Computer programming really IS fun!

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by KL7AJ, Jan 5, 2013.

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  1. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I got a late start in computer technology.....I never touched a computer till I was 41, being an R.F. guy for my entire career up to that point. Turns out I'm a lot better at programming than I thought I'd fact I think old guys probably WOULD be better at this in general....and I think most hams would get a lot out of doing it. And like learning any new language, I'm sure this wobbles a lot of dormant brain follicles.....

    I consider software writing the "new homebrew" least for those whippersnappers who aren't enamored with the smell of rosin flux. There's a lot more to puters than plugging in ethernet cables and changing memory chips. (I did the whole Microsoft/Cisco/BlahBlah certification thing....which is still a great idea, but nowhere near as fun as programming!)

    There are so many cool scientific programs out there too...most of which very few hams are aware. Here are my favorites:

    Labview: You can create ANY conceivable virtual instrument with this, using nothing but drag and drop methods. This is the FIRST real program I ever used. Great platform for designing software defined ANYTHINGS.

    Matlab: Venerable 3D graphing program....allows you to rotate any conceivable object in 3D. Programming is similar to C, but is non-compiled (interpretive C)

    Origin: Probably the FIRST spreadsheet driven graphing program. Excel graph functions were undoubtedly stolen from Origin. Orgin is now up to Version 9, which I use extensively in my book-in-progress.

    Scilab and Octave: Freeware versions of Matlab. Scilab is MOSTLY compatible with Matlab, while OCTAVE is 100% compatible. Octave still needs a few more "toolboxes" to actually BECOME Matlab, but it's well on it's way. I'd love to see more ham radio toolboxes written for Octave.

    ICAP4 by Intusoft. By far the BEST drag and drop version of SPICE.

    4NEC2. The best antenna modeling program ever, based on the original NEC-2 engine. I would like to see a NEC-4 version of this, though I don't know if it's in the works. 4NEC2 makes you really wonder how anyone can afford to just GIVE AWAY such world class software! But I'm glad they do!

    TeX, LaTeX, and other variants: These are WYMIWYG word processors. (What you mean is what you get). Unlike later versions MS Word which tries to guess what you mean even if you don't want it to, and usually gets it wrong, LaTeX always gets it right! LaTeX was developed by folks who actually had to write documents. I write all my articles in LaTeX, and then export them to Word for the sake of publishers who need Word documents for some reason or other.

    Emacs: Unix front end for almost anything. It started out as a mere text editor, but is now the front end for all kinds of engines, including Octave. It has a native C++ syntax interpreter/corrector...something that had about a decade of lead time over IDEs like Netbeans. (Though I really love Netbeans, too). Emacs just has a cool feel to it, as well...hard to describe...but it just encourages productivity like nothing else I've used. I guess that makes me a real computer geek. :)

    vi editor: I was rather shocked to find that vi is actually included in Windows7....and totally undocumented. I suspect there might have been a unix "plant" inside of Microsoft for this to happen. To get to it, just open up a command prompt and type vi. Vi is nowhere near as "pretty" as emacs, but it does give you low level access to just about anything, as does emacs. If you need to remove a virus or any other file with an unknown or non-existent extension, vi is the tool to do it with!

    Stay tuned!

  2. W6RZ

    W6RZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've used so many text editors over my 35 year career, that it's all a big blur. Current editor of choice is notepad++.
  3. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I just installed that...thanks for the link. I think I'll be using it a bit!

  4. WB5WPA

    WB5WPA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Been there, done that (+more), most all exc the Matlab stuff (my choice there yrs ago was MathCad) ... didn't become computer literate until encountering the TI 990 series of minicomputers at TI ...

    BTW, for the unsolvable by the NEC-based engines (like mag loops; NEC results do not match the real-world values seen like "I" values around a 1/4 wave loop) lookup up Ansoft HFSS (High Frequency Structure Simular), but come prepared with lots of memory ...

    Jim WB5WPA

    PS. Don't forget the Open Office Suite of tools,
    PPS. LabView coupled with a data-stream from an SDR (receiver) is smack. The amount of human-interface I/O is nearly limitless as are the DSP functions if one opts for the signal processing 'library'.

    PPPS Tina-TI Spice is quite nice too!

    PPPPS RFSim99 for quick and dirty 'what ifs' with coax, lumped elements, ffilter-sweeping, even simple gain-blocks like op-amps etc ...
  5. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    A while back I tried to convince the powers that be at National Instruments to offer a scaled back version of Labview for the amateur radio market. (I was an official Labview developer at the time, so at least I got free working copies of Labview). Somehow, I wasn't able to convince them. So for most hams Labview is priced out of the marker...alas.

  6. KD5PME

    KD5PME Ham Member QRZ Page

    For C++ work on Windows I use Visual Studio C++ Express. It is free. I also use Eclipse IDE, which has plugins for Python, Perl, C++, Java, etc. You can also write your own plugins. I do a LOT of coding in Python these days. It is easier to learn and use than C++. I use it a lot for proof of concept stuff. I can always port to C++ if I need an .exe or execution speed.

    BTW, if anyone has any good ideas for technical software let me know. This is an area I love to "homebrew" for fun. I am not interested in bookkeeping software like logging programs.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2013
  7. WB5WPA

    WB5WPA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Of course, once an application is 'compiled' (built) with LabView (assuming the Professional ver or better w/compile capability) the app can be distributed 'off the planet' (after a user has download and installed the FREE runtime environ) ... I have seen only a few LV apps in that category to date ...

    Also, reading the licensing (back a few versions now :)) it was legal to load the 'work' version on the home PC ...

    Jim WB5WPA
  8. N0NB

    N0NB Subscriber QRZ Page

    If we're going to discuss editors, there are a ton. For code, C/C++, Perl and Python I reach for Geany. For Shell or GNU AutoTools I reach for Gedit as its syntax highlighting works well. I've a bit of work with N4OGW's SO2SDR logger written in C++/Qt and since it is a Qt project the QtCreator really works very well since it is an IDE.

    Programming is one thing but maintaining a project is something else again. Besides coding there is maintaining the build system and just being the general go-to guy for answering questions. It is its own reward.
  9. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I love QT. I would love to use it for my current project, but my client wants it it Java...since it will probably be maintained by someone who's never even heard of QT. I do have a few QT ham software ideas though...a major consideration as you suggest!
  10. WB5WPA

    WB5WPA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Don't know what you mean by technical, but I think the leading-edge stuff has been mentioned. :cool:

    For roll-your-own with gusto it would be: LabView. Eric I'm sure would agree ... but you might fade at the full-up retail cost (there are options :eek:).

    Something that is worth spending some time and getting familiar with (if you want to do some real-time sim kinda stuff including mild signal processing stuff) is Ptolemy.

    Biggest thing going for it is it's free. I had it 'rigged up' on an under-powered Laptop doing some real-time sound processing a few years back:

    It'll take more than an evening or two to take it all in too. ;)

    Jim WB5WPA
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