All posts by Jeffrey Kopcak

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – February 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,

I don’t know about anyone else, since most of us have been told to cower-in-place, my productivity has gone through the roof! Must be that 10-foot commute between the work desk and home desk, might get the sun in my eyes on my way over. Finally tacking items on the perpetual “when I have loads of free time” list.

First cleaned out my data hard drive that had become a general dumping ground for downloads, pictures, data files, abandoned projects, and all other forms of miscellaneous files. Kept telling myself ‘I’ll organize this later.’ I figure accumulation started around the time I graduated with my undergrad (2008) and really got involved with ham radio. Go figure. Downloads had grown to 2,900 files at 16 GB and the general dumping ground was around 73,000 files at 314 GB. Much of that got deleted but enough was kept for reference or sentimental reasons.

Synology NAS

After sorting, mutilating, and “organizing,” this led into another task to better utilize my NAS, or Network Attached Storage, functionality more than I currently was. NAS devices are a way to attach storage, like hard drives or SSDs, to the network for sharing data across devices on a local network or, in special cases, users on the Internet. NAS devices can be anything from a Raspberry Pi with USB hard drives attached, an old computer filled with spare hard drives running FreeNAS, to specifically designed devices from companies such as Synology, QNAP, or Asus. Many think “storage” when they think NAS because storage: it’s in the name. Consumer NAS devices offer packages that can be installed to add additional functionality commonly available through always-on devices. Functionality options such as a mail server, web server, git server, database server, docker virtualization, replication (mirroring, backup with another provider), network level authentication, VPN, IP camera DVR, chat, and document collaboration. I’m a loooong time Western Digital user. Their Red line of NAS drives are my choice, though they tried to pull some crap of quietly introducing sub-par drives (don’t use WD Red drives with “EFAX” in the model). Seagate is stepping up their game too with the IronWolf line, which is gaining popularity.

My strategy is to move files I’m not actively using on a regular basis to the NAS. These types of files would be: digital pictures, Office documents, document scans, emails, news articles, previous taxes, internet downloads, audio/video clips, newsletters, ham projects, school work and projects, old programs that aren’t updated but are still useful. Unbeknownst to me when I started, this didn’t leave a whole lot left over on my desktop data drive. Maybe in the future, I’ll move all data to the NAS.

For the remaining data left on my data drive, I still wanted to maintain a backup strategy in case something happened to those files. Anything from my own stupidity (accidental deletion, encrypted by a malware strain) to hardware failure. Previously, I used a cloud provider for remote backup but they decided to exit the consumer market. With their change in business strategy, I was using my own scripts to keep things synced from the desktop to the NAS, whenever I remembered to run them. Not great because if I deleted something with a bunch of recent changes and the last backup I had was a week or two ago, that sucks. This syncing strategy also didn’t have file versioning.

When a file is changed, the backup system preserves a new copy of the file but keeps previous versions in case you wanted to go back in time to an earlier version. Real-world example: a computer becomes infected with a malware strain that encrypts all pictures and documents. A backup solution will still make a backup copy of the newly encrypted file, because it doesn’t know its user or user on the network did something stupid. Saving previous versions means you can recover the unencrypted version without paying Mr. Bad Guy’s ransom.

Syncthing web interface (wikipedia.org)

I tried solutions like rsnapshot but had serious issues getting systemd timers (supposed to replace cron, yeah, we’ll see) to work with persistence and waiting until the NAS was mounted before taking a snapshot. That was abandoned after a few months. I heard about Syncthing on a podcast. It met my requirements and more! It’s quite an amazing piece of free and open-source technology. I could run an instance on my NAS (or any computer), attach devices, those devices send file changes in real time, and the software takes care of preserving previous versions. “More” came in the form of Syncthing being available on every platform I use. Supported are: source code for manual compiling, Linux (many distributions and processor architectures), Windows, macOS, *BSD, and Solaris. There is an Android client allowing me to backup my phone to my NAS. Syncthing is exactly what I needed since I have some Windows machines (like the shack PC).

