SKCC 5123T----- FISTS 14979----- Flying Pigs 2331----- NAQCC 3610-----QRP ARCI 14176-----Polar Bear 257

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Android Adventures with the KX3

I am doing a better job on portable QSO logging with the help of the HamLog App and the Piglet from Pigology. The App runs on any Android device. The Piglet interfaces to the Acc1 plug on the KX3 and makes the serial rig data accessible via WiFi. Initially, I used my Galaxy S4 smartphone. As you can imagine the phone is hard to see and hard to type on. My good luck was to get the Nexus 7 Android tablet for Christmas. The tablet is better in sunlight and easier to type on. Of course there is no ideal sunlight readable phone or tablet to my knowledge but the Nexus 7 beats my smartphone.

The HamLog App works well and the Piglet captures the KX3 frequency and mode for the log. The contacts get logged and after the ops I can hookup the tablet to regular WiFi to upload the contacts. If there is no other WiFi available I can use my Phone as a mobile hotspot.  I am uploading my contacts to three places. First is the HamLog CloudLog, second is EQSL and third is the HRDLog web site. HRDLog lets me show the last ten contacts on this website. Then I erase the log on the phone so I will not be uploading duplicates for the next round of portable ops.

The next App I have tested is the KX3 Companion from IU4APC. You can use an OTG adapter and the Elecraft serial programming cable to hook the app to the KX3. However, a pleasant surprise was the KX3 Companion can use the Piglet to interface to the KX3. Now even more surprising is that the two apps seem to be able to share the KX3 without crashing!

The KX3 Companion takes advantage of the native PSK mode of the KX3. So the Android device does not generate any audio. It just sends a stream of serial commands to the KX3.  Likewise, there is no audio input to the Android device.  The KX3 decodes the PSK-31 and sends the data to the Android device. Note all this works the same for CW and RTTY as well. I find the KX3 Companion to be fairly easy to use. I like its capability to capture a call sign from the incoming text. The macros are well done and I can use them for CW as well as PSK. I did see a minor problem with the time field on the Companion's logging and I will need to check with the developer.  The next step may be a BlueTooth Keyboard for easier PSK31 chatting.

Well it is great to see the efforts of the the smart people at Elecraft, Pigology, and IU4APC all come together. I am glad I can use the Piglet to share the KX3 among apps. It might work the same with the OTG adapter. I am not sure. This all works well for casual portable ops. But for the four hour RaDAR contests the logging might revert back to pen and paper based on weight and time constraints. We will see.

The KX3 is not the most robust digital modes rig due to the PA heating up with the high duty cycle of PSK and some frequency drift with the temperature changes.  However, with my use of PSK31 I am not contesting. I just want to pick up a few contacts. Therefore, the overall duty cycle is low and I can make contacts at 5 watts without reaching any temperature limits. Note, I am looking seriously at the Elecraft heat sink upgrade and the temperature compensation procedure. I don't want to make the KX3 any bigger with a external heat sink. I think those measures may reduce the drift for doing WSPR. Hey the WSPR Beacon is yet another Android App from IU4APC.