Hoka Code 3 Gold will not run in Windows 95, Windows 3.1, O/S 2 or other muti-tasking environments. On my Win95 machine, I had to run it in DOS mode. Otherwise it needs an IBM PC or compatible using a 486DX/33 (or faster) processor, MSDOS v5.0 or later, and at least 640 k RAM. Of course you need an open serial port. Both VGA and SVGA monitors can be used. You will need almost 3 megs of free hard drive space for installation.
Installation of the software was easy and straight forward. The software for `Gold' is not copy protected like that of big brother Hoka Code-3, so it may be installed on more than one machine in your shack, without fear of running out of `installs'. The hardware set up is also fairly easy to get down. Com ports 1 through 4 are supported. You need to select your graphics mode, com port and center frequency.
Now came the time to connect the `LF5 interface'. The LF5 looks a lot like a 9 pin to 25 pin computer cable adapter, with a 9 pin connector on one end and a 25 pin connector on the other and a wire dangling out the side for audio that requires an RCA male jack for input. It's a bit bizarre looking in that it's so small and with it's 9/25 pin ends. So I started actually having to read the manual to what went to which end. I got up to Chapter 6 in the manual and still had no clue. But if one goes on to Chapter 9 (!!), "General Installation', we find out that either end may be used depending on what your computer uses, and the LF5 gets plugged in right at the port. I guess the rationalization is that you will read all about Gold's operation before one tries to install it, so installation details go into Chapter 9. Right! Well silly me, I was looking for a much more complicated solution. I found the 66 page manual both helpful and a tad frustrating at times, such as finding installation details in Chapter 9 -hi! In any case, an hour later I'm plugging in my audio cable (I tried the phone plug, recorder, and audio out which all gave equal results) and I'm ready to `Rock and Roll' as they say (well someone must have once said it!). The unit requires no power supply at all.
Anyone having used big brother Hoka Code-3, will find all the same operations on Gold for the most part. For those having been brought up on Universal equipment, your in for what may be a learning curve.
Gold does offer an optional HF modes package. HF modes include: Annex 10 (for decoding aircraft selcal's);
ARQ-6-70; ARQ-6-90/98; ARQ-E and ARQ-N (ARQ1000 duplex);
ARQ-E3; ARQ-S (ARQ1000S); ARQ-SWE (SWED-ARQ); ASCII,
AUTOSPEC with SPREAD 11, 21 and 51; BAUDOT (RTTY), BAUDOT F7BBn
(2 channel ITA-2 RTTY); COQUELET Mk1 and Mk2; DUP-ARQ (ARTRAC);
FACSIMILE (AM/FM); FEC-A (FEC100A, FEC101); FEC-S (FEC1000S);
HELLSCREIBER; HC-ARQ; HNG-FEC; MORSE/CW; PACKET (AX25); PACTOR;
PICCOLO MK VI; POL-ARQ; ROU-FEC (RUM-FEC); SITOR-AUTO (SITOR-A/B or
ARQ/FEC, and NAVTEX); SITOR-ARQ (ARQ or Sitor-A); SITOR-FEC (FEC or
SITOR-B and NAVTEX); TDM242 ARQ-M/4-242 (ARQ-M4); TDM342 ARQ-M2/4
(ARQ-M2); TIME (DCF-77); TORG-10/11; GMDSS and TWINPLEX.
VHF modes include: ACARS; DTMF; POCSAG/Super POCSAG; and VHF GMDSS.
The `tuning' of a digital signal can be accomplished by several methods. I found centering the signal on the Oscilloscope screen (F2), then going to the Auto-Analysis module, worked the best for me. In Auto-Analysis, you can manually accept a suggested mode or wait until the programs confidence level reaches 25% and it automatically switches over to the proper decoding module.
