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

Jeff Blaine keepwalking188 at yahoo.com
Wed Apr 6 14:47:14 PDT 2011

There is no reason fundamentally that the modern “walmart special” desktop PC cannot run N1MM and several other apps with complete capability to key CW properly.  The timing issues are zero point zero unless you are using ancient (in a computer sense) hardware.  Even contest speed CW of 45 WPM is FOREVER AND FOREVER in computer speed standpoint.  This is not a technological limitation in the practical sense although the “real-time” performance of an OS can draw focus on underpowered hardware.  I feel this is looking at the wrong source – the issue is the hardware speed – not the OS.

When I see this kind of concern, more often than not there is a comment about my P3-800 laptop has this or that problem.  Come on guys, a walmart special (or pick the vendor of your choice) is selling $400 PC with tons of horse power and an LCD included!  If you are trying to make your 1995 vintage PC carry the water, and you are serious about your contest work, then it’s time to upgrade.  Now if a guy is married to Mac, then his options here are going to come at a higher price.

I have one of Joe’s very FB MKII (same thing as Rich mentions) which has the Winkey built in.  But my reason for buying the MKII was to enable SO2V.  My shack PC (3.4G quad) never had me waiting to send CW unless I had it so loaded up the CPU utilization was near 100% on all cores.  But to do that, a fantastic amount of applications needed to be running – something I don’t do in contest mode.  

N1MM (and a lot of other programs) will drive the Winkey directly – and that comes in a DIY kit which is a very economical solution as well for a guy who just loves his otherwise underperforming PC or mac.  

There is no fundamental reason satisfactory performance cannot be obtained from Win or Mac OS.  If you can’t get decent CW keying capability from your computer – then you need to get modern hardware (something made in the last 5 years).  And if you don’t want to do that, the Winkey is the easy way to buy some time.  

73, Jeff ACØC

From: Rich Seifert 
Sent: Wednesday, April 06, 2011 3:05 PM
To: N1MMLogger at yahoogroups.com ; cq-contest at contesting.com 
Cc: 'Andrew Lesny' 
Subject: Re: [N1MM] CW Timing Issues?

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
mailto:rich%40richseifert.com 21885 Bear Creek Way
(408) 395-5700 Los Gatos, CA 95033
(408) 228-0803 FAX

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