CLI Magic: Aldo talks in code


Author: Joe Barr

This week’s CLI Magic is all about computer-aided self-improvement. For example, if you have those “I want my amateur radio general license but can’t learn the code” blues, there is a CLI offering that can help. It’s called Aldo, a free program which might just be the key to getting your ticket Tech license upgraded to General. Aldo allows you to practice and learn Morse code in several different ways. Even if you’re not interested in amateur radio, come down to the CLI with me and let’s take a look at how it can aid in self-paced education.You can download the latest version from the Aldo home page, but note that you’ll need to have gcc 3.x or later to build it and a sound card and speakers to use it. Once you’ve met those requirements, it’s as easy as pie to make, install, and practice your code skills.

In the subdirectory where you saved the source, enter:

bunzip2 aldo-0.6.7.tar.bz2
tar aldo-0.6.7.tar
cd aldo-0.6.7

Then, as root, enter make install and you're all done.

The first time you start the program, you'll see the following in your terminal window:

Aldo Main Menu
        1: Classic
        2: Koch method
        3: Read from file
        4: Callsigns
        5: Setup
        6: Exit
Your choice: 

Before selecting a method to use and beginning to use it, you need to create a configuration file. But don't worry, you can create one with the default values simply by selecting the Setup option, Defaults, then Return to main menu.

Speaking of the configuration file, you can change any of the settings in .aldorc through the program menu. No need to use vi or another editor to tweak it. Just follow the menu selections, and you're done. Now we're ready to get started.

Classic code

If you select the Classic method, Aldo will give you a second or two to get ready, then send groups of random characters. The number of groups, characters per group, and words per minute are all configurable. The default values are 3 groups, 5 characters per group, sent at 10 wpm.

When Aldo has finished sending the groups, it asks you to enter the groups you copied, then scores them for accuracy. Here's what Aldo's scoring looks like:

Success rate per symbol: percentage%-'symbol'-(copied correctly/keyed) 100%-'e'-(2/2) 100%-'h'-(2/2) 100%-'i'-(2/2) 100%-'m'-(2/2) 100%-'o'-(2/2) 50%-'s'-(1/2) 100%-'t'-(3/3)

Comparison between keyed and copied sign groups: Group:Mistakes - marked with '!' Keyed signs - what was transmitted Copied signs - what you have input

1:..... 2:.!... 3:..... tmeoi hstmo ehist tmeoi hitmo ehist

Aldo can also be used to study Morse code using the Koch method. Instead of starting slow, and increasing the speed, the Koch method sends code at a faster clip, but only sends a small set of characters. More characters are gradually added to the test set, but the speed remains constant at about 20 words per minute. Aldo will allow you to select from predetermined sets of characters, the length of the words, the number of words, and the keying speed.

Here's what the Koch method grading looks like:

Training character set: e,i,s,h,t,m,o
Chars mixed without group order
Keying speed: 20 wpm
About to start keying. Get ready...
st me ho im eh ts oi mh te os
Please input the signs you copied.
If you didn't copy a sign, put '@'.
 1:  2:  3:  4:  5:  6:  7:  8:  9: 10:

Overall success rate: 0%

Success rate per symbol: percentage%-'symbol'-(copied correctly/keyed) 100%-'e'-(3/3) 100%-'h'-(3/3) 100%-'i'-(2/2) 100%-'m'-(3/3) 100%-'o'-(3/3) 100%-'s'-(3/3) 100%-'t'-(3/3)

Comparison between keyed and copied sign groups: Group:Mistakes - marked with '!' Keyed signs - what was transmitted Copied signs - what you have input

1:.. 2:.. 3:.. 4:.. 5:.. 6:.. 7:.. 8:.. 9:.. 10:.. st me ho im eh ts oi mh te os st me ho im eh ts oi mh te os

In addition to the Classic and Koch modes, there are two other practice types available. A text file can be specified as input to Aldo, which is then sent in code at the selected speed. And there is also a call sign practice, which creates random call signs to test you with.

When selecting the program for this column, I browsed the educational software available for the CLI at I chose Aldo to write about because of my own interest in Morse code. If you are like Susan, and amateur radio bores you to tears, be consoled with the knowledge that you can find all sorts of fun, educational, computer-based-instruction software that matches your own interests. Go ahead. Improve yourself.