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SatPC32 (was InstantTune 1.09)

DJ1KM wrote:

I suggest you should try SatPC32 which you can download free (Demo) from www.dk1tb.de <http://www.dk1tb.de>   English page, links. He has in his program a very stable CAT control and I wonder if you would have the same effect or if it performs better.

W9AE replies:

I suppose that Joel Black manually disabled the "VFO tracking" feature on his FT-847, otherwise he would have a LOT of tuning problems with InstantTune.  I have used InstantTune 1.07 quite a bit with a FT-847 and never noticed any problem when tuning rapidly.  If there is a "rapid tuning" problem, perhaps it was introduced in version 1.09.  I have also never encountered any "rapid tuning" glitches using SatPC32.

Another benefit of SatPC32 Doppler tuning is that it displays the "antenna" RX and TX frequencies on your computer screen.  You don't have to do any math to determine your exact RX frequency before the downconverter.  It also displays separate RX and TX Doppler shift values, so it is very easy to determine the "satellite frequencies".  InstantTrack/InstantTune doesn't do that.

The only thing I like better about InstantTune is that it allows you to tweak the TX offset using the FT-847 "Sub Tune" knob.  SatPC32 forces you to adjust the TX offset using on-screen up/down arrows. 

Here's my overall impression of the strong points of SatPC32:

1.	Good "political" map display.  I prefer to see country boundaries clearly rather than physical land/sea features.  It's similar to the InstantTrack map, and (in my opinion) better than the Nova map.

2.	Compact graphical user interface.  Three window sizes can be selected:  480x640, 600x800, and 768x1024.  That includes all the Doppler tuning information (except for the TX offset adjust which is in a separate small pop-up window).  In comparison, the size and shape of Nova and W6IHG Radio Tuner windows are very "wasteful" of screen space.  I couldn't even display everything on a 1024x1280 pixel monitor.  I shrink the height of the 600x800 SatPC32 window in order to simultaneously display SatPC32 and my logging program without any window overlap.  Shrinking the height doesn't affect any of the control functions.  It merely truncates the southern part of the map, making Antarctica disappear. 

3.	It is easy to switch from one satellite to another by clicking the "letter" buttons on the lower right corner of the window.  Similar to InstantTrack, the "letter" buttons change color when that satellite is visible.  So you can always tell at a glance which satellites are above your horizon.  Like Nova, it can display multiple satellites in one window.  I don't like multiple-satellite displays, and I found it very tedious to switch satellites using Nova.

4.	Doppler tuning is integrated with the user interface, and supports all full-Duplex satellite radios that have a serial interface.  It supports "transparent Doppler tuning" with all radios that support VFO polling.  The FT-736R doesn't support frequency polling, so you must tune using the on-screen up/down buttons.

5.	SatPC32 is a true 32-bit multi-tasking Windows application (unlike InstantTrack).  The DDE rotor driver currently doesn't work with WinXP, but that will be updated very soon.  I use SatPC32 with WinXP, but I don't have automatic rotor control.

6.	The demo version is fully functional except that you have to re-enter your station's lat/lon every time you start the program.  All other user-defined configuration is stored.  The "registered" price is only 48 Euros (about $45).  I believe all the money goes to support AMSAT-DL.  That's cheaper than Nova, it includes Doppler tuning capability which Nova doesn't have.

7.	The author Erich Eichmann DK1TB is very responsive to suggestions and questions.

Here's my impression of the weak points of SatPC32:

1.	The function of the 10 control buttons in the upper left corner is not obvious.  I made a little cheat sheet to tell me what those buttons do.  It's a small price to pay for having such a compact graphical user interface.

2.	The "time preview" function is very cumbersome.  You must to specify a time increment and then click each increment.  There is no smooth-scrolling "fast forward" function like in InstantTrack or Nova.

3.	There is no "mode schedule" function to tell you which mode the satellite is in at a particular MA.

4.	The response of the program is somewhat slow, even on my 1500 MHz Pentium-4.  Graphical changes take about 1 second to execute.  It is most noticeable when switching satellites or using the "time preview" function.  InstantTrack responds much more quickly, even with a 486 computer.

Wayne Estes W9AE
Mundelein, IL, USA
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