Microsoft Surface or Raspberry Pi field computer?

Hello Operators.
In this episode of the OH8STN ham radio, we are discussing replacing the raspberry pi field computer build, with a Microsoft Surface for ham radio data mode comms. At the top of my list was the Microsoft Surface Go 2 tablet for use with modes like Winlink, FT8 with JTDX, JS8Call, and other ham radio data modes requiring capabilities the Raspberry Pi can’t easily provide in the field. At least not without add-ons, mods and/or extensive configuration. Other options were rugged laptops and tablets from Panasonic and Dell. Unfortunately, these were cost-prohibitive at the time.

In the video, we take a look at the pros and cons of both Windows machines and Raspberry Pi. Our goal is to decide if we will be saying goodbye to the ultimate raspberry pi once and for all or adding an additional tool to the toolbox.

Related blogs and videos

Microsoft Surface Go FAQ

The Digirig Mobile Audio and Rig control interface:

The Ultimate Raspberry Pi build:

I am certain this topic will bring up lots of emotions. Arguments from one side or the other about which one is best, Windows/Raspberry Pi, … I don’t give a monkey butt about any other perspective but my own. You shouldn’t either! The systems we deploy in the field should always be built around how we operate, the environment we operate in, what we can carry and whether it can provide the required capabilities (or not). If I don’t want to field a Raspberry Pi because it lacks capabilities found in iOS or Windows, then iOS or Windows it will be! The opposite is also true.

One of the biggest problems we have with Ham Radio is the “Fanboy”, “Ponyboy”, … whatever you like calling them. These advocates are so entrenched in a particular solution, they can’t see beyond it. Although no harm is intended, we should never choose a solution because it fits a narrative, is cool, or because it is the current trend. We choose a particular solution for no other reason than to meet our unique requirements!

I wish there was an off the shelf Raspberry Pi which was:

  • Easy to use in the field
  • Simple configuration re-configuration without the command line
  • Had integrated components eg RTC, Battery, Soft start and shutdown, integrated hi-res screen, …
  • Ran off 12 volts
  • Was easier to backup and restore app data and OS
  • Had a real full-featured Winlink email client and Vara HF
  • Was “almost ready to fly”

Each of us has unique goals for ham radio. When other operators are asking for our support, let’s not advise from the perspective of a fanboy. Let’s offer the advice which supports solving that operator’s unique operational goals.

Lots of effort goes into these posts. Researching each component, software application, pragmatic field testing. When you see these posts, the mistakes and blunders have already been filtered out. If you find any value in that, share this post and/or buy me a rootbeer.

Julian oh8stn
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1 Comment

  1. julian i have the windows surface 2 and an icom 7100 connected via usb out of the back of the radio into the surface. everytime i transmit with fldigi or winlink windows makes the sound like ive unplugged or plugged in something to the usb port. sometimes the icom 7100 will also lock up in transmit. its not rf geting into radio because ive set power out to 1% and it still does it. any help or ideas is much appreciated.

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