A couple warnings about Syncthing. Getting started will seem overwhelming with options and what they mean. Look at good tutorials and in the forums where there are lot of users willing to help. Even more important: Syncthing IS NOT a backup tool. Wait, you said you are using it as a backup tool! I’m syncing file changes to my NAS. Backup comes in the form of making images of the NAS drive and storing those off-site. Also acceptable is using a cloud backup service to backup the NAS off-site. Both are acceptable uses of Syncthing as a “backup” solution.

Another thing on the “to do when I have tons of free time” was digitize VHS tapes. In December & beginning of January, I was on a mission to digitize my high school and college video tapes as well as family home videos. Close to 100 tapes in total. Those that are not familiar with my broadcast television past, I was involved with WHBS-TV in high school, a local cable access station. Schools from across the county came to visit us because we were doing 7 camera shoots with replay for all football games, 5 camera shoots for basketball, and competing in college level categories for regional Emmy awards. Worked at WBGU-TV in college. Did a ton of cool stuff including weekly productions for Fox Sports Ohio, a program that was distributed internationally, and lots of remote shoots in different parts of the state, to name a few. This was all before over-the-air digital was a thing. I recorded a lot of stuff on VHS tapes over those years and, of course, wanted to preserve them.

Most say “put it on DVD.” Like it or not, we’re being pushed to a streaming society so companies can control when and how you view content. Not only is physical media dead, but you now have to take care of, and store, a bunch of DVDs. There are services allowing you to roll-your-own streaming service, where you to make your own content library. There would be a server on your network containing your music, videos, TV shows, home movies, etc. making it accessible to smart TVs, streaming devices like Roku or Fire Stick, smart phones, tablets, or any modern web browser.

Plex media center (plex.tx)

I used a Hauppauge USB capture device to digitize VHS tapes played from a VCR. VideoReDo to fix errors in the data stream (some players have issues playing video streams with data errors) and cut recordings into smaller files. HandBrake to encode the video and Plex Media Server to make the video available to devices. Plex server runs on, you guessed it, the NAS! I’m glossing over how to use Plex, organize files, and produce files optimal for streaming as there are many support articles and forum posts covering these topics on the Plex or any other similar service’s site.

Reading up on recommended practices to digitize VHS tapes, VCRs with newer Time-Based Correctors (TBC) were recommended. Looking online, those were $400 or more. Since it’s likely these videos will be watched a handful of times, I decided to forgo more expensive VCR options. TBC can correct timing issues, making 1 second = 1 second, not longer due to tape stretching. It aims to correct visual image jitter and “wiggling.” I did see those artifacts and re-recorded if the video was bad enough. The Hauppauge device captures video at about 13 mbps (2 hr is about 13 GB). “Lossless” 25 mpbs capture devices were recommended. Do you remember the quality of a VHS tape? Lossless is not going to lose much VHS quality! All tapes digitized weighed in at about 1 TB of storage. Sounds like a lot. Though, 4 TB drives are under $140.

Watching college videos from 2004 as they were being digitized, I came across one of the shows and said ‘that guy looks familiar.’ It was two shows on school funding in the state of Ohio. Our previous section SGL Nick Pittner – K8NAP was one of the guests. I happen to be working camera in the WBGU studio for that show and Nick was in Columbus coming in via satellite. Emailed Nick some screen grabs. He remembered the show, hosts, other guest, and said they are still fighting the same fight after the better part of two decades later. Sometimes you never know who you’re working with!

On a commute a little longer than 10 feet, I’m planning to be in person at the Portage County Amateur Radio Service (PCARS) meeting coming up March 8th. Meeting topic will be VoIP modes (Voice over IP), both analog and digital, and the DVMIS. Hope to see everyone. There should be a Zoom link posted on their site if you would like to attend virtually.

