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This page contains answers to common questions we've received, along
with some tips and tricks that we have found useful and presented here as questions.
(Also see the Troubleshooting FAQ Page.)
- What kind of computer does EchoStation work with?
- How does the computer connect to the radios?
- Do I need one radio, or two?
- What is an "announcement machine"?
- How does EchoStation decide when to play an announcement?
- What's the difference between a "simplex repeater" and a
- What's a "simplex autopatch"?
- What happens if the PC locks up during transmit?
- Does EchoStation work with EchoLink?
EchoStation is designed to run on
Pentium-class computers, 133 MHz or higher, running Microsoft Windows 95 or
It will also run on many 486-based systems, depending upon processor speed. The
computer must also have a sound card (or built-in sound hardware) which is compatible with
Windows, and at least one available COM port.
The Autopatch feature requires a "voice modem". This was once a commonly-available peripheral, but voice modems are now rather hard to find.
If you are running Windows Vista or above, you will need to run EchoStation as Administrator (right-click the icon for this option).
For detailed system requirements, please see the online Help.
The most common EchoStation configuration
is to connect a transceiver to the sound card and COM port of your PC. This
configuration can be used either as a simplex repeater or as an announcement machine,
since it is not necessary in either of those modes to transmit and receive simultaneously.
Typically, the radio's speaker jack connects to the Line-In port of the sound card, and
the radio's microphone input connects to the Line-Out port of the sound card.
Optionally, the transmitter's PTT line connects to one of the PC's COM ports. For
each of these connections, a device such as the RIGBlaster
is recommended, since all of the necessary interfacing is built-in.
If you prefer to "roll your own" interface, there are several useful sites on
the Web with advice and diagrams. See the Links section for
For detailed information about connections to EchoStation, please see the section
"Connecting a Transceiver" in the online Help.
It depends which mode you would like to use.
To run EchoStation as an announcement machine, simplex repeater, or simplex
autopatch, a single
transceiver is all that is required.
To run in full-duplex repeater mode, however, it is necessary to receive and transmit
simultaneously, which usually requires two separate radios. Some
dual-band FM transceivers do support crossband full-duplex operation.
An announcement machine is a system that plays any of several pre-recorded
announcements at designated times. It is most commonly used to announce club
meetings, hamfest information, etc. over an existing repeater. To prevent
interference, it "listens" before transmitting to be sure the frequency is not
already in use before beginning an announcement.
You can create your own announcements by plugging a microphone into your computer's
sound card, and running an application such as Windows Sound Recorder to create a .WAV
file. Then, you set up EchoStation to play the .WAV file according to a pre-set
Note that EchoStation can run as a repeater and announcement machine at the same time.
Each announcement you set up with EchoStation has a pre-set schedule. You have a
lot of flexibility in setting up a schedule - hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, or on
specific days of the week or month. EchoStation keeps track of the last time an
announcement played, and the next time it's scheduled to play.
When the scheduled time arrives, EchoStation checks to be sure the frequency isn't
already in use. If it has been quiet for 60 seconds, it keys the transmitter and
begins playing the announcement, along with a CW ID underneath.
If the frequency remains busy for a long time, EchoStation will (optionally) cancel the
announcement, and re-schedule it.
Both types of repeaters pick up a signal and re-transmit it to improve its range.
The difference is in the timing.
A duplex repeater (a conventional repeater) receives on one frequency and transmits on
another simultaneously. Anything received on one frequency is immediately
re-transmitted on the other. Of course, this setup requires a separate transmitter
and receiver, and some type of RF isolation to prevent the transmitter from interfering
with the receiver.
A simplex repeater receives and transmits on the same frequency, but at different
times. It picks up a signal on the receiver, begins recording it, and after the
signal finishes, it turns on the transmitter and plays it back. This can be
accomplished using an ordinary transceiver and a single antenna. However, it is
generally only usable for short transmissions, because there are long periods of silence
between each one. This type of repeater is usually used for portable or emergency
EchoStation will work in either mode.
A simplex autopatch is a system which allows telephone calls to be placed
over the air, using a single frequency for transmit and receive.
Usually, a conventional transceiver is used to build such a system, rather
than a separate transmitter and receiver.
The tricky part is deciding when to transmit and when to receive, while a
phone call is in progress. EchoStation supports the
"time-sharing" technique -- periodically, it switches the
transceiver very briefly from transmit to receive, just long enough to detect
if a signal is present. A few modern FM rigs can be used for Simplex
Autopatch without modification.
While EchoStation does support Simplex Autopatch, this mode is not
currently recommended due to hardware-compatibility issues. Very few FM
rigs can accommodate the fast T-R switching required, without modification.
A personal computer is a complex system, with hardware, peripherals,
operating-system software, and application programs all working together.
When a computer is used to control a radio transmitter, there is the
possibility that a failure of any one of these components could cause the
transmitter to be keyed continuously.
As an option, EchoStation supports a unique fail-safe feature which helps
guard against this possibility. It uses a special, external circuit
which allows the transmitter to be keyed only while a continuous
"heartbeat" is being produced by the computer. This
heartbeat is generated from within the EchoStation software itself. If
the heartbeat stops, the transmitter is disabled.
EchoStation and EchoLink are unrelated programs that do not share hardware resources.
This means that there is no way to run EchoStation and EchoLink on the same
computer at the same time, unless your computer is equipped with more than one
PCI sound card. In addition, you would also need two COM ports and two hardware
interfaces, just as if the two programs were running on different machines. There are currently
no plans to try to make changes to these two programs so that they can co-exist.