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Frequently-Asked Questions

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.)

  1. What kind of computer does EchoStation work with?
  2. How does the computer connect to the radios?
  3. Do I need one radio, or two?
  4. What is an "announcement machine"?
  5. How does EchoStation decide when to play an announcement?
  6. What's the difference between a "simplex repeater" and a "duplex repeater"?
  7. What's a "simplex autopatch"?
  8. What happens if the PC locks up during transmit?
  9. Does EchoStation work with EchoLink?

What kind of computer does EchoStation work with?

EchoStation is designed to run on Pentium-class computers, 133 MHz or higher, running Microsoft Windows 95 or later.  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.

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How does the computer connect to the radios?

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 details.

For detailed information about connections to EchoStation, please see the section "Connecting a Transceiver" in the online Help.

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Do I need one radio, or two?

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.

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What's an "announcement machine"?

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 schedule.

Note that EchoStation can run as a repeater and announcement machine at the same time.

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How does EchoStation decide when to play an announcement?

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.

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What's the difference between a "simplex repeater" and a "duplex repeater"?

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 set-ups.

EchoStation will work in either mode.

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What's a "simplex autopatch"?

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.

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What happens if the PC locks up during transmit?

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.

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Does EchoStation work with EchoLink?

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.

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