Mike Baxter, KA0XTT, played by Tim Allen (arrl.org)

Speaking of the DVMIS, the Last Man Standing Amateur Radio Club – KA6LMS is sponsoring a special event starting at 00:00 UTC on March 24, 2021 and end at 23:59 UTC on March 30, 2021. This coincides with the last day of shooting for the show which is concluding its long, successful run. This event is going to be a multi-band, multi-mode, special event celebrating the show for its portrayal of amateur radio. AmateurLogic.TV is planning a net for March 27 from about 7 pm – 1 am eastern and the net will be carried on my system! I’m honored to be part of this event as Last Man Standing is one of my favorite shows. Mark your calendars and check the KA6LMS QRZ page for details!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – January 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,

For some time, the ARRL and myself have recognized the importance of makers as a way to breathe new life into the hobby. In one of my last in person appearances, our State Government Liaison, Bob – W2THU, posed the question to me: ‘how do we get younger people into the hobby?’ Some time ago my answer would have been “digital” but, in recent years, has shifted to makers – not only as a way to get younger people but a way to get like-minded people into the hobby.

What are makers? Adam Savage of MythBusters: “Humans do two things that make us unique from all other animals; we use tools and we tell stories. And when you make something, you’re doing both at once.” There is no single definition. Responses are broad and varied. A broad definition includes someone who creates something, usually in relation to creating, inventing, and learning. Frequently associated with makers are makerspaces, also called hackerspaces or fablabs. These offer shared resources by way of amenities such as machine shop, wood shop, welding shop, electronics lab, 3D printer, laser engraver, art supplies, blacksmithing, molding and casting, robotics lab, CAD software, glass blowing, space for experiments, and even entrepreneurship classes. These are things you might like to have, own, but are too expensive, unreasonable to own, or would be only utilized for a project or two.

Amateur Radio licensing class in a makerspace

A blog post by Rob – KJ7NZL makes very strong arguments why the ham radio community needs to embrace hackers now more than ever. Hackers are usually promoted as something “bad” when it is hackers that figure out how something works and then explore possibilities. Sure, license numbers are on the rise in the hobby but no one is pushing the limits of RF technologies. I’ve always been proud of the fact hams were using receiver voting systems and ways to detect a weakening signal at one receiver while, at the same time, increasing at another receiver. This, well before cell phone carriers built their networks on the same technology. However, instead of hams leading the way, we’re now lagging behind by adopting developed technologies and making them work for our own purposes. Prime examples being DMR, P25, and NXDN. There are no call signs in these radios. Radios identify themselves with a 5- or 7-digit ID. Other issues aside, D-STAR was at least developed by hams and implemented by manufactures.

Rob makes a number of compelling points to attract hackers. “Stop Primarily Promoting Emergency Communications.” I’ve always seen Amateur Radio having two distinct draws to the hobby: emcomm and experimentation. While I agree with his point personally, I’m also pretty biased. Under “Basis and purpose” at the beginning of Part 97 is the following:

The rules and regulations in this part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles:

(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.

Bold added to highlight. While promoting is not providing, it’s still the first reason of purpose. There are significant amounts of time and effort by our leadership and everyone involved with aspects of emcomm, including myself, to build and maintain relationships with governmental entities, keep up with regulation, political and policy changes, and training – to name a few. Lessen their efforts is likely throwing the baby out with the bath water. At the same time, I’m not talking about preppers and anyone with a Tech license and a Baofeng who really thinks they’re going to save the world. If the SHTF, I’m going to be more worried about my family and getting my behind to safety. Grabbing an HT might be on the list but it won’t be top of mind.

As Rob points out in his post, the hacker community isn’t going to care about sending messages during thunderstorms. When you mention Amateur Radio to those not in the community, most go to the prepper or underground bunker imagery because that’s what they know ham radio to be. Not those making, creating, and hacking things to improve, not only the hobby but maybe the portable life-chronicling device everyone carries around called a phone. Not promoting this important hacker aspect of the hobby has brought us to where we are today. The technical side is seen as less important.

In the same vein as preppers and Baofeng users, hackers need to be responsible. Your ham license does NOT give you any right to illegally access or manipulate private property without permission or accessing other radio systems over-the-air. Don’t think so? Ask a judge if you have any right to be on the statewide or regional public safety systems as a ham or regular citizen. No, no you absolutely do not.

“Start Promoting Software Defined Radio.” There is a lot of potential in SDR devices and I feel hams aren’t utilizing these devices to their maximum potential. SDR might usher in talent. If we, hams, keep downplaying technologists by saying ‘ooooohhh, it needs a COMPUTER, it’s not ham radio!’ this hobby is already dead. Thanks, thanks a lot.

