Computer Aided Technologies

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    	COPYCAT PRO and CODE3 Updateed REVIEW
    	              COMPUTERS AND RADIO
    	        FOR JULY  Montoring Times ISSUE
                BY JOHN CATALANO   4/22/95
         How Many Products Can You Name Cat???
         Well, since Computer Aided Technologies' new Copycat-Pro is
    now ready for release (see ads in MT), we can finish up our review
    of their product line starting with this new feline offspring.
         We discussed the first version of Copycat in this column many
    months ago. In its initial form it was intended to be a TNC
    control program primarily for Universal, but also including, AEA
    and MFJ decoders. The idea was that Copycat would remove the need
    for memorizing all the crazy key combinations required to use
    these powerful decoders to their maximum potential. Most of these
    commands were on pulldown menus and simply required a click or
    keystroke to become available. Well Copycat-Pro adds to this, what
    I call a mini-Scancat program, enabling you to tune your computer
    controlled receiver. This is done via previously stored frequency
    files from Scancat. How does it work? What does it look like? Will
    it be the big time or the litter box for this cat? Let's
    Leashing Copycat
         In order to use all the functions of Copycat-Pro you will
    require one of the many computer controlled radios which the
    program supports (these included Yaesu, Icom, Kenwoods, AOR, Japan
    Radio, Drake, and Radio Shack scanners with OPTO boards), a
    receiver/computer interface if required by your radio and a TNC.
    Copycat supports Universal M-7000/M8000, MFJ-1278 and AEA PK-232.
    For our discussions we will use an Icom R-71A with an
    AEA PK-232MBX.
        The installation of Copycat-Pro is quick and very simple. Just
    typing "install" will do it all. Once this is done about 700K of
    files are decompressed and will appear on your hard drive. The
    program comes with a manual that is flawless in giving the user
    all the details he/she needs to know and leads you through a
    number of tutorials. However, I couldn't find any information
    about minimum computer system requirements, or operation from a
    floppy disk with the decompressed files. We will use a 486-33 DX2,
    8 Meg RAM, bus mouse, two serial ports and SVGA. However I can
    tell you from experience that Copycat will run on a laptop 386-16
    SX, with 1 Meg RAM and an LCD screen. Although using the ALT key,
    any function of the program can be accessed, the program is setup,
    in my opinion, to use a mouse, which makes command choices a lot
    simpler to invoke.
         Once you run the install program, it gives you some system
    info. As for running it from a floppy disk we tried it, and it is
    possible. But be prepared for some "free time" during operations
    such as loading of the program and frequency files. This time is
    cut to seconds using it on a hard drive.
         Once loaded you will see the main screen with its titles of
    pulldown menus near the top. The major part of the screen is the
    area where decoded information from your TNC appears. At the
    bottom of the screen is current operational status information.
    Once you choose the setting for your actual equipment they will
    appear at the very top of the screen. See Figure 1. It looked so
    similar to the original program that I first thought I had loaded
    the wrong version. But looking closely at the top right hand of
    Pro version's screen the title "Devices" appears. Clicking this
    title brings up a menu from which not only is the serial port
    parameters of your TNC set, but also your radio's serial
    parameters. The TNC operation of Copycat-Pro has not changed
    significantly from our last review.
    So we will concentrate on the new radio controlling features.
    Riding the copyCat
       First clicking on "Port" opens the serial ports to our TNC and
    receiver. We can manually send frequency and mode data to our
    receiver by typing "/F" and then the frequency in MHz, a space,
    and then the mode. For example /F 6.4945 USB, will tune your
    receiver to a RTTY weather station on 6.4945MHz. But this manual
    stuff is where I lost interest with the original Copycat and told
    Computer Aided Technologies. The concept seemed to defeat the very
    reason for using a computer. Copycat-Pro changes that.
         Clicking on the first menu title on the left "Files" gives us
    the capability of accessing Scancat files via the "Load File"
    command. From here we can go into our Scancat directory, find a
    list of frequencies we are interested in, say weather fax stations
    and bring them into Copycat-Pro. Figure 2 displays the resulting
    file viewer screen. By using the arrow keys over the desired
    station and pressing Enter, our radio will be tuned to that
    frequency and mode.  Further, if TNC decoding details were
    included in the station's info, the TNC would also be set.
    Pressing the escape key brings you back to the main screen and the
    output of your TNC. Using the arrow keys you can quickly and
    easily run down and check all your loggings without having to
    manually input a thing! Now that's the way computers should serve
    us. Pressing F3 brings the file viewer screen, and your logging
    list back into view, so you can tune to a new station. The F2 key
    allows you to load a different logging file into Copycat.
       Using Copycat-Pro is very easy. But one feature which is a hit
    or miss situation is text control of your TNC. When I used the
    pull down menu to set the mode of my PK-232 I never had a problem.
