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Brief description of the FT8-Helper  -  Version 1.6

The FT8-Helper program was developed as macro extension for the WSJT-X using the Quick-Macro program. Comparing to similar FT8-Robots, this program is more “intelligent”, it interprets the received messages of WSJT-X and acts according to the own pre-programmed QSO strategy. The delivered EXE file contains the licence for Quick-Macro.

The FT8-Helper controls WSJT-X via virtual mouse and keyboard commands. When the FT8-Helper is running, you should not use your computer for other applications, as the mouse focus will be caught by FT8-Helper every  7,5 or 15 sec depending on the Mode FT4/FT8.

The human interface:

Mode: FT8 or FT4 (FT4 only with WSJT-X 2.1). WSJT-X follows the mode setting on the FT8-Helper, nevertheless it should be controlled on WSJT-X.

Own call: Your callsign, should be entered into the local file callsign.txt.

Channels:  Shows the free channels 500 und 2800 Hz

Free: Shows the most usable free frequency calculated by the FT8-Helper. It only works in RUN-mode if “Auto-Frq” is set.

Start „Run Mode“:

In „Run-mode“ FT8-Helper will call CQ continuously. Successfully completed QSOs will be logged automatically. After completing or aborting the QSO due to repetition timeout, it restarts calling CQ again. The FT8-Helper manages its own timeouts and repetition limits. Repetitions are limited to 3. If no answer of not correct answer is received after the third attempt, the QSO will be indicated as "broken". If no answer received after 5 CQ calls, the FT8-Helper goes into a short “sleep cycle”. After expiring the sleep time it starts calling CQ again.

Auto Frq:

If “Auto-Frq” checked, a free frequency will be calculated. To do it, the transmitting frequencies of all received stations are logged in four subsequent 7,4/15 sec. cycles. From this data the FT8-Helper calculates the most usable free frequency between 500 and 2800 Hz. A channel is indicated as "free" if no message is received on the given frequency during the four last sequences.  For transceiver with narrow IF-filter the upper frequency can be limited (see download page, Version history).

Important Note:  If "Auto-Frq" is used, the entire Wide-Graph window must be moved into the monitor screen and the size  may not be changed later. For monitors with lower resolutions (less then 1900 horizontal pixels) it means, that the right edge of the window must be visible, even if  left part of the Wide-Graph window overlaps the WSJT-X window.

Please note that only valid FT8-signals can be regarded when looking for a free frequency. On this reason it can happen that the frequency is set to a non-FT8/FT5 signal, e.g. noise, RTTY, MFSK or any other signal. When using the Auto-Frq feature, the "CQ-only" checkbox may not be checked.

Start „S&P Mode“:

In „Search and Pounce“ mode FT8-Helper selects one from the stations calling CQ. The QSOs, similar to the “Run-mode”, will be executed automatically and –if successful- will be logged automatically. QSOs will be broken if the called station does not answers on 3 calls, or returns to another station. QSOs will be closed unsuccessful if no report received after 3 repetitions. Stations with broken QSOs are blacklisted for approx. 7 minutes to allow making QSOs with other stations.

FT8-Helper selects the CQ calling station with the highest priority, based on the standard WSJT-X highlighting colour settings.  Only the checked lines are regarded. It allows you to call e.g. only new DXCC entities, if only this line is selected. If more than one lines are selected, the upper lines in the "Decode Highlighting" session have higher priority and will be called first. Stations with “CQ-In message (green)” will be never called.

When checking the “DX-Only” box, only DX stations will be called. In any case the FT8-Helper does not call stations calling DX from local QRA-grids. Also stations calling “JA” are not called if our stations is not in Japan. Our own location and non-DX QRA grids are specified in the “ownloc.txt” file. It can be modified by the user according to the local requirements.

Automatic switch between RUN and S&P:  <-- X-->
New feature in V1.6: When starting RUN or S&P with checked feature, the selected mode ends after 20 unsuccessful QSO attempts or broken QSOs and changes to the other mode.  Running QSOs will be completed before switching. The default value of 20 can be modified in the callsign.txt file.

Stop:

Both  RUN and S&P Mode can be stopped by clicking to the “Stop” button. It is not possible to switch direct from RUN to S&P or back. You should go always over “Stop”. The stop is a "hard" stop, QSOs will not be completed. If necessary the QSO can be continued using WSJT-X.

Log Window:
The “Log Window” shows what the FT8-Helper just doing.

Installation and Initial Setup

  • Download  the FT8-Helper-exe-file and the "ownloc.txt”, copy them into a directory.