I found the shift/baud-rate in Auto-Analysis depended greatly on the strength and type of signal. Baudot was fooled on baud rate many of the times. A few weaker, but commonly found modes, came up as `no conclusive data' in Auto-Analysis as to type of mode. In fact, on several weak baudot signals, my M-1000 had almost 95% copy of the station, while the Gold was gibberish for the most part. Even Sitor-A can be a bit challenging if the signal is not very strong. I tested several dozen ship sitor signals and had good text on all for the M-1000; only about 70% on the Gold. This is about the same rate I've experienced on my Hoka Code-3 so I did not note any great improvement with Gold as to signal filtering. But on a good strong signal, it all clicks together and works great. Again this is very signal dependent. On the plus side, latching onto and synching a high baud signal (over 100 baud) is far easier on Gold. The French Forces 192 & 200 baud stations for example, provided text that was 70 to 99% and the `tuning' was fairly easy to get synch. I also decoded FEC-A, ROU-FEC, Sitor-B, Packet and Pactor with signal/noise dependent results, but getting reads on the baud rate/shift worked much better with these modes and overall the results were much better in these modes in all categories.
On the VHF side, I only played with ACARS having never seen the mode before, and found it was very simple and easy to synch up.
Gold features `Output to Disk' in most modules, where the text is saved as an ASCII text file which then can be viewed within the program. Another neat feature is the use of the Tab key when one is monitoring a station that switches between two modes. Rather than exiting out of one modes module, and going through all the settings again to get going in the second mode, the Tab key is set up to store all the settings. Then when you hit Tab, you are actually going back to the last module used, along with all it's settings.
The Auto-Analysis and Oscilloscope modules are selectable from almost
anywhere in the program using the `hot' keys (F1 and F2).
I found the Synopsis Decoder a neat feature, where it actually `decodes' and prints on the screen the weather in plain language from a station sending AAXX or BBXX weather transmissions. By pressing "W" within the baudot module, you can view or save AAXX/BBXX reports from up to ten countries. These are saved on your hard drive in a .DBF data base format of 29 fields. I tried it on a fairly strong signal and the data took a lot of hit's and was disrupted. But this would be a nice feature say in Europe were these stations are strong, or when the U.S. gets converted over to WMO format.
I think a person doing a review on the Hoka Code-3 Gold say in Europe, would be much more pleased with it due to the more constantly strong signals found there . Overall, I'm not `displeased'; it's an amazing bit of work. I hope the next version has some small improvements. I had hoped there would be a big difference in the filtering over the Hoka Code-3, but I didn't notice it. The lack of alternate alphabets for viewing, such as Cyrillic or Arabic, is regrettable but not insurmountable. Especially as a beginners unit, there is a lot to learn, and it's not something your going to pick-up in an hour. I think every decoder out there has good and bad points that one may nit at. Gold has it strong points too, and remember this is the first version. It has the exotic modes to play with and some good tools for snagging them. With high baud rate signals it performs well. It's baud rates for most modes are flexible rather than having say ten preset `commonly found' baud rates. So that one may tune a 109.5 baud Sitor-B station if you should encounter one. It's priced competitively for all the modes and features it has and does have a lot of advanced features. Upgrades can be added simply and easily by computer disk or from BBS downloads. Also, as another big plus, it has great support.
Hoka Electronics (UK), (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Computer Aided Technology,
the North American distributor (email@example.com), both have good reputations for support.
The Hoka (UK) dealer is Multicomm 2000, Radio House, 37 Cunnigham Way, St., Neots, Cambs., PE19 3NJ, UK. Telephone: 01480 406770. International +44 1480 406770.
In North America it's: Computer Aided Technologies, P.O. Box 18292, Shreveport, LA 71138, USA
(318)--687-4444, FAX (318)-686-0449.
You can visit all the Hoka sites via the WUN web page at: http://www.leonardo.net/berri/wun
Again, thanks to Jim Springer at Computer Aided Technologies for the loan of the review unit. Besides the Hoka line, Jim is the developer of the ScanCat computer aided scanning software. His ScanCat Gold for Windows has just recently been released with good reviews.