Some time ago I was able to get the Xiegu X5105 up and running with Winlink Express. This was a big deal because we finally had an audio interface and cat control device capable of doing PTT switching fast enough, for this radio to run Vara HF at full bandwidth. The next step was to try it out on the Xiegu G90. After some experimenting, I can say absolutely YES! Vara HF works well on Winlink Express, using that same Digimode-4 dual audio/cat control interface.
Here’s a short video showing a winlink session using the Xiegu G90 with a Vara HF modem. You can see that the G90 and xggcomms digimode-4 are fast enough for the rapid switching of high-bandwidth Vara HF. This isn’t always possible with a cheap USB soundcard, using VOX, or with a low spec CPU/computer.
The session was between my station and the OH5ZN RMS. His station is Bearing: 170, Range: 491 km Southeast. I used 15 watts, through a Chameleon EMCOMM 3 portable, horizontal configuration, about 3m above the ground. The session was on 80m.
I configured the winlink radio as an Icom ic-7200. This was exactly like the Xiegu X5105. I used a 7200 because winlink doesn’t have the Xiegu radios supported. As a work around, I used Xiegus in-build Icom CI-V rig control support, to control the G90. You can see the settings used, in the images below.
The Xggcomms Digimode-4 really makes a difference with data communications using the G90 or X5105. Not only is it compact, lightweight, and robust, it’s also fast enough for reliable full bandwidth Vara HF sessions.
As mentioned in other posts, I have begun a transition back to low power communications where possible. Low power is much more sustainable for emergency communications, and communications in the field, where we do not have a finite supply of portable power. There certainly are those times we can benefit from additional output power, increasing data transfer and bandwidth without question. On the flip side, training and understanding which band, at what time of day, with which antenna configuration, can also help us operate more efficiently, hopefully using less power overall. This can make all the difference between fast efficient Winlink sessions, or a complete emcomm fail. For the past half year, all of my Winlink sessions are carried out with 10 watts or less, low slung horizontal antenna, often on 80m, 60m, or 30 meters. The session in this video was 15 watts, using Vara HF, and a horizontal end-fed 3 meters above ground on 80 meters. It is not difficult, but I know how, when and where to get connections throughout the day or night. That’s where training and equipment testing comes into play. The extra power wasn’t required, but it is nice to have when the RTTY stations are shutting down the bands.
So why the Digimode-4? Well as I mention every chance I get on the channel, we must reduce the cable mess. We can call it cable management if we like, but calling it like it is really brings the issue home. A signalink is quite large compared to the X5105 or G90. It also only does audio. We still require a cat control interface, when doing rapid frequency changes, band hopping, … It is also safe to say, the fewer pieces of gear we have to carry, the better off our field deployments are going to be. Ever better if that gear is well designed and functions above expectations. Honestly, I didn’t expect Winlink to work with other the x5105 or G90. You can imagine how many of us will be excited to know our “budget” radios are getting some data mode love, despite everyone being focused on the Icom IC-705. Not everyone can afford the latest greatest, top shelf rigs for emergency communications or preparedness. So it is up to content creators to keep some focus on the other rig options.
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