W2DRZ Controller Support Web

Welcome | Overview | Controller | Encoders | Assembly | DrzTrack | Products | Download

 

DrzTrack V5: Tracking, Configuration and Interface Software

User interface and configuration of the CT-2 controller is done with the DrzTrack.exe program, a Windows program that you can download.  DrzTrack can track the Moon and Sun. It can interface with some other programs to track other heavenly bodies.
 

The newest version is 5.01. The matching firmware version is 5.01.

For DrzTrack version 3 and firmware version 4, see the DrzTrack V3 page.

See the download page for information on determining your firmware version and downloading this or earlier program versions.

The rest of this page explains the use of the control and tracking program, DrzTrack.exe.

Here are some links to the various topics having to do with DrzTrack.exe.

 Setup  |  Motion Indicators  |  Manual Movement  |  Calibration  |  Tracking  |  Tracking with other programs  |  Local Control Panel  |  Boot Loader


Main Window Features

This is the DrzTrack version 5.01 main dialog.

Note that most of the buttons (from previous versions) have been moved to menu items at the top in the Setup, Configuration, or Calibrate menus.

The message box shows 'Responding to Commands'.  This message is shown when DrzTrack is connected to the controller via the RS-232 serial link.  Also, the 'Activity Indicator' button is flashing on and off.

The two compasses are showing Antenna Position and degree readouts. There are two fields at the top that show the current Moon or Sun position, depending on which one is selected in the setup dialog.

At top right there is a band selector.  It is used to select the current band of operation.  This allows things like correct Doppler shift, antenna offsets, and operating sequences, for each band, to be shown in the main window and elsewhere.  Bands are set up in the Setup menu.

At top middle is the Tracking button.  When clicked it stays down and the text changes to 'Stop Tracking', indicating that tracking is in progress.

Under the compasses there are fields to enter a position in degrees, and a 'Go' button to tell the controller to move the antenna to the entered position.  These buttons are not active when tracking.

At the right there is a field named 'Dx Station Call or Grid'.  Entering valid information in this field and pressing enter brings up an auxiliary window called 'Moon and Sun Data'.  It will show Moon and Sun positions for your station and for the selected DX station or grid square, as well as other astronomical data.

Also at right is a field labeled 'Polarity' that can be used to show antenna polarity if a 0-5 volt DC polarity indicator voltage is connected to the controller.  This is enabled and set up via the Setup menu.

At the bottom are the Reset, Local Control Panel, and Exit buttons.  The reset button causes the controller to reboot.  The local control panel can be used when only controlling azimuth (for non EME operation).  Many more details about the main window and other windows and operational controls are described below and in the Detailed Settings page.


 

Initial Setup
The DrzTrack program is used to set up the various parameters that are needed by the controller, to test and calibrate the encoders, and to track the Moon and Sun.  It may also be used to relay tracking information from other tracking programs to the controller. It does this by communicating with the controller via the serial port. Configuration data for the controller is selected by the user and saved in the controller's non-volatile memory so that once the configuration is done, it does not have to be redone unless a change is desired.

When the DrzTrack program is started for the first time, it is necessary to set up the communications port and baud rate before it can communicate with the controller. In the Setup menu, select the  "Program Setup" item and then select the desired com port options. Click "OK" or "Apply" to save your settings. The program will remember your settings so you only have to do this once.  The default rate that the CT-2 uses is 9600 baud.  You can change this with the dip switches on the board, see Switch configuration and Setting for more details.

Once the Communications  port and baud rate are set, DrzTrack will start communicating with the controller.  The status message (in bold print near the top) will change from  "No Connection to Controller" to "Controller Responding to Commands", and the activity  indicator will begin to flash. At this point no movement commands will be sent to the controller but it will try to display the current position and status of the controller board.  Some of the status and communications indications will be operative as shown above, but they may not all work as the encoders have not yet been set up.  Note that it is necessary for communication with the controller board to be working before the encoders can be configured.  On a new controller, the default setting for encoder type is A/D for both Azimuth and Elevation.  So if you are connected to some different kind of encoders, no position information can be displayed until you set up the encoders.  However the little black dot (activity indicator) should be flashing, indicating that serial communication with the controller has been established.

Once communication is working, open the configuration menu at the top of the screen and select the Encoders menu item. The following window will appear:

When this window is opened, the setup program reads the current configuration from the controller board and displays it. If the controller does not respond, an error message "Unable to communicate with controller" will be displayed and the configuration dialog will not be shown. If this is the first time into this window, the values shown will be the defaults that are loaded into the controller when it is built. The defaults are shown here.

