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Migrating Amateur Radio to Linux, Part One – Requirements

I’ve been a user, developer and system administrator for Linux based systems, and prior to that, Unix based systems, for years. I think my first contact was with a Unix Version 6 system at my second employer, ITT IDEC back in 1980. It was actually Interactive’s IS/1. Since that time, I’ve used just about every variant of Bell Labs’ most famous operating system. Oddly enough though, I haven’t tried to use it for my Amateur Radio hobby before.

This is the start of a short series on how I’m moving from a purely Windows based operating environment to one that is equally usable on Linux and Mac OS/X. I’m targeting OS/X as well because my own personal laptop is a beautiful, but aging, Macbook Air that goes with me everywhere. As I am likely to start doing a lot of business travelling very shortly, I want to be able to take my radios with me, and that means running my digital modes software on the Mac as well as on Linux. (I don’t use my Macbook in the shack as the shack PC is dedicated to amateur radio operating).

Objectives

So that I can monitor my progress, I’m starting by setting some objectives.

High Level

  • The main objective is to have the same capabilities on Linux and OS/X as I currently have on Windows.
  • The second, less obvious consequence is to be able to operate across both, or even all three, platforms and keep each platform in sync.
  • Given the growing penetration of mobile devices, I’m adding a third objective of being able to operate on Android and iOS devices with the same fidelity of information.

The need to maintain fidelity more or less imposes the need to integrate with some form of Cloud based services. I already use Dropbox to keep files in sync across my various Windows, Mac and Linux laptops and with my iPhone and iPad, so that’s an obvious one to use to keep some resources in sync. The other main integration point would be my Station Log.

All licensed amateur radio stations are required to keep a comprehensive log of all contacts made and all stations worked. If I could find a common logging program across all platforms that used a flat file for storage, then I could use Dropbox to sync this. However, there are a number of Cloud based logging platforms now and as I already use HRDLog on Windows and iOS, it makes sense to see if I can use this on Linux and OS/X.

Priority

The first priority is to migrate from Windows to Linux, so my first objective is:

To create a Linux operating environment that provides the same capabilities as my existing Windows environment, in a form that is portable (at a functional level at least) to OS/X and which keeps operating data synchronised across multiple devices

Required capabilities

My current Windows environment provides the following capabilities:

  • Local logging, using Ham Radio Deluxe version 5
  • Multiple digital modes using the same
  • multiple rig control (Icom IC-756ProII and Yaesu FT-817) integrated with the above, using HRD
  • DXCluster access with spotting and customisable filtering, using HRD
  • Integration of the local log with HRDLog, eQSL and LOTW
  • Propagation monitoring, using Afreet’s Ionoprobe
  • Accurate time synchronisation, using Dimension 4
  • WSPR and JT65A protocol support
  • Echolink support

As you can see, the main requirement is for a replacement for HRD. HRD is an amazing piece of software, but it ceased to be freeware a while ago and while I have no problem paying for good software, it has stimulated this re-appraisal.

Anybody who knows Linux, knows that the Unix approach is to construct small, single purpose tools and then use the operating system capabilities to string them together to form tool chains. This contrasts with the Windows and Mac approach of constructing full function software packages. I have seen the merits of both approaches in the appropriate circumstances, so I’m not going to argue that one approach is better; but I am assuming I will need to adopt the mix and match approach with Linux.

More to follow…