    But when I tried to type in a mode command, or include one in a
    logging file, the TNC didn't always recognize the command. Now on
    page 38 of the manual there is a list of the valid Copycat mode
    commands. But before you can use them you must make sure your TNC
    understands them. For example with my PK-232 I kept trying to get
    into the RTTY mode, with no success. Copycat let me type it in but
    the PK-232 stayed in the packet mode. Then I realized that to get
    the PK-232 into RTTY it wants to hear the command "Baudot". Since
    Copycat already "knows" what TNC you are using, it should have a
    routine in it to either convert the RTTY command to Baudot, or a
    prompt should come up to say that this is not a valid PK-232
    command. As it stands now you are never quite sure what has, or
    has not, been accepted by the TNC. Another TNC type modification
    that should also be included is blanking out menu commands which
    are not supported by your TNC. Currently it's "try it and see if
    anything happens".  These situations are a result of the program's
    praise worthy, high degree of equipment flexibility.
    The copyCATS Meow?!
         I liked the program. For me, the Pro version is really the
    only version I would consider due to the great reduction in manual
    inputting of data. The program is a DOS based program, but will
    operate under Windows 3.1. This is in contrast to AEA's Packratt
    for Windows TNC controller program, which only runs AEA TNCs. We
    looked at this program in a previous column and also liked it very
    much. For flexibility of TNC and receiver types Copycat gets high
    marks. But as we said the flexibility is at a price. But as the
    Copycat's author admits in the manual, this program was primarily
    designed for the Universal TNCs. Copycat-Pro is priced at $79.95,
    while Copycat version 2.1 sells at $59.95. Version 2.1 is
    essentially Pro without the radio control capability. An upgrade
    from all versions of Copycat to the Pro is available at $24.95.
  • (Go back to )Copycat-Pro Review
    HOKA CODE-3 UPDATED REVIEW ( JULY 1994 ) ISSUE OF MONITORING TIMES Rounding Up the Cat's International Family Although not in keeping with their CAT titled products, Hoka Code 3 is also distributed by the company. Made in The Netherlands Computer Aided Technologies has added a much needed "real person" technical assistance to Hoka users. In addition they have produced a new manual for the Code 3 which is a standard paper size and much better organized and readable in my opinion. We have previously worked over the Code 3 in this column. Over the past months my use of the Code 3 has re-confirmed my conclusions in that review. There are cheaper decoders and there are more expensive data analysis tools. But Hoka falls in a category between them. Code 3 can be viewed as mid to upper end priced decoder, or a very low priced data analysis tools. Hoka Reflections No other product under $1200 has all the decoding modes, analysis screens or data form storage capabilities similar to the Code 3. With ALL its decoding modules it comes in at $750. We have already discussed the ever increasing use of encrypted data which makes reading of the data impossible to any off the shelf decoder. However, for the diehards among you who agree with famous sixties philosopher that "the media is the message" analysis and cataloging data signals may be your thing, then Code 3 is for you. One of the new features included in the total module is a new Synop plain language module. Synop is a form of weather reporting that dates back to the time when letters slowly clattered out on mechanical teletype machines. To decrease the amount of time required to send all the forecasts and observations a complex language of abbreviations, Synop, was adopted by the world's aviation community. Being able to translate this mess of letters was the worst part of getting my pilot's license many years ago. Well the Code 3 now has a module that does the translation for you, well almost. It gets much of the data translation right once it hears a ZCZC and the meteo code form. This can take many tens of minutes before a station sends this header data. When it does lock onto a European meteo, clear language weather reports come streaming out. The program had a bit of trouble decoding the observing station's identity when decoding KAWN meteo data. This could be because the program is looking for a four letter identifier code. KAWN, being in the USA, and sending observations from US stations usually drops the first, country identifying letter, just sending three. For example Little Rock air force base, whose meteo id is KLRF, becomes just LRF when used by the KAWN meteo. If this non standard format is the problem it should to fine on European meteos, such as Bracknell, UK. So let's just pull up Bracknell's station data...Uh. Is Deja Vu a Dutch Word? Since we have just finished looking at Copycat, a decoder terminal control program, the same considerations apply to Code 3. Because of Code 3's analysis power it pretty much takes over your PC leaving little room for "other things". Like what other things? How about changing to other stations, for example going from KWAN meteo to Bracknell. Manual look-up, pencil and paper and then receiver tuning! So just like my original comment on the old Copycat, "Is this any way to run a computer?" Not in 1995. If Code 3 was accessible from within CAT's Scancat, or even a stripped down Scancat shell, that would make it an exceptional monitoring tool, as well as the exceptional analysis tool that the Code 3 is today. I'm sure we have not heard the last "purr" on this possibility. Computer Aided Technologies stable of Cats are pretty impressive. These guys have been with it from the beginning of my total monitoring environment campaign, many years ago. CAT has continued to "push the performance envelope" of their products. Check out their ads in MT for their latest products, which includes their Cat's Whisker, telescoping and rotating portable scanner antenna. Or contact them at P.O. Box 18292, Shreveport, LA 71138, telephone (318) 687-2555 .
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