First select the correct encoder type for Azimuth and for Elevation, and set the appropriate ranges. Calibrate Min/Max should be set to the points you want to use when calibrating the controller.  Tracking Min/Max set the limits that the antenna will traverse during tracking of heavenly bodies.  The other settings are explained in detail in Detailed Settings.

Once you have adjusted the settings click the 'Send Changes to Controller' button. The new settings will be sent to the controller board and stored in it's non-volatile memory, and the configuration window will be closed. You will return to the main program window and communication with the controller will resume. (However after the controller receives a new configuration it will automatically 'reboot' so as to resume operation with the new settings.  Thus it may take a few seconds before communication resumes.)

 
 

Calibration
For any encoder type it is necessary to calibrate the controller to the actual antenna position in order to get accurate readings. This is done with the calibrate menu at the top of the window.  Select the Azimuth or the Elevation menu item.  The elevation and azimuth calibrate dialogs are nearly identical, so only the elevation dialog is shown.  However the incremental encoders require different settings so they have their own, different dialog.  The dialog shown below is for A/D elevation, and will be the same for all others except the incremental encoders.

At the top of the dialog the compass shows the current position of the antenna, and there are two buttons you can use to move the antenna up or down.  If the calibration has not yet been done, the reading may be incorrect, but is provided as a reference and an indication that calibration is successful.

Following the instructions in the dialog, first move the antenna to the minimum position as shown next to "Set to" in step one.  This is the "Calibration Min" azimuth that you specified when you configured the elevation encoder.  If it is not right, exit the calibration dialog and go to the "Encoder Configuration" dialog to change the range settings.  Note: Do not rely on the position shown on the compass when setting min or max position, as the system is un-calibrated at this time.  Instead, visually check the antenna against a known reference such as a compass rose, or the Sun or Moon.

Once the antenna is at the min position, click the "Set Min" button. The compass will change to show the minimum calibration value. Next move the antenna to the maximum position as shown next to "Set to" in step 2.  Again, do not rely on the un-calibrated reading, but check the max position of the antenna visually.  When you click the "Set Max" button the compass will change to show the calibration max position that you have specified for the encoder (in the Encoder Configuration" window). Once you have set min and max, the readout should track with the antenna position accurately. Repeat the process for azimuth and you are done calibrating. The min/max configuration is stored in the controller's non-volatile memory so it will be remembered after a power cycle.

You may also make an adjustment to the current calibration.  This is for circumstances where the antenna has already been calibrated, but the antenna position has changed in respect to the encoder (antenna slipped on shaft, for instance).  In that case, point the antenna to a known reference point and then enter the position in the current position field at the bottom of the calibrate dialog.  Then click 'Set Current'.  The compass will change to match the value entered, and the antenna will now track with the new position.  The adjustment works by saving an offset to the count value  in the controller.  That offset is then applied to the values the controller returns to the controlling program.  Note that this will change the min and max for the antenna range.  For example if the previous min and max were 0 and 90 degrees and an adjustment of +10 degrees was entered, the new min and max will become 10 and 100 degrees.  The range shown in the encoder configuration dialog will not change, but in operation, the end points of rotation will be changed.

 

Calibration for Absolute Encoders

Absolute encoders have some special calibration considerations. Absolute encoders output an absolute position count from zero to 360 degrees, for one turn of the encoder shaft.  To calibrate them it is only necessary to do a "Min Set", which sets the zero position.  It is not necessary to do a max set and the "Max Set" button is disabled for absolute encoders (however see the section below about scaling absolute encoders)..

Another consideration is for the elevation encoder.  If you use the inclinometer then 90 degrees is represented by just one quarter of the 360 degrees, thus you must set the calibration range as zero to 360. You could also use other end points as long as the total range remains at 360 degrees.  For instance you could use -10 to 350 degrees. That would allow you to move the antenna to -10 degrees and still have correct readout.

If you use a shaft encoder for elevation, you could use 1:1 gearing and set the calibrate min and max to zero and 90.  Then the encoder will produce the same output as an absolute inclinometer, giving 0 to 90 degrees in 1/4 turn.  It is not necessary or desirable to gear up absolute encoders to get more resolution.  You can set the encoder to "high resolution" mode and get .01 degree accuracy. (In low resolution mode the accuracy is .1 (1/10) degree.)  See the section about Absolute Encoder programming in the Detailed Settings page.

