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Sunday, August 21, 2011

FT-817 Remote Access and The Perils of PC Board Etching

Mike is looking for some beta testers for his FT-817 remote control system, and for someone who is proficient on VB6 who can help him clean up the code.



Hello I am a 47 year old ham from Pittsburgh,Pa and my call is WA3O. I felt compelled to write you after my Kindle purchase of your Solder Smoke book. I don't usually read books cover to cover but, this book is different I can not seem to put it down. This is the first time I can personally relate to a book. Like you, I started ham radio at the early age of 13 and have built and struggled with the same projects you have. So I wanted to say thanks!...I am half way through the book and I am dreading finishing it because I probably will never find another book I can relate to so well.

My latest project is some software I wrote for the FT817 and Icom radios. I am not a programmer but, I taught myself VB6 so I could write this remote software. After reading in the book about your Iphone “link”I thought you might like it and I wanted your opinion on it. The software is DTMF control of your radio from any phone. With Skype (and a Skype-in phone number) and my software, you can call your radio from ANY phone (not just a smart cell phone). You dial your number and after a security number the program turns your radio on via the printer port and you have pretty much full control of all the functions of your radio with the voice announcer on the radio (Icom) or the voice out on Microsoft computers it can announce frequency, signal, mode etc. you can even TX. The software even has a time out timer just in case of say a cell phone “drop call”. The software has many features like 50 memory recall, selective scanning, band scanning,direct frequency input. If you have a radio like a IC-7000 or a FT-817 and a auto tuner you have access to all HF,VHF and UHF. I brought the software idea up to some local hams and it sounded like it was a bad idea. I use it every day to listen to 160M while I drive to work in my truck without a BIG 160 antenna on it! I also thought it would be great for guys who just like to see what band conditions are on lunch break. Let's face it we all carry a cell phone. So I would really appreciate your opinion on this.

One last comment...while I was reading about your struggles with etching your own board it reminded me of my first experience with etching solution. My buddy etched boards before and told me all you had to do was draw what you wanted with a Sharpie on a copper PC board and throw it in some solution and “rock it back and fourth a bit and it works like magic. So unknowingly we put the solution in a pie tin and palced the board in. It immediately started boiling and put off an orange smoke! I said NEAT! And before my buddy could tell me it was NOT supposed to do that it ate thru the bottom of the pie tin...What a mess! And mom wasn't happy! LOL

So best of 73's and keep up the good work

Mike Lamanna WA3O

Our book: "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics"http://soldersmoke.com/book.htmOur coffee mugs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers: http://www.cafepress.com/SolderSmokeOur Book Store: http://astore.amazon.com/contracross-20


  1. Hi Bill, I would like to beta test WA3O software, I have a FT817 and control it now with hamradio deluxe.

    -Dan WA6PZB

  2. hi mike,
    yes I too relate to Bills experience. Its a cracking book.

    However I did laugh at your etching experiment in the tin. Myself from somewhere I did learn that it should be kept away from metal containers. So I kept mine in a glass jar. Actually it was an old Beetroot jar, complete with label.

    My mother came across it one day, when she was making a salad to go with dinner, and we nearly ended up with a Ferric Chloride salad dressing.
    Mothers are the unsung hero's of fledgling radio ham's for sure.

    You go ahead and develop your software ideas. To me, facebook sounds like a complete waste of time from the beginning. That's why I don't have a multimillion dollar website. Millions of other people think differently. Ignore your other ham friends comments and get on with it. 100's of other hams are waiting to thank you for it. Personally, it sounds great.


  3. Speaking of glass jars...Many years after the "tin" incident I knew if you heated the solution a little it would etch faster so I put the solution in a peanut butter jar and put it on the stove on low...and of course cracked the bottom off of the jar on the top of the stove!

    Mike WA3O

  4. Etching PCBs. That brings back memories! I thought I was an expert at etching boards until I tried building a video card for an IBM PC. All those integrated circuits, packed close together, make for VERY small traces. I ended up with so many "Engineering Change Wires" that it would have been easier to wire-wrap the design instead of using a PCB.

    Mike - Keep plugging away at your software. Anything you love doing that expands your knowledge is a good thing!

    Bob KE5VLI


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