The Thin Man

A few years back I got lucky and was able to gain access to the use of 4 Dell Optiplex GX260 Windows XP PCs for Amateur Radio use at the University's EOC. I set them up for (left to right) their IC-746Pro, the KJ4AJP-10 RMS Packet Gateway on a GE MVS LMR, their IC-910 with the last one used as a programmer for LMR radios. Both the IC-746 and IC-910 PCs had NBEMS installed, for Winlink the IC-746 used RMS Express through a Signalink USB and the IC-910 used Outlook Express, Paclink and AGWPE Free through a RigBlaster.

Time passed and the RMS Gateway moved to UTM's new tower. The programming duties for the GE MVS radios had been passed to a Gateway Solo 9550 laptop with the required hardware COM port and FDD to boot from a DOS 6.2 disc, so the Dell that served as the LMR programming PC became the KJ4AJP-1 APRS client, which became a Digi/Igate, and when a duplexer became available to share the tower's antenna with KJ4AJP-10, KJ4AJP-1 was reassigned the SSID of -5 and moved to the tower. The 20' EOC antenna and yet another MVS and PC were pressed into service as a new APRS client with the old SSID, KJ4AJP-1.

With XP becoming End Of Life in 2014, I started looking around for something in the Win7 category to replace all the XP boxes I'd been using. Win7 goes EOL in 2020, so that would give me 7 years to brace myself for Win8.

With the help of KK4PDK, who works in UTM's IT Department, I got a little Dell Optiplex FX160 Thin Client with 1.6G Atom processor, 1MB of RAM and an 80G HDD. We both were curious if the "Thin Man".had enough "oomph" for all the present radios to be run on it. I'm pleased to report it does.

Multi-tasking with several applications running at the same time isn't a real concern here, although the APRS function is expected to run 24/7/365 the other messaging applications would be used "as needed", and then usually only one at a time since the IC-746 and IC-910 are also used for voice comms. One assumes a voice "heads up" to the other station prior to a NBEMS transmission, and I use the APRSLink feature to alert me when I have new Winlink messages pending by using the "WLNK-1" statement in my APRS beacon comments.

The KJ4AJP-1 APRS install of UI-View, Precision Mapping v9 and PMapServer9 went without incident following the detailed instructions of WA8LMF and uses COM1 to the TinyTrak4 TNC connected to the MVS. I'm running the NWSget, UI-Aloha and UI-PHG addons. One PC down, two to go...

For the IC-910, NBEMS went fine, I was able to TX and RX FLMSG files between it and my IC-T90A HT connected to a Sony Vaio laptop. For some reason I couldn't get Paclink to work with the Thin Man's on-board "High Definiton Audio Device" through a Rigblaster Pro connected with the Prolific RS232-USB convertor supplied by West Mountain Radio on one of the FX160's six USB ports (it worked fine on the XP machine). The "HDAD" seemed a bit odd to me, appearing in Device Manager only when a mic or speakers were plugged into the front of the FX160. I wanted a sound card I could "see and touch", so I opted for another Signalink dedicated to the IC-910's MiniDIN6 Data Port. After calibrating the Signalink for NBEMS using CheckSR and verifying NBEMS capability with the T90A again, I tried the Mozilla Thunderbird - Paclink - AGWPE Free combination and connected FB with KJ4AJP-10. Two down, one to go...


For the IC-746Pro I made the mistaken assumption that I could install a second instance of NBEMS in a different location and run separate configurations for it and the IC-910. Not so. When I clicked on the shortcut for the IC-746 I got the same config as the IC-910 and vice versa. A websearch found the answer, FLDIGI creates a folder named "fldigi.files" that holds your configuration. You need to create a copy of those files and give it a different name ("fldig746.files" etc.), then use the "--config-dir" command line switch in the "Target" of the shortcut's properties. Once that's done you can edit those FLDIGI parameters for the Signalink dedicated to your second rig. That straightened out, I verified operation with a BPSK31 contact with KF5HVL in Texas on 20M.

The RMS Express install was smooth, but I couldn't make a connection to a Winmor Gateway. Another websearch explained my mistake. All Winmor Gateways use USB and the IC-746 had defaulted to LSB on 40M! After switching to USB I sent KK4PDK an email announcing my success via AJ4GU in Georgia.

As a side note, I discovered a quirk in AGWPE running on Win7 (and I assume Vista) in that it always uses the "default sound card" defined in Windows. Be aware that after a reboot, Win7 may assign whatever sound card it sees first on bootup as the "default". So if you try to use VHF Paclink and it's triggering the TX on the Signalink connected to your HF radio, right-click the speaker icon in the Notification Area, select "Playback Devices" and set your other "USB Audio Codec" as the default device, then do the same in "Recording Devices".