The truth is that I’m not that good at the whole morse code thing. I can get by provided the speed is slow enough, but quickly get in a muddle once things start to go faster. This has over years meant using a CW decoder program for anything other than the easy morse that comes from various radio beacons and some of the slow morse ham frequencies.

Even though there are my favorites, its good now and then to have a bash at some other software (I’ll always be a computer geek at heart). Looking for something that wasn’t going to take long to setup/learn led me to this quick and easy CW decoder by Grant Connell (WD6CNF).

OK, Had a few niggles right from the start, although I’m 99 % sure these are down to the work of art that is the Windows 10 operating system rather than the decoder itself.

Windows 10 ‘No Sound Card’ Error

This one was a little bit annoying right from the get go. Having stayed away from using Windows 10 for my data-mode programs and sticking with the more hassle free (but outdated) Windows XP, little did I know that anything needing an audio input on windows 10 would throw a ‘no sound-card found’ error and fail to start.

Using online SDR for the decoders audio meant chucking the PC’s stereo mix into the software was enough to fix this sound-card error.

Static Window?

Another problem that’s not figured out yet is there doesn’t seem to be a way of maximizing the CW decoder window size? , yeah the usual controls to maximize the window are there, but its just not playing the game.

This isn’t too much of a hassle, although it means everything is all bunched up into the available space and I’d be grateful if anybody has a fix.

The Good Stuff

A major headache that keeps popping up is the way anything but a monster computer struggles when running online SDR and a fully fledged decoder like MultiPSK. This isn’t the case with this nice lean CW decoder, leaving it and the browser running the online SDR purring along smoothly (even on my modest work PC)

Essential Controls

A few things needed ‘adjusting’ for the way I wanted to use the CW decoder so I’d thought it would be a good idea to share them with you (it could save time and hair pulling)

Disabling the Seek Function

When you start the software up and point at a signal in the signal window it’ll only stay on that signal until another stronger signal appears close by then it will jump to the other one.

There’s perfectly good reasons for the software to have this handy ‘tweak’ although I feel the this should be turned off by default as its confusing at first. To disable just select AFC from the menu bar and set it to off.

Audio Input

Getting the right audio level is the first stumbling block in all sound-card decoder software with some being a hell of a lot more fiddly than others (HF SSTV for one). Luckily, uncomplicated morse code signals are much more forgiving but if like me your taking the audio directly from the computer you’ll need to turn the system audio volume up to get a decent level.

It does help having a set of headphones with an integrated volume control so you don’t smash your ear drums when you start listening. Also try to to remember to turn any amplified computer speakers down to minimize the fright when you tune to the CW signal 🙂

Overall

I’m all in when it comes to nice, easy and simple radio programs because they save me a mountain of time trying to work them out along with feeling confident about recommending them to SWL newbies.

This CW decoder ticks all the boxes (at least for my needs) and I’ll be more than happy if I can find the same sort of standalone software for some of my other favorite data-modes that allow my to use online SDR feeds.

You can download the morse code program from hotamateurprograms.com along with a bunch of other radio related software.

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