This weekend I took the plunge big-time, completely replacing my Windows XP desktop installation with Ubuntu 7.10. Being a ham, my computer setup is a little more complex than normal because I use my computer to control my ham radio (an ICOM IC706MKIIG) for contesting and for making contacts in digital modes. I use a West Mountain Radio Rigblaster Plug & Play USB interface to control my radio and for sound card and keying interfacing. So, it was with a little trepidation that I abandoned the world of Windows for Ubuntu.

I knew from a little advance research that Ubuntu 7.10 contained support for the chipset that’s used in the Rigblaster, via the cp2101 module. I followed these instructions to see that mine was connected to the ttyUSB0 port, and I was able to successfully use hamlib‘s rigctl utility to read the frequency and other information from my rig. rigtcl is a command-line utility (in the hamlib-utils package) that’s useful mainly for testing and debugging communication between your computer and your radio. In my case, I invoke rigctl from the command line with

rigctl -r /dev/ttyUSB0 -m 311

where the -r command tells it which port the rig’s connected to, and the -m 311 tells it that the radio is a 706MKIIG. Unfortunately, as soon as rigctl connected to my radio, it keyed up the transmit line (which is controlled by the RTS pin for the PTT and the DTR pin for CW keying). A little rummaging around showed me that if I ran rigctl using the command line

rigctl -r /dev/ttyUSB0 -m 311 –set-conf=rts_state=OFF,dtr_state=OFF

it wouldn’t key up the transmitter.

I tried using hamlib with a couple of ham radio programs (XLog and fldigi) but didn’t have any real success getting the software to behave. Thankfully, all I really needed to do was get the software to key the PTT line for PSK31 communications. I was able to tell fldigi to not use hamlib, and instead simply key the RTS pin on /dev/ttyUSB0, and I was successful in making a PSK31 contact with VA6RQ.

I’ve only just scratched the surface of ham radio operations under linux, but I must say that my initial impression of the fldigi software was quite good. It handles many types of digital communication, including decoding CW fairly well. I’ll definitely be playing with that more in the coming weeks.

I’ll also be continuing to explore hamlib to see what I can do with it.

Any recommendations out there for a good contest logger? So far, I’ve only seen TLF.

3 thoughts on “Rigblaster Plug and Play in Ubuntu 7.10

  1. Could you please go into greater detail on exactly what settings you used in fldigi? I’m having the same issue you describe, and I can’t figure out the answer.

  2. Mathuin,

    I don’t have fldigi installed right now (I had to reinstall Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex after a failed attempt to upgrade to Jaunty Jackalope) so I can’t tell you exactly what the settings were, but I can tell you that I only got it to work by not using hamlib with fldigi. I used rigCAT instead. You have to make sure you’re using the right XML file for your rig. Go to fldigi’s web page for more.


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