Tigertronics Review:

Radio Raft v2.12 By Francois Guillet F6FLT


NOTE: Since this review was completed, many new modes and features have been added to Radio Raft. We hope to review the latest version soon, but in the mean time, we ask you to please see our Software Page for the latest information.


Introduction:

Radio Raft v2.12 is a DOS shareware program, that is capable of decoding most of the common digital modes that you find on the HF bands. To aid in decoding unknown (or unfamiliar) transmissions, Radio Raft includes a baudrate indicator, a frequency meter, and automatic mode detection!

Some of the more popular modes that Radio Raft can decode are CW, Baudot (RTTY), ASCII, SITOR FEC/ARQ, AMTOR FEC/ARQ, and 300/1200 baud AX.25 Packet, to name a few! Like many other shareware offerings, the unregistered version of this program limits some of the features. In the unregistered version, reception modes are limited to RTTY (Baudot), Sitor A, Sitor B, ARQ-E, FEC-A and "Digit". All of the other modes, except for packet, can be detected or selected, but the received text will only be displayed in a small nine character wide window.


Features:

Not only can Radio Raft decode a wide variety of signals, but it can also identify and decode most of the modes automatically! This is the only program that we have seen, that can do this reliably.

To "auto detect" a signal, simply enable "mode scanning", "baudrate scanning" and "signal tracking". Then, tune to an unknown signal. In just a matter of seconds, the program will detect the correct mode, set the baudrate and display the decoded data on the screen! Radio Raft will even compensate for using the wrong sideband or being slightly off frequency. It just doesn't get any easier than this!

As the author points out, in the written documentation, the "mode scanning" and "baudrate scanning" features work with all modes except CW, ASCII and Packet. These modes must be setup manually. The docs also suggest disabling all scanning features, once the correct settings have been determined, to prevent the program from resuming the scan, when a signal fades or drops out between transmissions.

Another neat feature of Radio Raft is the "BPS Meter". This mode allows you to measure the baudrate of unknown synchronous signals, up to 300 bps. In this mode, the last available baudrate measurement is displayed on the screen. A "BPS OK" message appears at the top of the screen, to let you know when the baudrate display is correct!

The program also features a unique "Digit" mode for analyzing unknown signals. In this mode, what you see on the screen is the actual digital data that was received. You can look at a signal (synchronous or asynchronous), bit by bit, in a binary or hexadecimal format. You can also measure the baudrate.


Performance:

Now for the big question! How well does Radio Raft perform? To answer that question, we compared the programs performance with HamCom v3.1, one of the best know and most popular multimode programs around. It's performance rivals that of it's commercial counterparts.

Here's how they stack up: Using the same "off the air" signals, receive equipment and computer, we did extensive comparisons. We could see no difference in performance between the programs during the reception of CW, RTTY and AMTOR. For an even tougher test, we compared Radio Raft's performance on 300 baud packet to BayCom, the best packet program we've tested! Again, we could detect no measurable difference in performance between the two! All of our testing was done with Radio Raft's "mode scanning" and "baud rate scanning" turned off, as recommended. If you forget to turn these off, Radio Raft "stumbles" a little between transmissions, as you would expect.


Suggested Improvements:

The only thing that we found in need of improvement was the menu system. It doesn't quite work the way that you expect it to. It would be better if it followed more of the same conventions that most other DOS menus follow. For example: If you select the "Options" menu and then try to use the left or right arrow keys to move to a different menu - You can't! The cursor moves up and down in the current menu, rather than left and right, to the next menu. This really isn't a major problem, but if it worked as expected, you could get comfortable with the program a little faster.


In Summary:

I think every Ham or SWL that has ever "struggled with the unknown" on the HF bands, will consider this a "must have" program! Newcomers to HF will especially appreciate the auto mode and baudrate "scanning" features. I'm sure that everyone will appreciate the power, flexibility and overall ease of operation. This program is a good performer and at a price of just $30, you should be licking the stamp! Our "hat's off" to Francois Guillet (F6FLT) for creating this multimode masterpiece!




Specifications:

The registered version of Radio Raft supports reception of the following modes:

  - Baudot (RTTY)
  - ASCII (7 bits or IRA, 8 bits and 8 bits+parity)
  - SITOR-A (TOR/ARQ or AMTOR mode A)
  - SITOR-B (TOR/FEC or AMTOR mode B)
  - ARQ-E
  - ARQ-M (ARQ-M2, ARQ-M4, ARQ-E3, SI-FEC)
  - ARQ-N
  - SI-ARQ
  - SWED-ARQ
  - ARQ-6/90 and ARQ-6/98
  - CIS11
  - SPREAD11, SPREAD21, SPREAD51
  - AUTOSPEC
  - FEC-A
  - RUM-FEC
  - HNG-FEC
  - PACKET (AX25)
  - CW

Radio Raft v2.12 requires a 100% IBM compatible 386 or faster computer, VGA
video and a serial port (COM1 thru COM4).  The program requires DOS 3.3 or later.

Order directly from the author:

  Francois Guillet
  10 route des Goulets
  44880 SAUTRON
  FRANCE

  Email:  F6FLT@TheOffice.net

  Price:    $30 U.S.  (Pay by Check)




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