Operation on the Microsats is both rewarding and challenging. One of the challenges has been to get my PK-232 TNC to work withthe software developed for the Microsats. With a terrestrial BBSall the software controlling the file server is run on the BBS'scomputer. Your TNC needs only needs to speak "AX.25 ASCII" toconnect and then respond to the prompts of the BBS's software. With the Microsats every user runs this controlling software ontheir own PC, with the data sent in binary form. This frees upvaluable processing time on board the Microsats on those briefLEO passes. The Microsats can spend most of their processor timesending data, while your PC keeps track of when you lastconnected (for directory updates), and what packets have or havenot been up or down loaded. Binary data transfer is moreefficient. This simplifies "computer to computer" communicationbetween your PC and the Microsat CPU, and permits the transfer ofcompressed files, programs, and earth photos from UO-22 and KO-23.
All this magic is performed by two complementary programs,PB.EXEfor broadcast requests and reception andPG.EXEfor file uploading(footnote 1).This software was developed by the Microsat teamfor the PC running MS-DOS with a TAPR TNC-2. Herein lies theroot of the problem us PK-232 owners face. Although most TNC-2commands were the same with the PK-232, there were enoughdifferences in the command structure and default EPROM settingsto leave PK-232 owners with an empty screen when the firstMicrosats were switched from ASCII to binary transmissions inearly 1991.
All went well for PK-232 Microsat users until early 1992 when anew much improved version of PB/PG was uploaded on UO-22, the9600 baud bird. All UO-22 users were aware of the bottleneckcreated by the need for every user to wait their turn to log ontoone of the two uplink channels to download (in PG's "connect"mode) the same directory information everyone else was waiting todownload. The new PB software now broadcasts this directoryinformation so all PB users can copy directory listings whilethey are simultaneously downloading requested broadcasted files. The two uplink channels (and PG) are now used exclusively foruploading files.
I had worked UO-14 and UO-22 with my old PB/PG software. When Itried the new PB (920224M) and PG (920225) programs I was shockedto find nothing was being copied off the bird. I put out a callfor help on all the Microsats, seeking anyone who had the PK-232working with this new PB/PG.
Although the statistical probability of my having a 9600 baudhardware failure the same time UO-22 had a new software uploadwas remote, it could not be overlooked. My modem's eye patternwas open, crisp and steady, so I knew I was receiving a gooddownlink signal.
My output tested good up to the internal modem loopback test. But I had no one near by with whom I could make an external 9600baud RF link. Buzz, WH6I, suggested I connect to myself bytransmitting on 2 meters, full duplex, and receive my 70 cm thirdharmonic. As overloading can be a problem, I began with mytransmitter power at minimum and found that less than a watt ofpower resulted in a welcomed "connect". Now I knew I had asoftware problem.
My query was finally answered by Niels, VK2BKQ, who was stillusing the old "pre-Kiss" 1987 EPROM. By uploading an ASCIIconfiguration file (see Table 2) to thePK-232 with a simple modemprogram before running PB or PG he has been able to work UO-22with the new PB/PG software. These commands are a slightvariation the ones Dave, KI6QE developed earlier.
You can add other batch file commands after pb if you would liketo do any post pass batch file processing of your downloadedfiles. With the number of files you can download at 9600 baud itis convenient to have batch files copy your downloaded files(*.DL) to a desired subdirectory, extract the files and deletefiles no longer needed automatically when your quite PB.
The PK-232's maximum terminal communication speed is 9600 baud(TBaud). Many have questioned whether TNCs with higher terminalspeeds would have higher throughput on the air at 9600 baud(HBaud). I took a small informal survey among nine Microsatfriends and found no hard statistical evidence of improvedthroughput for TNC's running a terminal baud rate of 19200 baudon UO-22 and KO-23 (3). PB documentation indicates this might bea problem with a slow PC or if you are running TSR (Terminate andStay Resident) programs that slow down your PC.
Two stations believed that they improved throughput by abandoningthe PK-232 for 19200 baud terminal speed TNCs. But neither hadthroughput statistics comparing the PK-232 to their 19200 TBaudTNC to confirm this. Their 9600 baud PB.LOG throughput with a19200 TBaud TNC was comparable to 9600 TBaud users.
PB also displays your packet corruption errors as an "e: count". It is not unusual to get a few "e: counts" if you are using PB's"view directory" functions during a pass. But if you get "e:counts" when you are only downloading you have a problem.