Also, for absolute encoders it is not necessary to move the antenna to the "Calibration Min" position.  You may use the "Set Current" button to properly calibrate the antenna at any known position.  In this case the encoder itself is recalibrated to the new position, so the min and max points will remain the same (0 to 360 degrees).

Absolute encoders can also be reprogrammed to change their address, direction, and resolution.  Full information on reprogramming and usage of these parameters is shown on the Detailed Settings page.

 

Scaling for Absolute Encoders
(When a full revolution is less than 360 degrees on the encoder)
The section above details how absolute encoders are normally set up, but there can be situations where the ability to scale the output of the encoder over a degree range is desired.  For instance if the gearing between the antenna and the encoder is not 1:1 then the output of the encoder will get further from correct the more it is turned away from the zero position.  To allow scaling, there is a check box in the setup menu called "Allow Scaled Absolute AZ".  When this box is checked then the "Set Max" button in the calibrate dialog will be enabled for an absolute encoder in the Azimuth position.  This then allows you to turn the antenna to the true end position and then click "Set Max".  Now the antenna will track correctly.

If the encoder to antenna gearing is less than 1:1 this works with no problem, however if the gearing were more than 1:1 there is a problem.  This is because absolute encoders 'wrap' their value at the end points.  So if Set Max is done when the encoder is at a position greater than 360 degrees, the value returned would be very low and the scaling would fail.  So Scaling of absolute encoder output values only works correctly when the gearing is less than 1:1.

Additionally, scaling only works when the absolute encoder is in the azimuth position.  For elevation, use an absolute inclinometer and no gearing (or scaling) is necessary.

 


Calibration for Incremental Encoders

Incremental encoders are enough different than others so somewhat different calibration routines are needed. Incremental encoders emit pulses in a quadrature format that are used by the controller for counting and for directional information.  Full calibration always requires that the min position be set first, so in the dialog shown below, the 'Set Max' button is disabled until after a 'Set Min' has been done (see the calibrate description above for more details on how 'Set Min' and 'Set Max' work.  Also the 'Enter Current Position' field and the 'Set Current' button are disabled unless 'Adjust' or 'Z Reset' is selected at the top.

'Enter Current position' works much the same as for the other encoders, see above.

Some incremental encoders have an output line to provide a 'Zero Pulse'.  This is a short data pulse that occurs once per revolution, when the encoder passes the zero position.  This is extremely useful because the controller calibration can automatically be corrected whenever a Z-Index pulse is detected.  So if a windstorm has turned your antenna while the controller was off and unable to detect the count change, all you have to do is rotate the antenna past the Z-Index and the calibration will automatically be corrected.

Now consider the case where the antenna and the encoder are geared 1 to 1, a full antenna rotation of 360 degrees also turns the encoder 360 degrees.  In that case the encoder will only pass the Z-Index once.  During full calibration, the controller  has detected the Z Pulse and saved the count at that point as the Z-Index position.  So when the Z-Pulse is detected again the controller calibration is adjusted back to that same count.  However a 1 to 1 gearing can be hard to do, and additionally it is possible to get more accuracy of position by 'gearing up' the encoder, turning it several times or more for a full rotation of the antenna.  When this is the case, multiple Z-Pulses will be detected during the calibration.  At each Z-Pulse detected during calibration, the controller stores the current position in a table that can hold up to 16 positions.  Thus the maximum gearing up the controller can handle is 16 to 1.  In this situation, there is one problem.  When the encoder passes a Z-Index point, how does it know which stored count to use.  The answer is that it uses the one that is closest to the current count.  So what do you do if the antenna has moved enough so that the current count is close to the wrong Z-Index?  The answer is shown in the dialog above.  Select Z-Reset at the top and then set the antenna close to a known position (by eye).  Enter the position at the bottom and click the 'Set Current' button.  Now the calibration will be close and the next time a Z-Pulse is detected the calibration will be adjusted to be exactly correct.

Note, Some US Digital Incremental encoders have been discontinued. Their Web Pages at US Digital | Products Discontinued shows that they no longer make the T5 or T6 incremental inclinometers.  So the only choice we currently have is to go with the Absolute encoder for an inclinometer, but that is much more expensive.  Perhaps there are still old stock T5 or T6 inclinometers available, or someone has some to sell.

