Rig Monitoring With The
Icom RS-BA1 Remote Program
This article is for vision-impaired amateur radio operators who want to display the settings of an Icom HF transceiver on a computer screen for improved visibility. Icom RS-BA1 software makes it possible to monitor and control a number of Icom models—IC-7200, 7410, 7600, 9100, 7700, 7700, 7700, 756PROIII, 746PRO, 7400, and 7000.
The primary purpose of the RS-BA1 software is to control a radio remotely over the Internet or a home network.
This article is about using it for a different purpose—to make the radio settings easier to read using a nearby computer screen. Also, you can operate with a mouse and keyboard in addition to the controls on the radio. For example, you might change frequency and AF gain with the radio dials and use the computer to select the filter settings and operating mode.
The basics of rig monitoring are described in a separate article using Ham Radio Deluxe in the examples.
Icom America loaned the RS-BA1 software for this review. An Icom 746PRO transceiver was used for the tests.
Connecting the Radio to a Computer
For local rig monitoring no audio connection to the computer is required. The microphone and speaker/headphone are connected to the radio as usual.
The type of serial data cable depends on the radio:
For the IC-7200, 7410, 7600, and 9100 a single A-B type USB cable can be used. Or, you can use the CI-V Remote Control Jack as described below.
For the IC-7700 and 7800 a single RS-232 cable can be used. (An RS-232-to-USB adapter may be required at the computer.) Or, you can use the CI-V Remote Control Jack as described below.
For the IC-756-PROIII, 746PRO, 7400, and 7000 a TTL level converter (such as the Icom CT-17) can be connected to the CI-V Remote Control Jack and to a computer via an RS-232 cable.
For this article, the level converter (Radio port) in a MicroHam USB Interface III was used to connect the transceiver CI-V jack to a computer.
I also tried a less expensive serial-USB adapter. The RS-BA1 Remote Program functioned with the adapter, but the direct connection to the radio failed intermittently. (There were no connection problems when the adapter was used with Ham Radio Deluxe.) The less expensive adapter uses a Prolific Technology chip. There's a note in the October, 2011, issue of QST (p. 86) suggesting that adapters containing chips made by FTDI might not cause disconnections.
Setting Up the Rig Monitoring Program
The RS-BA1 software runs on Windows XP (SP3), Vista, and Windows 7 systems. It consists of two programs—the Remote Utility and the Remote Control Programs—each with an icon on the Desktop.
When a computer is connected directly to the radio, only the Remote Control Program is required. Clear instructions for setting up the connection are in the Instruction Manual on the RS-BA1 CD. Operating instructions are in the Help menu.
The Remote Utility handles communication over a network if you use a second, remote computer to control the radio. The well-written Instruction Manual explains how to set up the network connections—firewall and router settings, server-client addressing, and audio cables. Icom warns that reliable audio transmission over an IP network (VOIP) can only be assured if the radio has a USB port.
RS-BA1 User Interface
The graphical user interface for the Remote Control Program is shown in Figure 1. The same control panel and menus are used for all radio models, with items greyed-out if the radio does not support them.
Figure 1. RS-BA1 graphical user interface (shown actual size).
Left/right mouse click on a knob to turn it counter-clockwise or clockwise, respectively.
Radio Menu Settings
Some radio menu items can be set using RS-BA1 menus. For example, the View→Set Mode menu can be used to configure the Notch Filter and Meter Peak Hold settings. Selecting each item in the View→Operating Panels menu opens a small sub-screen with controls, such as the Noise Reduction level, Filter options, and CW Keyer settings. Many of these sub-screens are also accessible by right-clicking buttons in the graphical radio panel.
User-Defined Keyboard Shortcuts
The Operations→Shortcut menu lets you assign hot keys that operate controls on the panel. For example, default shortcut keys enable you to (1) enter the operating frequency using the number pad on the computer keyboard and (2) toggle between VFO A and B using the space-bar.
Programming Memory Channels
The program can also be used to create or edit memory channel data and save it in the computer. These channel memories are accessible only with the program. The Remote Controller can not read from the radio memory or write to it.
The radio panel window is 6.0" H x 7.8" W on a typical 22" display. The size is not adjustable, and it is not affected by the screen dpi setting. Labels on the buttons are 0.1" high.
The data screen on the control panel has a lot of useful information besides the operating frequency. You can use magnification software too. Figure 2 shows the data screen enlarged x 1.5.
Figure 2. RS-BA1 data screen for an IC-746PRO (enlarged x 1.5).
All of the multi-meter readings—S-meter, power, ALC, COMP, and SWR—are shown on the data screen. The Icom graphical multi-meter is compared with the Ham Radio Deluxe and Kenwood ARCP meters in a separate article.
Some buttons have a simulated indicator light—an area that turns light blue when the function is on. Figure 3 shows the Noise Blocker and Noise Reduction buttons.
Figure 3. Noise Reduction is ON. (Buttons magnified x 3.)
A YouTube video by Simon Lewis, ZL4PLM, demonstrates the program.
The RS-BA1 Remote Control Program can be used to monitor an Icom HF transceiver using a computer display for improved visibility. All multi-meter readings (power, SWR, etc.) are shown on the screen. Some radio menu items are also accessible. You can create and edit memory channels that are stored in computer memory.
The user interface is intuitive, and the documentation from Icom is very well-written.
Thanks to Diane Morrison, KE7PCS, of Icom America, Inc. for loaning the software.
Peter DeNeef, AE7PD, is an Extra Class amateur radio operator in the U.S. This web site has no ads or conflicts of interest.
Email: HamRadioAndVision "at" gmail "dot" com.