Digital Modes, Milcom Radio, Reviews and Views, Utility Radio

Utility and Aircraft Monitoring Modern Style!

09/26/2015

I have been into computers for a long, long time. I will resist the urge to regale you with tales of computer exploits back in “the good old days” of DOS, Amiga, and even earlier days with my TI-99 /4A with cassette deck. Over the years I have used and abused some really excellent software, and there have certainly been programs which stood out from the crowd and made you simply say “Wow!” So with all this experience you can imagine not many programs cause me to turn my head, drop my jaw, or gush over their capabilities. In the radio world, Multipsk is one such program.

I will not go over all the features here (it would take pages and pages!), but I will shamelessly promote an article/review of the program I had published this month (September ’15) in The Spectrum Monitor.

A little background is in order. I have all ways been interested in aircraft monitoring, and more recently utility monitoring, mainly as magazines like Monitoring Times and now The Spectrum Monitor opened up this world to me. Utility monitoring is a cacophony of, well noise, really, without some direction in how to make sense of what you are hearing. Buzzes and blips and pings and screeches are all over the HF bands, but because I did not know where to look for guidance, it pretty much stayed that way for me for years.

Through excellent articles by such people as Hugh Stegman at the Utility Planet Blog, Mike Chace-Ortiz at Utility Monitoring Central (both of whom write regular columns for The Spectrum Monitor) I found out what to listen for. Another great resource for aircraft monitoring is Larry Van Horn and his blog, Milcom Monitoring Post

These are excellent ongoing sources for software reviews, frequencies, tricks and tips, all for monitoring the utility and aircraft frequencies. I read their columns religiously, and there is not a month which goes by where I do not gain new insights into various parts of the spectrum by reading The Spectrum Monitor. You will not find a more comprehensive source for all things radio. It is without a doubt the best $24 you can spend a year on the hobby.(And no, I am not on staff!)

All of this led me to try out Multipsk for digital modes and utility/aircraft monitoring. The free version was great, but when I kept reading about some of these more exotic modes used by the government and commercial companies, I took the plunge and paid the registration fee for the program, and it is the best money I ever spent on software. All I can say is “Wow!”

There are well over 70 modes in the “pro” version, dozens more if you count all the possible combinations, and all with a great help system for configuring the software as needed. Is there a long learning cure? Yes, at least to take full advantage of the program, but you can certainly play with one mode at a time and master it to your heart’s content. I have been playing with HDFL, an ACARS-like mode for commercial (and some military) aircraft which allows for all kinds of data to be transmitted back and forth from listening centers as a means of tracking and monitoring flight progress. You can capture weather faxes, monitor ship movements, send and receive SSTV and Digital SSTV images, RTTY, PSK31, CW, MT63, PACTOR, ALE, and simply dozens and dozens of additional modes.

The closest professional software I have seen costs between $5000 and $10,000–the registered version of this program costs ~$45 for a lifetime, multi-computer (one user) license. Oh and you can run multiple instances of the program from different directories on the same computer. If you can receive it, chances are good you can decode it with this program (excluding encrypted transmissions, of course!)

I really hope you will give this program a try and let me know what you think. Don’t be thrown off by the interface–it may look somewhat primitive compared to all the bells and whistles out there on a lot of modern software, but there is incredible power “under the hood” as they say.

You can thank me later!! Really!!

73, Robert

2 Comments

  • Reply Stephen Walters 12/16/2015 at 6:40 pm

    Hi there,

    I am into retro/QRP computing. In particular, old computers, like the Ti99/4a & Commodore Vic20/C64 for ham radio applications.

    If you have any useful info, that would be really nice.

    regards

    Stephen Walters G7VFY

  • Reply Robert 12/16/2015 at 7:12 pm

    Hi Stephen – great to hear from you! I do not know of any TI99-4A (fond memories!) sites, but here is a good Commodore 64 site:
    http://www.mymorninglight.org/C64/index.htm

    also there is a Commodore forum with ham info – here is a sample:
    http://sleepingelephant.com/ipw-web/bulletin/bb/viewtopic.php?t=4231&start=15

    plus an Amazon Kindle offering:
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Commodore-Hams-Companion-Grubbs-ebook/dp/B00O2A0IZ6

    I’ll post more info if I find any.
    Cheers!
    Robert

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