Luckily, SDR devices are readily available from $20 for an RTL-SDR RTL2832U to thousands for a FlexRadio, and everywhere in-between. You can do a lot with the inexpensive RTL-SDR, much of it using ham modes and bands. I’m happy to say one of the people I’ve learned the most about radio signals is a licensed ham, Mike Ossmann – AE3H of Great Scott Gadgets, the company behind the HackRF One.

Technical regulation, I believe, is also hampering these efforts. Why are we still limited to baud rates of 300 on some bands? Why are we not at the point of reasonable bandwidth requirements? I have no friggin’ idea. Let’s really find out what we can do within 2.8 kHz. Baud rate and the encryption/privacy debate are two topics I think we need to figure out – three weeks ago. Privacy debate includes the self-doxing requirement of having our own personally identifiable information (PII) available to the public. Many people, in particular women, do not want their address available on the Internet.

Antenna building class (castlemakers.org)

“Provide Communities That Foster Technical Discussion and Exploration.” I didn’t realize this was as big of an issue. Likely in reaction to the blog post, I’ve had stations appear on the K8JTK Hub saying they were looking for places to have technical discussions. A younger ham stated something to the effect, ‘I’m looking for places that have technical discussions. I’m not looking to make a quick QSO and talk about the weather.’ I could think of a couple technical nets but not dedicated reflectors or talkgroups for in-depth technical discussions. I informed him that while my system is open, there wasn’t only technical discussions taking place but he was welcome to use it if he encountered or wanted to hold such discussion. Then we had an hour long (or more) QSO on everything from cryptocurrency to Internet routers and Wi-Fi access points. It’s not going to be for everyone but it was nice to have in-depth technical discussions.

Rob created a YSFReflector to facilitate technical discussion: #33360 – Radio Hackers. Dashboard: http://hackers.ysf.kj7nzl.net. Immediately saw comments ‘ooohhh, it’s using YAESU radios and WIRES-X.’ I love it. Not really. Everyone conflates the YSF/YSFReflector system, which is an open source Fusion reflector system, with WIRES-X, which is closed-source and proprietary to Yaesu and Yaesu equipment. Yaesu System Fusion as a standard, the technology in the radio and repeaters, is also closed-sourced. YSFReflectors are easy to setup and likely the reason Rob went there first.

Hackerspaces are excellent communities to promote the technical nature of ham radio. If your club is not involved with a hacker or makerspace, support a club that is involved. Or start talking with one near you. You’ll probably find they are waiting for a club or someone to partner with on radio, circuits, or electronics.

What are you doing to promote the technical side of the hobby?

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2020 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 Scott – N8SY 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 Scott 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,

One of the things I’ve been working on during my time at home is the Digital VoIP Multimode Interlink System (DVMIS), also called the K8JTK Hub. About a year-and-a-half ago, I came up with this bright idea to setup a system that would interlink many different ham radio VoIP (Voice over IP) modes for interoperability and experimentation. Through trials and tribulations, it’s experiencing some success, caught the interest of some nets, and a podcast.

Many digital modes sit on their own island and are restricted from crossing over to the analog world or to other digital networks. Some may say this is for quality-of-service but does nothing for interoperability or the ability to link and communicate across different systems. Original D-STAR DPLUS reflectors banned analog connections. My Hub supports ham radio experimentation by allowing hams to discover ways of utilizing a system that can link different modes. Utilization of ham radio spectrum is a priority through the use of hot spots and repeaters. Connections without RF are not a priority. Hamshack Hotline was provisioned because of use in Emergency Operation Centers. Many times, I’ve been asked about stations that don’t have access to RF hotspots or radios. They still have options including the Echolink app on Android and iOS devices, Hamshack Hotline phone which can be purchased for $30 (I’ve heard deals as low as $5 for a compatible phone), or the DudeStar app. The servers are hosted in a Chicago data center to provide resiliency against hardware, power, weather, and Internet outages, but still be fairly inexpensive.

