[CQ-Contest] [N1MM] CW Timing Issues?

Rich Seifert ke1b at richseifert.com
Wed Apr 6 13:05:24 PDT 2011

At 1:52 PM -0400 4/6/11, Paul Mackanos - K2DB wrote:
>I received this from a newbie who insists on using a Mac. Looking 
>for feedback to give him, other than mine. OK CW guys, let's hear 
>your take on this.
>Paul K2DB
>As a noob to the whole technical aspects of computer/radio 
>interfacing (and a die-hard Macintosh user), I have been exploring 
>what seems to be an almost black art; CW keying from a computer.


>The Solution
>I just ordered a K1EL Winkey keyer. This device is essentially a 
>keyer on a chip. It doesn't rely on precise serial control to time 
>CW elements. It is also supported by most/all modern platforms 
>(including the "ham hostile" Macintosh.)
>I hope to have a positive experience to report, as I plan to 
>implement this hardware for the WPX CW contest coming up.
>As I said at the beginning, this is just the start of an idea and I 
>haven't begun to experiment. Hopefully, this might be of some 
>interest when I put this keyer into action and am able to discuss 
>the results. I also need the aid and input of some more experienced 
>hams to help flesh out my idea.
>Andrew, N3LZG


I am also a die-hard CW contester, and a Macolyte. Your conclusion is 
generally correct. When I first used software-generated CW from my 
general purpose/logging computer, I would notice occasional timing 
problems, particularly at high-speed. My understanding is that this 
was due to non-deterministic interrupt latency, which makes perfect 
sense (and explains the intermittent nature of the timing problems, 
since the zillions of interrupts from various tasks are all 
asynchronous). There was no significant difference whether using 
applications under Mac OS X (e.g., MacLoggerDX) or Windows (N1MM 
running on a virtual Windows XP machine, using Fusion on the Mac). It 
should be noted that I was not using an "underpowered" machine: 2.66 
GHz dual-core Intel-based iMac with 4 GB of RAM.

My solution was the same as yours--an external, hardware-based keyer 
using the K1EL Winkey chip. In my case, I chose to purchase a 
microHAM microKEYER II (which has the Winkey chip built in), but a 
standalone Winkey should also work. I have had no problems since, 
using both N1MM and Mac OS applications.

Rich KE1B

Rich Seifert                    Networks and Communications Consulting
rich at richseifert.com            21885 Bear Creek Way
(408) 395-5700                  Los Gatos, CA 95033
(408) 228-0803 FAX

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