One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Tom – WB8LCD and articles are submitted by cabinet members.
Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.
You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Tom has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!
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Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
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Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Now without further ado…
Read the full edition at:
NOTE: it was pointed out after publication, I was spelling “Vara” incorrectly as “Vera” in this article.
THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
Ever heard of Winlink Wednesday? Many who operate digital or operate during emergencies are familiar with Winlink because it has proven to be useful and effective. Winlink is a radio messaging system that uses amateur-band radio frequencies. Features include E-mail messages, attachments, position reporting, weather bulletins, emergency relief communications, message relay, and form submission. This system is popular when the Internet is not available. Winlink was first used recreationally by mariners, RV campers, and missionaries.
That’s the Winlink part, what does Wednesday have to do with all this? Greg Butler – KW6GB, who I met at the Vienna Wireless Society’s Winterfest just outside of Washington, D.C., coined the term. It was an honor to meet with him because his video, an introduction to Winlink, is an excellent tutorial. Winlink Wednesday is a net. It then turned into a popular day to hold many Winlink nets. After talking with Greg, he invited me to participate in their net. Greg has since retired as Net Control Station and David – KN4LQN has taken over net responsibilities.
Most of us know that a “net” is an on-the-air gathering of hams which convene on a regular schedule, specific frequency, and organized for a particular purpose. Such as relaying messages, discussing a common topic of interest, severe weather, emergencies, or simply as a regular gathering of friends for conversation. It’s also an excellent time to test radios, antennas, and equipment. Most of us have participated in a voice net on a local repeater or even on the HF bands. “Digital nets” exist to practice these same concepts except using digital communication.
Winlink nets serve the same purposes as other nets: encourage participation, encourage regular use of the Winlink system, expand operators’ skills, of course test our equipment and the RF gateway network.
I’ve participated in a few digital communication practice sessions as part of a drill. Last time most users dusted off their digital equipment was during the previous drill. When it came time to setting up, using, and operating their equipment, it was an epic failure. Practicing is essential anytime, not just for digital operations.
Winlink is a store-and-forward E-mail system. Conducting nets on this system must utilize a methodology that works with the technology. Everyone sending check-in E-mails during a small window of time is not realistic. Most Winlink nets provide a weekly announcement or reminder to the previous week’s check-in list. Announcements are typically sent out a few days before the net begins accepting check-ins. Announcements will lay out check-in procedures, Winlink modes, and times during which messages will be accepted. Nets may require a simple one-line of text, others a Winlink form. Some have a discussion question for comment, others have a training exercise. A list of check-ins is often returned to the group a day or so after the net concludes. Some utilize other technologies like maps to show locations of net participants.
To check-in, after opening Winlink Express, compose a new message. Do not reply to the original message. There is no need to waste bandwidth having the net announcement text as part of the check-in message. In some cases, the station receiving check-ins is not the station that sent the announcement. Recipient’s or NCS’ call goes into the TO field. It’s not necessary to include the “@winlink.org” part of the address just as it’s not required if the sender and receiver are using the same E-mail provider or domain. Subject is usually the name of the net. Many ask for a single-line check-in consisting of a combination of callsign, first name, city, county, state, and mode/band used to check-in. For example, this is my standard one-line check-in:
K8JTK, Jeff, Westlake, Cuyahoga, OH (HF Vera)
I have found steps in weekly announcements to be straightforward. Some users complain about instructions that are reused where a screenshot does not match the form. It’s often the case a form is updated but an older screenshot was used or instructions have changed slightly after screenshots were taken. Some nets get 400 to 700 check-ins per week. If a check-in requires the NCS to do additional work because the operator didn’t follow correct procedure, they’re more likely to ignore, delete, and move on. Other examples: NCS requested a single-line with comma-separated
values and you provided a
provided a form when one wasn’t requested, or the wrong form was used – are all reasons a check-in may not be counted. There are, of course, system issues and unexpected results. One net found sending an APRS location beacon message over Winlink resulted in the Carbon Copy addresses being ignored. It’s a learning process for all.
Winlink has may operating modes and bands: APRS, ARDOP, AREDN, PACTOR, peer-to-peer, Packet, VERA HF, VERA FM, Telnet (that should cover most of them), or some combination. Nets accept check-ins using any method that works for the operator. A few will not accept Telnet as it’s not typically used over-the-air in the ham bands. Others will not accept peer-to-peer (P2P).
P2P allows one Winlink operator to send a message directly to another station over RF without the use of Winlink infrastructure. Originating station composes the message as a “Peer-to-Peer Message” then selects the appropriate P2P operating mode to match the receiving station. Receiving stations have to let others know frequency and times when they will be available for receiving messages. An NCS may use their station or designated assistants to receive P2P messages.
