If you refer to my previous blog post you will find the background info on what I am now posting on.
The HotPaws Morse Code decoder app has been with me for a week now and heres my honest unsolicited opinion of this Apple IPad/IPhone app
I strongly recommend that before you use this app you take a few minutes to remind yourself how to fine tune CW signals on the receiver you plan to be using. “RTFM” comes to mind here as it will make it so much easier.
I tested this out by:
Copying the ARRL Bulletins and Code Practice that is available over the air.
Copying some CW Contests that I found on the air
Copying DXPeditions and POTA/SOTA activations that were operating CW
Copying CW NTS Traffic Nets
Copying CW Ragchews
Before I touch on the results. You need a stable connection between the speaker on your receiver and the IPad or IPhone. This can be done easily using one of the following ways.
Quickest way is just keep your IPad close to the recievers speaker and use the built in mic on the IPad.
The next way is the put the boom mic of your headphones across the speaker of the reciever and then plug the head set into the IPad. This is an audio link (almost same as above) but you get more sound into your IPad.
Third way is to use a double male stereo cable and plug directly from the output on the receiver to the input on the IPad. This elimates the external noise but you might have troubles hearing the pitch of the CW during the tuning process
I chose the first option for me and so far no issues.
Every night I was able to copy the ARRL Bulletins and Code Practice (all sent in CW) with no problems. A short tuning and all was good to go. If you are using the audio connection (1st or 2nd option) you might have a slight issue copying in a noisy envirioment.
I was able to listen along to a few CWT sprints (mini contests) and as most of their operators have a good fist (send real good CW by hand) I very little problems copying and even participating using the built in contest keyer in my Yaesu FT 950/
The Activations and the DXPeditions I listened to were a bit harder to copy. The activations were done in a portable situation, often at lower power levels and also more than often CW sent by hand. I was able to copy enough to know what was happening and hear the exchange but it took a while longer to get the tuning to cooperate with the app.
The DXPedition I was able to hear was sending Computer generated code at a rather fast speed for short transmissions (VA3QV 5nn TU) which took longer to tune in, Once tuned in was no problems.
The same went for the NTS Traffic Nets on CW. I was able to copy the traffic being passed, then had to re tune to hear the NCS and then retune to hear a different station passing traffic. Doable but it does test your tuning ability. If the participants were using a keyer it would be easier and if they are using a key then… hopefully you will get enough out to figure things out.
The same would apply to the CW Ragchews.
At this point I should mention that in most cases although you should be able to hear both parts of the QSO you might not be able to decode both parts. Don’t get upset if this happens. Fine tune for the one you want to hear the most and go with it.
Remember that the APP copies “well sent “CW. This would mean either a really good fist sending the code or a computer Keyer.
I previously used the term “Garbage in = Garbage out” A good CW operator can copy code by ear and can compensate for slight errors. The app can’t compensate.
Anything else could be hard to copy. Its not the apps fault….you can compensate (a bit) by fine fine tuning, but as you listen more (and also watch the screen as you do) you will find yourself recognizing certain phrases and words. That will help when you have to fill in a few gaps caused by a bad fist or a burst of static.
At the end of the day I find it to be good value for the money ($15.00 after taxes to be money well spent)
There are some free software out there that might do what you want. I also use the software package CW Get on my computer There are also some commercial decoders out there that might do what you want. MFJ makes several decoders that vary in features and budget.
Do I regret buying it? NO
Am I pleased with the product? YES
So in closing:
What you have read is my honest and unsolicited opinion . I was not asked to do this posting and was not compensated in any way for it. I even paid for the app myself…but I did want to share it with you the amateur radio community.
What you have read is my opinion on the product and how it worked for me and I’m no expert!!! I have used decoding software and decoders in the past so I was used to the fine tuning and so everything worked as it should and quickly for me.
It may not go as smoothly for you as operator experience, local noise levels, method of getting audio to the app from the receiver and quality of the radio receiver along with the antenna all play a part in the ability of the app to do what you want it to do or what its supposed to do.
At the end of the day…. It worked for me…. Your experiences could vary from mine…. It may not work for you…. It may not be suitable for your needs…
Please do your research before making purchases of anything amateur radio related.