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Radio Programming without MS Windows



A topic that has come up frequently in other threads is "How do I program my radios if I'm not using Windows?"

(Thank you Michael LAX for the inspiration for this thread)

I am not a Mac user, so I'll defer the expertise to others, but the common thread I've seen in this regard is to run an instance of Windows on the Mac using "Parallels." I'll leave the technical details of this to others since I have no experience in this area.

I'm also not much of a "Virtual Machine" (Parallels, VM Ware, VirtualBox, etc.) user. Virtual Machines basically create a separate environment within the native Operating System (O.S.) in which a "guest" O.S. can be installed. Most often, it seems to be Windows that is installed in that environment, though you could conceivably install almost any O.S. you want. There are some special considerations to be made when using a Virtual Machine, particularly in setting up the programming cables. They need to have the COM ports properly configured, and the cable drivers must be properly installed in order for the programming cable to work. Again I will defer to the experts to chime in to share their experiences with Virtual Machines.

I am a Linux user, however, and I have used Linux exclusively for my radio programming for several years. Here are some of my experiences using Linux Mint 20 (other versions will be similar):

Programming Cables: Every programming cable I have tried to use in Linux has worked pretty much "out of the box." The only real difficulty is in knowing what port it's connected to. Typically, it's either ttyUSB0 or ttyUSB1. I can figure that out with a little trial and error.

Chirp: Chirp is a somewhat universal radio programming application. By universal, I mean that it works on many types of radios and multiple operating systems. Chirp can be installed and run natively on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

I use the "Flatpak" version of Chirp, since I am running a newer version of Linux Mint, which uses the Python 3 libraries. Chirp is (or, at least, was) heavily dependent upon the Python 2 libraries which are incompatible with Python 3. The way around this is the "Flatpak" which bundles the necessary libraries and the application together in a separate "container" for lack of a better word.

To install it on the newer versions of Mint, you'll need to use the Software Manager to install the Flatpak application, and if it doesn't also include Flatpak-builder, you might want to install that, too. I'm not sure about the necessity of the second application, but it's installed on my Mint 20 desktop and works well for me.

Lastly, you'll want to download the latest version of Chirp (in Flatpak format) from the download section at chirp.danplanet.com and install it from the command line with the following command:

sudo flatpak install ~/Downloads/chirp-daily-20210930.flatpak

The command assumes your download was saved in the Downloads directory within your Home directory. If not, you'll need to point the installer to the correct path. Finally, replace "chirp-daily-20210930.flatpak" with the name of the file you downloaded.

Manufacturer CPS: For most of the CPS software that is provided by the radio manufacturers, I run them in Linux using a "compatibility layer" called "WINE." To use it, you have to first install WINE. I did this from the "Software Manager" on Linux Mint. Once installed and configured, WINE will open automatically any time I try to run any Windows application (.exe). It will run in its own Window on my computer, and I do that with the setup programs that come from the radio manufacturers. Once installed, the programs can be run from the WINE selection of the "Mint Menu" or what Windows users think of as the "Start Menu." I sometimes go back to the WINE configuration to tell WINE what version of Windows to emulate. I typically default to Windows 7 for this purpose.

As with the native Linux configuration, WINE also requires a little configuration to point the "COM port" to the correct USB device that was identified above. This is done by creating a symbolic link in Linux.

In this case, I can assign "COM 1" to the ttyUSB1 device with the following command:

ln -s /dev/ttyUSB1 ~/.wine/dosdevices/com1

Once configured, I select the program from the Mint Menu, and in most cases it will run correctly. Occasionally there are little glitches that make the program difficult to use, such as windows that don't render properly, or fonts that don't display properly. Some of those issues have yet to be resolved in my case, but the software is, more often than not, quite usable even with those issues. I've only had one or two programs that wouldn't run for me, and those were for radios that are supported by Chirp.





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