I haven’t used other Winlink clients such as PAT. It seems PAT does not have the forms one would expect to find in the Winlink Express client. That makes it difficult to operate alternative Winlink clients on devices that are more compact and portable such as a Linux device or Raspberry Pi. A way to get around this, have someone using Winlink Express send an example form to a station using the PAT client. The PAT station uses text editors to modify the fields by hand and return the form. Not as elegant as the interface using the browser.
I currently participate in six Winlink nets. There are probably some DX nets out there I’m unaware. Just like any open net, you do not have to be in the designated area to check-in or participate. I check into the North Texas and West Virginia Winlink nets among others. The West Virginia net receives more out-of-state check-ins than in-state. We even have Winlink nets right here in Ohio and in the Great Lakes region.
Included below is each net’s routine information from their weekly announcement. For more details, contact the NCS station or check their website/groups.io if available. To join any or all of these nets, simply check in!
To use KF5VO’s signing from the Winlink Wednesday NTX net, Happy Winlinking!
Ohio Winlink Net
From: K8EAF Subject: OH Winlink Net Reminder Hello Winlink Users, This is a reminder of the OH Winlink Wednesday Net for *date*. Just a one line with callsign, first name, city, county, state and via what mode/band (VHF, UHF, HF, SHF, TELNET, APRS, ARDEN, ARDOP, VARA, VARA FM). I'll log you in with any means of communication. Or just send a Homing Message Pigeon! Enter my callsign in the "To" field (K8EAF). Subject field "OH Winlink Net Check-in". In the body field enter callsign, first name, city, county, state and via what mode/band. See example in my signature line below. This is a good time to test drive the Winlink forms. Many operators like to use the Winlink Check-In form located in the General Forms tab. All check-ins will be acknowledged, and a complete roster will be sent later in the week. "Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance!" K8EAF, Ed, Cincinnati, Hamilton, OH (VHF)
Great Lakes Area Winlink Net
From: KB8RCR Subject: Invitation to join the Great Lakes Area Winlink Net Greetings! I am the founder and net manager for the Great Lakes Area Winlink Net which was formed in March of 2021. The premise of the net is to learn and be much more comfortable with Winlink and it's operation as in public service communications as well as emergency service communications can utilize Winlink. Another big part of the net is to learn a wide variety of the forms in the forms library. It is not important how you check in, but that you do check in. By that I mean, whether you get in via Telnet, or from some form of RF connection, your check in is still important to the net. The participation In using the forms are voluntary, but encouraged. If you cannot try the forms, just send a plain text message with the check in information requested below in this message. The net meets each Wednesday and your check in will be accepted with late Tuesday night and the absolute cutoff is noon on Thursday (Eastern Time Zone) as that gives you plenty of time to check into the net. The check in process can be a simple plain text check in, or placed in a form somewhere. Use this format for a proper check in: CALLSIGN, FIRST NAME, CITY, COUNTY, STATE/PROVINCE, COUNTRY. My checkin for example, would look like this: KB8RCR, RYAN, REMUS, MECOSTA, MI, USA In the TO: section send your message to KB8RCR In the Subject: line please put something like GLAWN Checkin (date of checkin) A good tip for all of these Winlink nets is to use some type of word processing program or text file and just copy/paste your information. This is what I do at least. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and to consider checking into the Great Lakes Area Winlink Net. I strongly encourage you to keep participating in your existing Winlink nets, and to consider checking in to the GLAWN net too. Respectfully Sent, Ryan Lughermo, KB8RCR Great Lakes Area Winlink Net Founder/Manager
Winlink Wednesday (Virginia)
From: KN4LQN Subject: Winlink Wednesday Reminder (#xxx) *** Winlink Wednesday (Episode #xxx) *** ** PRIMARY NCS - KN4LQN ** (This reminder is also on the web at https://winlinkwednesday.net/reminder.html) Standard check-ins this week (no weather snapshots or attachments of any type, please). WHO: All amateur radio operators WHAT: Winlink Wednesday WHEN: Wednesday, *date*, 0000-2359 EST (UTC: 0500 Wed - 0459 Thu) HOW: This net will accept check-ins via Winlink only. Send a check-in via any RMS during the timeframe above, or participate in one or both of the P2P sessions below. Please do not use a "Telnet Winlink" connection (which defeats the purpose of Winlink). The goal is to have the message leave your station via RF. Please remember to use the correct format (check-in message on a SINGLE LINE) for check-in, as shown below, over an RF connection. To: KN4LQN (or alternate NCS, as appropriate) Subject: Winlink Wednesday Check-In Message body: call sign, first name, city or town, county, state (HF or VHF, etc.) See example in my signature line, below. PEER-TO-PEER SESSIONS: Morning session: 0730-0930 EST, (UTC: 1230 - 1430), ARDOP P2P, several frequencies (see chart below). Net Control Stations - Morning P2P Session Only Please check in through ONLY ONE of these stations: Status Station Dial Freq Operator Location Primary KN4LQN 3582 kHz David Elkins Chesterfield County Alternate KE4KEW 3565 kHz Martin Krupinsky Augusta County Alternate KM4DC 3593 kHz Don McCubbin Fairfax County Messages sent to Alternate NCS must be addressed to the receiving station. Evening session: 1900-2130 EST (UTC: 0000 Thu - 0230 Thu), VARA P2P, 3582 kHz (dial). Net Control Station - Evening P2P Session Status Station Dial Freq Operator Location Primary KN4LQN 3582 kHz David Elkins Chesterfield County No Alternate Net Control Stations. Watch Facebook for details when active. On Thursday, all check-ins will be acknowledged, and a net report and complete roster will be published to the Web. 73, KN4LQN, David, Chesterfield, VA (VHF)
Weather snapshots are requested on the first Wednesday of the month (no attachments of any type). Standard check-ins are always welcome.