 

After calibrating the antenna with Z-Indexes, and whenever entering the incremental calibrate dialog when a Z-Index calibration has already been done, a second dialog box will be shown along side of the calibrate dialog shown above.  This box shows the results of the Z-Index counting and is shown to the left.

Note the Range at the bottom that is shown both in degrees and count.  This is how close to the actual position your antenna must be in order to get an accurate Z-Reset operation.  If the antenna position error is greater than this amount then the wrong Z-Index will be used and the calibration will be off by one or more rotations of the encoder.

Remember, this is all automatic and each time a Z-Pulse is detected the controller will adjust it's calibration if necessary.  Thus any minor errors that might creep into the count are automatically accounted for.  The greater the gearing (up to 16:1), the more often the calibration will be checked and adjusted.  However with higher gearing, the amount of antenna error that can be tolerated when making a Z-Index adjust is reduced.


Negative Elevation
For EME operation, it is often desirable to be able to point the antenna below the horizon.  If your antenna mount can do this you may configure the controller and control program as follows.  Assume your antenna has a range of -15 to 90.  Set the encoder calibration range to be -15 to 90 and do a normal calibration of the antenna*, setting the antenna to -15 degrees for 'Min Set'.  Now, when you move the antenna below zero, the LCD display on the controller and the DrzTrack program will indicate the negative degrees.  (*However for absolute encoders the range should be set to -15 to 345 for one to one gearing. See the absolute encoder calibration paragraph, above.)
 

Antenna Motion Indicators
On the main window, at the top right corner of each antenna position compass there is a square black box.  This box shows the movement condition of the antenna for each direction.  When the box is black the antenna is stopped and no movement has been requested,  When motion has been requested the box will turn yellow for a short time and then green.  Yellow indicates that movement has been requested but has not yet started.  Green indicates that the motor for that direction has been turned on and the antenna should be moving.  In addition to the color display, the boxes will also contain an arrow that shows the direction that the antenna is moving, or has been requested to move.  For elevation the arrow will point up or down.  For azimuth the arrow will point to the left for clockwise motion, and to the right for counter clockwise (think of the arrows showing the direction it will move when starting at 180 degrees).

The yellow request indication happens when the antenna has just stopped moving and then another motion request is received.  When motion is stopped, the controller starts a stop timer for the length of time that is set in the encoder configuration window.  The Indicator will remain yellow (and the antenna will not move) until the stop timer expires.  As soon as the timer expires the controller will start moving the antenna and the motion box will change from yellow to green.

The motion indicator may also be yellow when controller has detected an error and has disabled movement.  When this happens an error message will be displayed on the screen and the message section of the window will show "Movement Disabled".  This will happen only if the controller detects that the antennas are not moving when they should be.  If no motion is detected after the Move Timeout period selected for the encoder, the controller board will stop all movement and disable further movement.  It is necessary to reset the controller to re-enable movement.  This can be done with the "Reset Controller" button, or by power cycling the controller board.


 

Manual Movement

You may initiate manual movement of the antenna when the controller is not in tracking mode.  There are several ways to move the antenna manually.

1. By entering the desired position in degrees into the fields below the azimuth or elevation compasses, and click the 'Go' button next to the field.  You may move elevation and azimuth both at the same time, enter both values and click both 'Go' buttons.  When these buttons are clicked, they will stay down and the button text will change to the word 'Stop'.  The button will stay down until the target position is reached.  If you want to stop antenna movement before the target is reached, click the same button (which is now labeled 'Stop').

2. By default, you can also use the mouse to select the manual move end point.  This feature can be disabled with the 'Disable Move on Click' box in the Program Options setup window (see the Program Setup section of the detailed settings page).
When 'Move on Click' is enabled you can place the mouse cursor over one of the compasses and move it to the position you wish to move to and then left-click the mouse.  The position selected will be loaded into the position field below the compass.  Then you may click the appropriate GO button below the compass.  However if the box labeled "Move on Click" is checked then the antennas will move as soon as the new position is clicked with the mouse.  You can still stop motion at any time by use of the 'Stop' button.
When the mouse is hovered over a compass, the position of the mouse will be shown in compass degrees near the mouse pointer.  This makes it easier to click close to where you want to move the antenna.  Showing mouse position is also disabled when the 'Disable Move on Click' option is set.

In all of the methods above, a request to move to the position entered or clicked is sent to the controller and the position and status will continue to be monitored while it is moving.  It will continue moving until it reaches the selected position, or until it reaches one of the tracking limits set in the configuration window. However the movement timer will still time out and stop the motion motors if the antenna fails to move.  Also the stop timers will work.  For an example of this, suppose you have the stop timer set for the default value of 5 seconds. If you are moving up and you change immediately to down, the antenna will stop for 5 seconds before reversing direction.  During the time it is stopped, the elevation motion indicator will be yellow and the elevation motor will not yet be started.


 
Setting up for Tracking
Once the controller has been set up, calibrated, and tested, you can begin tracking.  For the Moon or Sun, the DrzTrack program provides excellent tracking as well as clock, astronomical data, transmission timing, and DX station parameters.  See the Tracking with Other Programs in the Detailed Settings page for details on using other tracking programs with DrzTrack and the CT-2 controller.  For tracking with DrzTrack, you must first set up your station parameters and band settings as described below.
 

To access the setup windows use the Setup menu and select the 'Program Options' menu item.  There are 4 sections in the setup dialog (plus one more if you are using absolute encoders).  The Tracking and the Band settings are described here.  The Comm Port, Tracking, Position Offsets and Absolute Encoder descriptions are in the Detailed Settings page.

 

Enter your call sign and six digit grid square and select whether you wish to track the Moon or the Sun, and select your mount type (usually AZ/EL).

Entering the correct six digit grid square is essential so that the Moon or Sun position will be accurately shown for your location.

 

Band Settings

Below is the Band and Position offsets dialog.  Here you can select the settings for each band you wish to use with your controller.  You can also set up tables of 'Positional Offsets' that apply to your antenna mount irregularities - see Positional Offsets in the Detailed Settings page for details.

 

For schedules, DrzTrack contains a handy sequence clock that shows transmit periods in red and receive periods in blue.  For each band, select the sequence that you normally use for that band.  The choices are 1, 2, and 2.5 minutes.  Sequence only affects the clock display in the main dialog. 

For each band you may enter a fixed offset that applies to the aiming of your antenna for that band.  This is mainly to be used parabolic dish antennas, when you have more than one feed mounted at the same time.  Offset values can be positive or negative, and may be entered to the tenth of a degree.

All but one of the feeds will be offset from the focal point and thus will cause the beam pattern to deviate from where the dish is actually pointing.  For example if the feed for a band is mounted below center, the beam will be above the true aiming point, so you might put a value of +5 degrees in the fixed elevation offset field.  If the feed was mounted above the focal point then you would have to enter a negative offset.

If the offset is to the side of the focal point then the offset value would go in the Azimuth offset field.  It is possible that the offset could be in both planes.

When you are done, you can click the Apply or OK buttons to save the data.


 
Tracking

Below is the tracking portion of the main DrzTrack dialog window.  Note that the run button shows 'Run Nova', because Nova is the alternate program selected in the setup screen (program setup tab).

Note that the title of the tracking box shows what program you are currently tracking with. Whenever an alternate tracking program has not been started, the title will be "Tracking with DrzTrack".  If you use the Run button to start an alternate program that communicates with DrzTrack via DDE, then the title will change to show that program.

 

 

The current Moon or Sun position is shown in the position boxes on the left.  Note that your correct six digit grid square must be entered in the setup dialog in order for the program to calculate correct Moon or Sun position.

The tracking control button is at center.  When not tracking it will be labeled 'Start Tracking'.  Clicking the 'Start Tracking' button will start the process of following the Moon or Sun with your antenna.  The button will stay in the down position and the label will change to 'Stop Tracking'.  If you click it again tracking will be stopped.

 

Hovering your mouse cursor over the EL or AZ boxes on the left will activate the "Moon and Sun Data" window as shown here.

This window may be moved independently of the main DrzTrack window to any convenient place on your screen.  To remove it, click the X at the top right.

Note that DrzTrack uses two files to obtain DX station location and Sky temperature.  These files are Tsky.dat and Call3.txt and they must be in the same folder as DrzTrack.exe.

I want to give credit here to Joe Taylor, K1JT as the original developer of the sun and moon position algorithms.

 

 The Moon azimuth and elevation are shown for any DX station or grid that was entered in the Dx Station field on the main dialog, as shown below.  Pressing the Enter key immediately after entering the call or grid will automatically bring up this Moon and Sun Data screen.

The DX station's call sign may be entered on the main dialog as shown here.  If the lookup by call fails or returns the wrong location, you may enter the grid, if known.

 

return to top