  • Start WSJTX, then the FT8-Helper. At first start, the callsign field is empty. Exit the program and enter your callsign into the file callsign.txt replacing "------" by your callsign. Be sure not to enter invisible characters, like white space etc.

  • At the next start of the FT8-Helper, your callsign will be shown in the “Own-Call” box.

  • Check and modify the first line of ownloc.txt” according to your location.  
    Enter your country (DXCC entity) and your continent (e.g. DL USA EU AS NA OC etc.)
    Result: in S&P mode, only stations are called if the CQ-extension matches to one of the listed items.

  • Check and modify the second line of ownloc.txt” according to your location.
    Enter the list of QRA-locator grids around of your own QTH.
    Result: In S&P-mode, stations calling DX are only called, if the calling stations own QRA is not on the list.

  • Verify that WSJT-X is running well in manual mode.

  • Following settings are required In the Main-Window of WSJT-X:

  • CQ only:         not checked if "Auto Frq" is used in RUN Mode.

  • Auto Seq:       checked

  • Call 1st:          checked

  • Hold Tx Freq. Run-Mode: checked, S&P Mode: not checked.

  • Monitor:         Running (green)

  • Enable Tx:      not enabled, will be set by FT8-Helper.

  • Menus:           checked

Required in „Settings – General“

  • My Call / My Grid:                                                 according your station

  • Autogrid:                                                                 not checked *

  • IARU Region:                                                          All *

  • Message generation for type 2 compoud.        Full call in TX3 *

  • Start new period decodes at top:                       not checked

  • Blank line between decoding periods:              checked (suggested)

  • Display distance in miles:                                    not checked *

  • TX messages to Rx frequency window:             checked

  • Show DXCC, grid  und Show principal prefix:   both checked

  • Monitor off at startup:                                         not checked *

  • Monitor returns to last used frequency:           checked *

  • Double-click on call sets Tx enable:                   checked

  • Disable TX after sending 73.                                       not checked

  • Alternate F1-F5 bindings:                                            checked *

  • CW ID after 73:                                                              not checked

  • Single decode:                                                               checked *

  • Fonts: MS Shell Dlg2, Normal, Size=8 (WSJT-X standard)

  • Decoded Text Font:  Courier New, Normal, Size=10 (WSJT-X standard)

    Settings marked by "*'" might be not important, but tests were made with the written settings.

    Required in “Settings – Reporting”

  • Prompt me to log QSO:    not checked

    Required in “Settings – Colours”

  • All default settings, do not change them

  • The required lines can be checked,
    Suggested to check:
    - Transmitted message
    - CQ in message
    - My Call in message
    - Any other New Call, DXCC, GRID, ITU or CQ-Zone, New Continent, etc. according your needs.

Settings in "Decode"

However all settings (fast/normal/deep) can be used, consider that using "deep" can cause significant delays when sending messages. If the band is full and not all the received messages in a cycle are fitting in the Band activity window, it is suggested to change to "normal" or "fast" decoding.  You can also decrease the receiving bandwidth. Do not use Auto-Freq if the bandwidth is limited.

 

Settings in "Wide Grph" Window

The following settings are only requested if "Auto-Freq" is used.

  • Horizontal width:  500 - 2850 Hz must be visible.

  • Bins/Pixel:           3

  • Start:                    500 Hz

  • All other settings are not critical

Operation

The window sizes are optimized full-HD monitors with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. On start of FT8-Helper, both main WSJT-X and Wide-Graph windows are resized with the requested size and positions. The size of the main WSJT-X window may not be changed by the user!  The text size for windows applications must be set to 100%. If it was set correctly, you have 25 or 26 lines in the Band Activity window of WSJT-X, depending on whether horizontal scroll bar is available or not.

If a monitor with lower resolution (e.g. with 768 lines) is used, FT8-Helper reduces the height of the main WSJT-X window accordingly. In this case there are 20/21 lines visible in the Band Activity window. 

If the horizontal resolution of your monitor less than 1920 pixels, FT8-Helper resizes and sets  the Wide Graph window accordingly. The left part of the Wide-Graph window comes under the WSJT-X main window. Especially when using "Auto-Frq" in "RUN-Mode" the size and position of the Wide Graph window may not be changed.

Opening modal (blocking) dialogs during either "RUN" or "SP" mode is running will lead to crash of the FT8-Helper. It happens if you e.g. change the WSJT-X parameter settings during RUN or S&P mode is active.

Have a fun testing the FT8-Helper

73´DX Geza DG5LP

Bug reports to: dg5lp@darc.de