: Please understand that I can and will not answer any questions or issues regarding the ideas I give here. I do not have a support organisation and definitely not the time. Supporting many different operating systems, hardware constellations and software versions worldwide is out of my scope. Google helps you when you ask correctly. Of course if you find a mistake in my descriptions, let me know via the comment page below, that I can correct – TIA !

OK what do we have so far:

  • A Microsoft Windows 7 professional SP1, correctly patched (bullocks, it’s windows)
  • HAM-Radio Software installed
  • SignaLink Drivers installed (USB <> Serial)
  • CAT-Cable and Drivers installed (USB <> Serial)
  • ICOM IC-7300 USB Cable installed (USB Drivers installed)
  • ICOM RS-BA1 Version 2 correctly installed (for IC-7300 in just connected to this PC) see Section 2 – CONFIGURING THE SYSTEM THROUGH A CABLE of the ICOM Software Manual
  • Skype and TeamViewer installed and correctly configured for unattended access

If you are done with that, you should be able to hear stations from your ICOM IC-7300 through the speaker of your PC, if you click with the mouse the “transmit” button in the RS-BA1 Software it should transmit and when you speak through the microphone of the PC (!) when the radio transmits I am pretty sure nothing is going out. Welcome to the glorious Microsoft world with it’s limitations. The reason is and whatever settings you use on the ICOM Radio, the signal is flat, as you can not route the microphone’s audio without additional software to the USB Audio input of the ICOM.

And even if I would name here the software I have tested, it will give you also sleepless nights due to latencies and the problems which will arise when using audio routing software in general. It took me 2 full weeks to find out that all I have tried ended up in depressions. Either the software is to mighty or does not run stable. The only thing which worked well and is free – but is limited to one radio alone, is one from Kenwood: ARUA. With this one you can route the radios USB audio output (speaker) or input (microphone) to the input or output of other windows audio channels. If the time allows me I may create a separate post with the other software, their complexity and caveats.

I have not mentioned the YAESU FT-857D as it is even worse with it and the SignaLink USB Modem. But we will solve it in the Audio section. But anyway here is a video of a connection with TeamViewer to my Shack-PC. Click on the Screen-Recording Window below, and play.

 

 

What you see is to the right the ICOM RS-BA1 version 2 Software and left the X-Air Software for my Behringer XR-18 digital mixer.

But, what we do not have:

  • A PC which starts up automatically when power is restored.
  • Windows 7 does not require a login, as we can not remotely type the password in (TeamViewer starts after a login).
  • Something we can switch off and switch on the power of the PC (SmartHome stuff).

Automatic start of the PC when power is restored

This requires modifications in the BIOS setting of the PC. A very good description how to do that can be found here. To test, shutdown your computer, remove the power cable, wait a bit and plug it back in. The computer should now start by itself, but will stop of course at the login screen, waiting fo the password. The procedure on how to disable the password question at bootup is described here. Now comes the last part. How to switch the PC on and off. For this, you best use a smartswitch which is offered from many brands. I found a very good description at YouTube and if you read the comment section under the video you get all information and links where to order and download the needed software. The YouTube Video can be found here. I personally use Alexa’s in my home, where the Alexa application on my tablet and smartphone is used to write the routines for this. If you do not want this (it is not difficult, but complex if not used to such things), use the application which is mentioned in the video, as it does what it shall do just for the purpose of switching switch(es) on and off on a tip with your finger.

What is the correct process to switch your Shack-PC on and off ?

As windows is sensitive to power loss, you should ALWAYS shut down your computer properly which can also be done through TeamViewer in the normal way as you’re home. Once the PC is shut down you are fine and you may switch the power off through the smartswitch, than you only have to switch it through the smartswitch on the next time you want to have your PC ready for a remote connection. But you don’t have to switch it off directly after shutdown, you can also switch-off when the PC was shutdown short before you want to to have it start. To do so (PC is properly shut down) switch off the PC by the smartswitch, wait a few seconds and switch the smartswitch on again. After the normal time the PC needs to start up completely, you should be able to log in remotely via TeamViewer and than Skype or vice versa. You can also have the mixer connected to the same on/off smartswitch power circuit. But the mixer is designed to run and run and run like a Volkswagen beetle and I have it run all the time.

What is the correct process to log in remotely ?

As your PC is not configured to come up when the power is switched on and logs in without asking for a password, you’re ready. Furthermore as you have done the configuration for Skype and TeamViewer correctly, both applications are ready for connection. The Shack-PC’s TeamViewer has a unique ID and Password (listed under “Allow Remote Control), which you can use each time or the permanent password you have given in the installation steps above. Type the ID into the TeamViewer Application on the machine you want to connect from under “Control Remote Computer” and make sure that the “remote control box” is checked and click “Connect”. The system will ask you for the password if the connection can be established. If all is good, you will be connected. Skype is much easier. Open the Skype on the Computer which will control the remote controller and call the remote computers Skype ID. Skype will hook up automatically and you should hear sound and what you talk into the microphone will be send to the remote computer. If you can not connect Skype to your Radio use the Kenwood ARUA Software mentioned before, with a link to the download. With ARUA you can connect Radio and Skype permanently that every-time you connect with Skype you hear your radio and you can talk to the microphone of your remote device and when PTT is pressed it goes to air.