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Application Note #4

Troubleshooting Radio & Decoder Problems

The Basics

Connecting devices together through serial data connections is almost always a hassle! There is a lack of standardization in protocols, cables, pin assignments and port addresses, you will have to determine how your equipment is wired, and configure your software accordingly. In some cases you may need to construct a cable.

9B00 or 9C00 Error Message: Please understand the following:

  • This error message means there is something wrong with your cable, radio or computer.
  • Every product is been tested with every radio that it supports.
  • All of our software relies on Windows to communicate with ports. If Windows isn't set up correctly, then our software has no hope of operating correctly.

General Troubleshooting Tips

All software produced by Signal Intelligence tests every radio connection when you instruct the software to use a radio connected to the PC. The first thing the software tries to do is send a few commands to your radio and/or decoder. It then checks the response from the radio to make sure the commands were received correctly. If this process fails, you get the 9B00 or 9C00 error message. This error code means that the software is unable to establish a reliable connection with the radio. The most likely causes of this are:

  • Radio baud rate doesn't match what you told the software

  • Radio address set wrong

  • OptoCom set to OS535 emulation mode

  • OptoTrakker, CX12 or OptoLinx configured improperly for CI-V bus sharing

  • Windows doesn't "see" the serial card

  • Plug & Play resource conflicts

  • Serial card jumpers not set correctly

  • Wrong type of cable, or wired incorrectly

  • Plugged into wrong socket on back of PC

  • Radio or serial card broken

  • Settings in radio or decoder not matching settings in the software

  • Radio or serial port board not set up correctly.

Remember, everything must be set up perfectly or it won't work at all.

But my other program works fine, so it MUST be your software, right? No. It helps to know that a another program can access the radio, but as far as we know, we are the ONLY software manufacturer that verifies the radio connection EVERY time the radio is accessed. Many other software products just send commands to the radio and assume that the commands were properly received. 

Windows locks up when I try to access the radio: This will happen when you have a conflict in your Windows Plug & Play configuration. Two ports may be configured to use the same resources.

Serial Port Pins

There is a standard for 9 and 25 pin connectors, but most manufacturers ignore it. Some serial port cards even have jumpers that allow the pins to be redefined! You may have to sort this mess out if your equipment doesn't follow industry standards exactly.

Using a Terminal Window to Debug Connections

You may be able to use the Windows Terminal application (or other modem program) to help you debug connection problems. If you are using a standard serial port and interrupt, you should be able to establish a connection to the radio. Many radios accept ASCII commands, so you may be able to directly communicate with one of these. Properly connected Icom radios will display "garbage" characters on the screen when the tuning knob is rotated.

Radio Settings

Most radios and decoders have settings that allow the baud rate and other communication parameters to be set. The software will not be able to communicate with the radio or decoder unless it's settings match the settings in the software EXACTLY.

Windows Device Manager Settings

The port settings in the Windows control panel don't matter. Our software configures each serial port it attempts to use, according to the settings you tell us. On the other hand, Windows is solely responsible for identifying ports present on your computer and making them available for application to use. It may be useful to examine what the Device Manager says about your ports. Keep in mind that

USB To Serial Converters

You MAY be able to use a USB to serial port converter, but be prepared for problems. We have tested with a number of converter devices, and found that some work correctly and some don't. If you have problems, try a different brand. Always make sure that you get the latest driver software with your converter. Most manufacturers provide a web site where you can download the latest version of the driver.