USB, etc.


This page is a place to document some of the experience I've gained in attempting to connect radio gear to computers.

I'm not doing anything unique in the electrical connections - standard 4N33 type opto isolators. Setting up these connections has been described by others very well.

Now that Xircom has published Win2K drivers I'm using the Entrega/PortGear hubs as my main connection. I connect FSK for L&R Rigs to COM1&2 (built-in) and connect all the other stuff to COM3-10 on two Entrega boxes.

Some good links:

K0BX Interface Page

AA5AU Rtty Page

WriteLog Support Page

USB devices:

I've used the Entrega 2U4S hubs with great success on Windows98. Entrega got absorbed by Xircom and and now Intel the hubs are now listed under the name PortGear on their website. They have now published drivers for Windows2000 (they no longer make these available). These drivers seem to work better than the ones for the Belkin devices below. FSK won't work through these ports using the Win2K drivers. I did try the 4U2S1P device on Win98 to see if I could use the "LP" device for CW - this failed as the driver for the parallel port does not appear as an LPT port to WriteLog (although you can hook a printer to it and free up the built-in port).

I'm currently working with the Belkin serial adaptors and the BusStation. The BusStation is mostly a holder for other modules. It comes with four fixed USB ports and three single USB port modules installed. The three single ports can be replaced by serial ports or ethernet ports or whatever. The serial ports may be used alone as well and you save the $80 for the BusStation. The solution is a bit pricey and bulky, but they do have working Windows2000 drivers. I've managed to get WriteLog working through these ports - so far I've tried rig control, Packet Window, CW, and FSK. My current problem is that Windows 2000 isn't correctly recognizing the devices on power up if the same switch controls power to the BusStation as the computer. If I unplug the power and USB cable from the back of the BusStation, boot up the computer, then plug in the power followed by the USB cable everything seems to work properly. I currently have a stack of five of the serial devices - three in the BusStation and two on top. I do rig control on the two Motherboard ports, CW and 2 FSK on the ports in the BusStation, a Packet TNC and Alpha 87A control on the two "extra" ports that are powered through the USB cables. I've noticed switching TNC types (AFSK -> FSK, etc.) sometimes causes Win2K to crash. It appears WL is opening and closing the port and the drivers don't like it. By setting Port=none then making the switch then setting Port=COMx it avoids the problem.

I'm looking into the idea of writing a driver that looks to Windows (actually WriteLog) like several serial ports, but connects over a USB port to a microcontroller that can do all the functions needed. It seems like a natural extension to the W5XD keyer. Since I'm not particularly knowledgeable about either microcontrollers or device drivers, I wouldn't mind if others who knew more took the lead.