All users with PK-232's and PK-87's can use the MBX command inthe following manner with the NET/ROM nodes. Normally, MBX call1 monitors packets being sent by "call1",such as from a BBS, etc. MBX call1,call2 monitors just text being exchanged between those two stations. (Presumablyit should also prevent other packets from being included which were being sent to other stations, but for somereason other packets find their way to the display with W6IXU multibox.) With the NET/ROM nodes going up, here'ssome info for using MBX for proper monitoring:If the user is local and going to another user with just the one local node, use local-15,remote. For instance,WB6WKB is using the node W6AMT-3 to get to WB6SAN, the node will be using WB6WKB-15 to talk to WB6SAN. The MBXshould be set to WB6WKB-15,WB6SAN. If WB6WKB is talking up the network to someone else, use the node's callsigninstead, since it's whom WB6WKB is actually talking to. In this case, set MBX WB6WKB,W6AMT-3 (assuming W6AMT-3is the node involved and WB6WKB is visible to you). Internode exchanges and transmissions from the node to otherstations are not shown. It's the next best thing to being the connectee! MBX does not work on two callsigns whichare not connected to each other, so you can't follow two BBS's simultaneously.Otherwise, I've found it very useful, many times saving me the hassle of having to connect to read the newest messagesor to download the latest Pathefinder or Gateway.
PK232 Mods for AMTOR ARQHave you ever attempted to work AMTOR 'ARQ' with software that does not give you split screen?. Well for examplewhen using the TRS-100, or 200 or the APPLE 2E, and compatibles that have no software which allows you to splitthe screen.There is a modification in the april issue of QST, page 28 regarding the - ECHO AS SENT- (EAS) command, which isudes in the AMTOR mode to allow you to see on the screen the buffer that is being transmited, as well as echoingback what the other station has acknowledged.This can be done with the (EAS) CMD, but once the command is turned on there is no way to turned it off in themiddle of the QSO. If the (EAS) is left on during the QSO, there is a tremendous amount of confusion on the screen,which can drive you crazy.Therefore the only way to turn off the command is with a switch installed on the PK-232.If you read the article by AD7I which attempts to explain his modification, it can also drive you crazy. The schematicshown in the article is fine, but he fails to explain that the whole thing is as simple as installing a switch,one lug of the switch connected to R-179 (THE END CLOSEST TO U-7, PIN 7) not closest to U1, PIN 7 as indicatedin the article. There is a typographical error on the top line of paragraph 3 on PAGE 29. So be careful becauseyou're not going to find R-179 near U1 on the PK-232 board.The use of the comparator circuit shown in the article was used in order to avoid drilling a hole in the frontpanel of the 232, but in fact you don't have to drillI a hole to install the switch. The switch can beinstalled in a very small plastic box, and simply attached to the 232 cabinet by tape or VELCRO.I read the article 10 TIMES, and started to build the comparator circuit, when I decided to read it again, becausethere was some confusion. Then buried in the text, there is one small paragraph that clarifies it all.
this should read...If you want to install a switch instead of building the comparator circuit, just simply wire a SPST toggle switchto R-179 (THE END CLOSEST TO U7, PIN 7) and connect the other lug of the switch to R-135 (THE END CLOSEST TO U5)and that's all there is to it.So if you are using AMTOR with a terminal program that has no split screen this MOD is excellent. My thanks toAD7I who wrote the article, but perhaps QST did some editing and the whole thing became very CONFUSING.at least it appeared to me that way.
This little piece of software could be of some help to those PK-232users who feel tired by lack of hardware clock on their otherwise fine units.This program is VERY SIMPLE and does just plain transfer of the time and date (not necessarily UTC though) fromyour computer to your PK. It is meant to be called from your AUTOEXEC.BAT file before you call the communicationsprogram you use, i.e. PROCOMM.I wrote it in BASIC, but you may compile it to get a "pure EXEcutable" file.Here it is:10 OPEN "COM1: 9600,N,8,1,CS,DS,CD" AS #115 T$=TIME$:D$=DATE$20 HOUR$=LEFT$(T$,2)25 MINUTE$=MID$(T$,4,2)30 SECOND$=RIGHT$(T$,2)35 MONTH$=LEFT$(D$,2)40 DAY$=MID$(D$,4,2)45 YEAR$=RIGHT$(D$,2)50 PRINT #1, "DA ";YEAR$;MONTH$;DAY$;HOUR$;MINUTE$;SECOND$55 CLOSE #160 SYSTEMBefore you type this in, modify line 10 to match settings of your PK-232 (i.e. look up Line Settings if you usePROCOMM). Also mind COM1 used. Save it as PK_CLOCK.BAS, for example. Then add somewhere to your AUTOEXEC.BAT the following:...BASICA PK_CLOCK (or just PK_CLOCK if you compiled it to PK_CLOCK.EXE)...You will have to specify the path to BASICA.COM and PK_CLOCK.BAS, of course.Now, each time you turn your HI-TECH stuff on you will enjoy this little comfort of allowing the computer to tellthe PK-232 what time it is, hi. 2b1af7f3a8