observation time, weather conditions, temperature <<<— WEATHER ON SECOND LINE of message body. A recent example of my check-in with weather snapshot:
K8JTK, Jeff, Westlake, Cuyahoga, OH (HF Vera) 0015L, overcast, winds S@15mph, 45dF
Third Wednesday of each month, an ICS-213 form can be submitted in place of the normal one-line check-in. Instructions are provided for trouble-free submission of the ICS-213 form.
Winlink Wednesday NTX (North Texas)
From: KF5VO Subject: Winlink Wednesday NTX Reminder It's that time once again for Winlink Wednesday! *Discussion question of the week* Other instructions: Use the Winlink Check In template when checking in. As a reminder, to use the template, when the New Message screen is opened, click on the menu items Select Template --> Standard Templates --> GENERAL Forms --> Winlink Check In.txt. Make sure in the Send To box to put my call sign, KF5VO. In the location box, put the name of your city/town, and which gateway you're connecting through (if known). IF YOU ARE USING SOMETHING OTHER THAN WINLINK EXPRESS TO CHECK IN: If you are not using the forms, then whatever you type into the body of the message will be considered the "Comment" field on the form. Happy Winlinking! Please visit the Winlink Wednesday NTX web site for more info on how to check in to the net: https://bit.ly/2TfJNJE If you haven't already, please join our mailing list on Groups.IO https://groups.io/g/WinlinkWednesdayNTX
John indicated he likes to have stations use gateway nodes instead of peer-to-peer. That way a node administrator can be made aware of and resolve issues. It would be bad to find out a node was not operational for a local emergency. In the past, he has helped identify TNC issues and problems resulting from Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday and Windows Updates released the day before!
West Virginia Winlink Net (Thursdays)
From: WV8MT Subject: WV Winlink Net Reminder Calling All Radio Amateurs! Calling All Radio Amateurs! I will hold the * net number * installment of the West Virginia Winlink Net this Thursday, * date * from 00:00 to 23:59. I will take check ins all day at your convenience. Please make sure your check in follows the following format in the message body: WV8MT, MIKE, SUGAR GROVE, PENDLETON, WV (VHF, HF, or P2P) VARA P2P SESSION! The VARA P2P Session will take place from 6pm and 9pm Thursday. This week we will be on 3530.5 (Center) 3529.0 (Dial) again. Please feel free to share this announcement with your fellow Hams. If you have an email list, or a club social media page, or however you connect to your fellow Hams, share this information with them. WV8MT NCS, MIKE, SUGAR GROVE, PENDLETON, WV
EmComm Training (Thursdays)
For a 300/400 level class in Winlink, this is your net. This group was previously named ARC-EmComm-Training. Every week is a new exercise with different instructions. Exercises range from sending APRS IS position beacons to completing Hospital Bed forms to sending E-mail folder summaries. Detailed instructions are provided each week to complete the exercise, sometimes with an accompanying video. Check the groups.io link below for the next exercise and participate to learn more than you’ve ever wanted to know about using Winlink.
Since each week is different, a common message isn’t possible. They do use “tactical clearing houses” based on FEMA region. Ohio is in FEMA region 5 so the clearing house E-mail address is ETO-05 which stands for “EmCom Training Organization,” region 5. The first is always is the letter “O” and the second is a zero “0”. More information is available on their site for clearing houses outside Ohio.
Section Managers, including our own WB8LCD, were the subject of the February 17th ETO training event. The exercise involved completing and sending your Section Manager a form providing the requested information.
Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, became a silent key on Monday, February 7, 2022. Though I never interacted with Bob, I have used technology he developed. He was a pioneer in the development of Automatic Packet Reporting System, otherwise known as APRS. Technology he developed brought many hams into the hobby using packet radio for real time position, telemetry tracking, and reporting. He started his ham radio journey in 1963 with Novice call WN4APR. According to Amateur Radio Newsline, Bob was a US Navy veteran and a senior research engineer at the US Naval Academy’s small satellite lab in Annapolis, Maryland. He has probably contributed to many more advances than just ham radio, in ways we may never, ever, know.
A correction to my article last month: I incorrectly stated the 3.45 GHz band spectrum auction amount. It should have been $22.5 billion, not trillion.
Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK