Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Remote Operation - Level 0 (RealVNC)

Sometimes experiment pays off. You never know until you try.

I was reading an article about remotely controlling computers over the internet. It occurred to me that if I could do this, it would be easy to operate FT8 from my Gwinnett QTH when I was at the Fulton QTH. Although I have rigs in both locations, Gwinnett is where I have the K3, and can operate on 6m. 

I started to research solutions. I found a product called RealVNC that can be licensed free for non-commercial use on up to five computers. Comes with a separate server and viewer product, and it works on Macs as well as Windows, Linux, even the Rasberry Pi. 

You have to create an account on their web site, but the installation was easy. I have a MacBook Pro hooked to the K3 at the Gwinnett QTH. I installed the server there. Then I installed the viewer software on a couple of Macs, and one Windows computer. 

Making the connection from Viewer to Server requires 2-factor authentication, so it is pretty secure. 

This software worked great. I was easily able to connect to the MacBook Pro and use WSJT-X. The K3 has to remain turned on, and I have no way to remotely change antennas, so I left it switched to the 3-element 6m beam. I also have no way to rotate the antenna remotely (it uses Armstrong rotation...), so I left the beam pointing SouthEast. I was hoping to pick up some propagation to the Caribbean or perhaps Central or South America. 

The first week of this experiment bore fruit the next day. I was in Fulton county, but checking I lucked into an opening to South America, where I worked two stations in Chile and two in Uruguay. Two new countries and four new grids! The next day, there was a powerful, but brief opening to the Cayman Islands, and Belize.

While one cannot predict 6m propagation, remote operating gives me a tool so I don't miss out on openings while I'm away from the Gwinnett QTH. 

This is only Level 0 of Remote Operating. I can only do FT8, and I can't change bands. That's next, I'm working on an automatic antenna switch driver to choose an antenna by the band selection of the K3. 

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