II. Using EchoShack


EchoShack helps blind and vision-impaired amateur radio operators use EchoLink more easily. Tony Wakefield, VK3ZTR, wrote this user interface for EchoLink after he watched an older ham having difficulty using it because of his vision. EchoShack automatically controls EchoLink, so both software packages must be installed on you computer.

     Figure 2 is a screen capture of an EchoShack window, reduced to 80% of actual size. The interface has four frequently used control buttons (in the upper left) and 40 programmable call buttons. Any button labeled "EchoTest" will connect you to the Test Server, which will record and play back your voice automatically. Two large windows display text messages and information about the station you are connected to. Text size is easily adjusted directly from the panel using the arrow buttons in the lower left corner of the window.

     Figure 2. An EchoShack window. Detailed description.



  If you press the F5 function key, the text message at the bottom of the window ("Sorry I am out...") is sent to all connecting stations when you are away.

     The function keys F6 through F8 turn on speech output to give you station information, text messages, the name of the active button, and keystrokes. The commands.doc file lists a complete set of keyboard shortcuts and commands.

The EchoShack User Experience

     The controls can be operated using a mouse or by pressing Tab to move down the following list:


                  Disconnect All. (An alternative is Shift-D.)

                  Transmit/Receive. A push-to-talk/push-to-listen button.

                                          (The space bar is an alternative.)

                   Speech Volume Control

                   Call Buttons #1 through #40.

     Move up the list with Shift-Tab. Select a Call button and press Enter to connect to a station. If speech output is enabled, it tells you when a connection is made and gives you the station profile. The F12 Function key shuts down the programs and turns off the computer.

EchoShack Summary

Cost:  Free

Pros:  Convenient interface. Speech output. Variable font size

               supports text messaging.

Cons:  No CQ calls.

Computer requirements and conclusions are on page 5.

Note added 7/20/2015: VK3ZTR reports that in rare cases the Microsoft installer can become corrupted and prevent the installation of any programs. This is a problem in the Windows operating system, and it is not caused by the EchoShack program. Microsoft offers software support to repair the installer.

To Page 4 (CQ 100)