Using the iPad to Control Your Rig

The iPad is indeed a magical device. There are many applications the iPad can be used for, but did you know that you can use it as a Touch Controller for controlling your radio or other digital software? Therefore, freeing up your main computer screen for displaying data you need to see, while the iPad delivers touch control or remote control capabilities. If you don’t already own an iPad, this may be a great excuse to get one! You will find several uses for the iPad as a Touch Controller for your Amateur Radio software or even a Remote Monitor for your radio. For example the Touch Controller setup can come in very handy when you want to leave your PSK31 decoding software on your main computer screen while controlling your rig with the touch screen on the iPad. This could also come in handy during a contest where you need fast and easy control of your rig. It is also possible to use the iPad as a Remote Monitor for your radio. The Remote Monitor would allow you to pick up the iPad and go to another location in your home and control and monitor your radio, or even operate your PSK31 software. This will work with most radio control program and digital decoding software packages. In the video, I chose to use as an example PowerSDR. PowerSDR puts a lot of demand on data transfer between the iPad and your computer. As you can see from the video, it works quite well.

There are several ways to configure the iPad to display and operate your PC remotely. Most techniques commonly discussed rely on software using a VNC (Virtual Network Connection) or RDC (Remote Desktop Client) to provide the connection between the iPad and your computer. Both of these methods require a client to be installed on your Ipad and a server to be installed on your PC. The problem with RDC and VNC connections, is usually the iPad will only show whats on your PC screen. These methods will typically not allow you to use the iPad as a completely separate display.  Thats why I prefer to use Air Display. Air Display is an iPad application that allows the iPad to be used as a second or even third completely independent monitor for your existing computer configuration. You can simply drag the application you want to view or control to the iPad screen The application window then can be sized to fit the iPad screen. The Ipad will let you touch control the buttons or menus on the software, click and drag controls, and enter text. Air Display allows you to easily use the Ipad as a Touch Controller for just about any of  your Amateur Radio software applications. It is also possible to add audio output to the iPad, so you can monitor your radios’ audio, which I will discuss later.  You to take your Ipad to another location of your house to remote control and monitor your rig. Very handy if you want to plop down on the couch in the family room and monitor your rig while watching the big game. Here is what you will need to set up the iPad as both a Touch Controller and / or a Remote Monitor.

General Requirements

  1. You will need a copy of Air Display. The software usually costs $9.99 and includes the Ipad App and the server software for the PC.
  2. You will need to have available a WiFi network. G will probably work ok for most things, but N will be much faster since the iPad has an N card built in.
  3. I would highly recommend buying a stand so that you can prop the iPad up at a good viewable angle on your operating desk. It also keeps the iPad from sliding around when you are jabbing the buttons on the software. I would recommend the KB Covers stand shown in the Amazon store on the right side of the page. I have several of these and they are cheap and reliable. I also use them to prop up other equipment besides the iPad.
  4. You will need a rig connected to a PC. If you plan to control the rig via the iPad, you will need a control program like Ham Radio Deluxe. that supports several amateur radios for computer control. If you have a Flex Radio, just use PowerSDR (you can use Ham Radio Deluxe if you want).
  5. If you plan to use the Remote Monitor feature, you will need an audio interface from your rig to your PC. There are several homemade and commercial solutions available. If you are operating a digital mode like PSK31, you already have one.
  6. The Remote Monitor will also require you to obtain a copy of Skype for your PC and Ipad (free). If you are using a Flex Radio and PowerSDR you will also need a copy of Virtual Audio Cable ($30) you can order it here. Even though version 4.10 is the current version, it is generally recommended that you downgrade to version 4.9. VAC allows you to create virtual audio cables to route your PCs audio to from multiple programs that process audio. You can use the trial for testing, but be aware it places an audio message in the audio stream until you purchase a copy. Important to know if you are transmitting. You may want to use VAC if you find a need to route audio in and out of other digital radio software. *Note – You can only purchase VAC 4.10, but it you want VAC 4.9, you can contact Virtual Audio Cable support and arrange for a downgrade version.

Setting Up the iPad for Use as a Touch Controller

  1. Download and install Air Display to your iPad. Start the application and follow the instructions to download and install the server application to your PC. Follow the instructions provided with Air Display application to establish a connection to your Ipad from your PC. When this done, the iPad will display a part of your PCs screen.
  2. Go to the display properties for your video card.  This usually can be done on a Windows PC by right clicking on a blank area of the screen. If not, check for the property settings in the Control Panel. Make sure your display properties are set to Extended and not Clone. Extended allows you to drag an app to display on the second independent monitor. The Clonemode duplicates the original monitor so that the iPad will show the same thing as the main monitor. Clone is not very useful for using the Remote Controller setup, but can be useful for the Remote Monitor setup. Clone will give you access to the Windows menu allowing you to stop and start programs, as well as shut the main computer down remotely.
  3. You should be able to see your main monitor as well as the secondary monitor provided by the iPad. You can change the order of the monitors if you want. This just determines which way you have to drag the application to get it to display on the iPad.
  4. You should be ready to go.

Setting Up the iPad for Use as a Remote Monitor

  1. Install and set up Air Display as described above.
  2. For PowerSDR users, install the Virtual Audio Cable (VAC) software using these instructions.
  3. Install Skype on both the iPad and your PC. There is not a true iPad version for Skype, but the iPhone version will work fine.
  4. If you are using PowerSDR you will need to configure Skypes microphone settings and speaker output settings to the appropriate VAC input and output cables.
  5. For those using a commercial or homemade audio interface for your digital radio software, check and make sure that Skype is set to the correct line input and output settings for your PC sound card.
  6. If you have everything set correctly, you should hear audio coming from your iPad speaker.
  7. If you notice the audio out pumping from various outside noises, then go to Skype on the iPad and mute the microphone.
  8. This setup will transmit audio from the iPad to your rig if you have a Transmit button available from your radio control program. However before using this, you should do some testing to be sure the iPad is not overdriving the PCs input to the audio card.

Ok, that is pretty much it. You may need to do some fine tuning to get all this working correctly. It is pretty nice having a touch screen in your computer operating environment to access your software quickly during contests and such. However, its pretty darn cool to carry your station around on an iPad. If you have any questions, please feel free to discuss in our Forums.

*Note – Air Display and Skype will work under Apple OSX. However, VAC, PowerSDR, and Ham Radio Deluxe will not work with OSX. You can always install Bootcamp and Windows if you want.

 

4 Responses to Using the iPad to Control Your Rig

  1. Are there any aps out there to use say on a Coby 7″ Kyros Touchscreen Internet Tablet model 7024-4g that I can remote my Flex 1500 with?
    Thanks Rick Tharrington Kd4jrx

  2. KS4JU says:

    I am not familiar with that tablet, but it does run Android 2.1. Check the AppsLib application on it and see if there is an RDC or VNC client for it. If so you can get remote access to your PC. If not you may have to figure out how to get one of the App Stores on it. Apparently some people have had success in getting this to work
    http://www.androidtablets.net/forum/coby-tablets/13831-using-coby-7015-remote-desktop-access.html

  3. Derek says:

    Great article! Has anyone been able to use the ipad to transceive or is it just for receive only? i have used splashtop for a virtual remote of hrd demomatic and it seems to work good.
    any help would be appreciated.
    Thanks, Derek – VE5SD

  4. Gen Mos says:

    An old key pounder, the lost art of true cw especially with QRP.

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