Using the Yaesu VX-8 Cable on Mac OS X (El Capitan in my case)
If you have a Yaesu radio (the Yaesu VX-8DR in my case) and have purchased the Yaesu cable (the ADMS VX-8 in my case) to program your radio you may find some difficulties when it comes to using it with your Mac.
Protip: If you haven’t bought a cable for your Yaesu yet, skip the VX-8 cable and get a FTDI cable that isn’t RT Systems proprietary, like this one.The software that comes with it only runs on Windows so don’t bother opening the disk. Instead, head over the CHIRP site and download the latest daily build and the the Python runtime libraries referenced in the Mac download section. Install the Python runtime libraries and then run CHIRP. Easy.
But the difficult part is yet ahead. The cable you have from RT Systems is based on the FTDI chipset, which is the chipset you want when it comes to USB to Serial adapters, but RT Systems has made their proprietary so that their software will only use the RT Systems cable. Unfortunately, this also prevents the native Mac driver, the FTDI driver, and the Mac driver from RT Systems (which is odd), from identifying the VX-8 cable and thus being used by CHIRP.
There are two things you can do to fix this issue; modify your Mac’s native FTDI driver to load when it sees the RT Systems proprietary FTDI cable, or modify the VX-8 cable to work with native FTDI drivers. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but I went with the latter, modifying the VX-8 cable via software. Both are outlined below.
Method 1 – Mac Driver Modification
To modify your Mac’s native FTDI driver to recognize the RT Systems VX-8 USB cable you will have to modify the driver to “teach” it to load and support the Yaesu cable. This seems like the obvious choice, but unfortunately (fortunately?) the security of the Mac OS makes this more difficult and the idea of weakening my systems’ security makes this a no go for me. But if you want to move forward with this method, you’ll have to modify one file and you’re good to go.
Note that you will have to disable security features to even be able to modify this file, so again, think twice about this method. Assuming you’ve disabled the mechanisms to prevent modifications to your drivers, you’ll need to open /System/Library/Extensions/AppleUSBFTDI.kext/Contents/Info.plist and find the IOKitPersonalities section. Add the following stanza, save the file, force unload/reload of the driver with the kextunload/kextload commands, or simply reboot.
Method 2 – VX-8 USB Cable Modification (recommended):
If you have the RT Systems VX-8 cable for your Yaesu radio and plan on using it exclusively with your Mac and CHIRP, this is probably the best way to go. You don’t need to modify your Mac’s security settings, mess with its native drivers which may change during an update, etc. The disadvantages to this is that the Yaesu/RT Systems software will not leverage the cable until you back out these changes and restore it to its original settings. Do note that you will have to have access to a Windows system to modify the EEPROM of the VX-8 cable. If you don’t have a Windows system or a friend with a Windows system contact me and I’ll do it for you at no charge.
Before you can program the cable you’ll need to plug it into the Windows system, I was using Windows 7, but it should be the same for all versions. Windows should see the cable and install the proper drivers automatically, but I had to go to the device manager, click on the VX-8 device and check the box to use it as a VCP device before CHIRP would see it as a serial device.
You are going to be reprogramming the EEPROM of the VX-8 cable which sounds pretty scary, but luckily there is a utility to help. Go to the FTDI’s website, download and install the FTPROG tool which requires the .NET framework to run. Go here and download the FT_PROG 188.8.131.526 – EEPROM Programming Utility:
Plug in your RT Systems VX-8 cable and start FTPROG. Have it scan for the cable and it should find it and load all of the settings for it. BEFORE you do anything else, save these settings as the default template so you can go back if you need to use the Yaesu software!
The only thing we need to change is the Vendor ID and the Product ID. Don’t touch anything else. Head to the USB_Device_Descriptor section and change the setting to the FTDI Default.
You might want to save this as a template as well in case you need to toggle back an forth later.
Click the Program button, which is the one with a little lightning bolt on it to program the device. and you’re all set. Plug it into your Mac and CHIRP will see it strait away. To verify, open the Terminal app and look for the device, “ls /dev/cu*” will show you something like /dev/cu.usbserial-RT8K31V.