All this is possible through integration of open-sourced packages including: AllStarLink which is a world wide network of Amateur Radio repeaters, remote base stations and hot spots accessible to each other via the Internet and/or private IP networks. Built on an open-sourced PBX system called Asterisk, Jim Dixon – WB6NIL (SK) built the apt_rpt module emulating functionality of a repeater controller. Jonathan – G4KLX authored programs that support D-Star, DMR, System Fusion, P25, and NXDN which are utilized in MMDVM devices like most hotspots. DVSwitch is a suite of applications for provisioning and operating Amateur Radio digital voice networks maintained by Steve – N4IRS and Mike – N4IRR. The DVSwitch Mobile app was designed to operate analog and digital modes utilizing an Android phone in conjunction with server applications running on a Linux server or Raspberry Pi. The ASL to DMR documentation (groups.io account required) got me started experimenting with these applications and ultimately lead to the build out of the system. XLXD is a multiprotocol reflector server for D-STAR by Jean-Luc – LX3JL & Luc – LX1IQ. Skip – WB6YMH & others maintain thebridge, an Echolink compatible conference bridge.

Originally, hosted on 2 servers, after troubleshooting some issues, it was more reliable to host everything across 3 VPSes (Virtual Private Servers) running Debian Linux. Parts of the system can go down and individual parts will continue to function. Aside from the VPSes, a Raspberry Pi with a Northwest Digital Radio DV3000 provides D-STAR audio transcoding to the system. Wires-X is available through the use of additional remote hardware. Wires-X is proprietary to Yaesu radios and repeaters. Wires-X is not available through open-source implementations such as YSFReflector or MMDVM without additional devices. I’d like to get the DV3000s in a reliable data center but doing so is prohibitively expensive. AllStar Link is the “Hub” that provides connectivity and linking control between all networks.

Putting all of this together provides a system with access to ten different networks and eight different modes! Any user on one network can communicate with users on other networks. Access is available through these nodes and connections:

  • AllStar Link: 50394
  • DMR: Brandmeister Talk Group 3172783
  • DMR: TGIF TG 31983
  • D-STAR: XLX983A (A = Analog Bridge. Pi-STAR = DCS983A, OpenSpot = XLX983A)
  • Echolink: *DVMIS* conference 600008
  • Hamshack Hotline: 94026 (*99 – TX, # – RX)
  • NXDN: TG 31983
  • P25: TG 31983
  • YSF: K8JTK-Hub 31983
  • Wires-X: K8JTK-ROOM 40680 (available upon request)

Dashboards:

Amateur Logic episode 149

Building this system has not been without problems. Luckily, I’m able to work around known issues. In order from least frustrating to most frustrating: all programs use IP addresses and ports to communicate, keeping all of that straight was a challenge initially. Using IPs allows for great flexibility utilizing network links such as private networks and VPNs. Dependency hell as a result of additions and changes to programs made a constant deployment from one day to the next an issue. XLXD changed its implementation to include YSF which then conflicted with the port used for the YSFReflector. Changing the YSFReflector port required propagation to Pi-STAR host files and OpenSpot DNS. DVSwitch has been rewritten two times since I’ve implemented it and they’ve released another round of changes. Data center provider choices resulted in issues with packet loss. Moving the servers to another provider yielded much better results. The previous provider finally acknowledged and supposedly resolved the issue a year after it was reported, and after I moved.

Use of physical hardware for D-STAR. OP25 software codec can transcode D-STAR but “you won’t be happy” to quote a post in the forums. D-STAR looooves IP addresses. DNS is great for switching IP addresses easily (like when moving data centers or spinning up different servers). However, D-STAR relies only on IP addresses. As a result, reflector IP changes take about a day to propagate to online hotspots/repeaters. Using AMBEServer with the DV3000 on a remote device resulted in very choppy audio. After some time, had the idea to move Audio Bridge to the same device as the DV3000 then use IP routing to send audio to and from AB. Worked great.

In order to compile AllStar Link from source takes a lot of time to get right and includes A LOT of dependencies. Finally, one that drove me crazy was the chan_echolink module for AllStar which provides Echolink connectivity natively to AllStar. When load testing with many connections, something was making stations sound as though they were transmitting underwater. After observing patterns, determined it was audio originating on the Hub being sent out to Echolink connections. Incoming audio from Echolink stations was OK and audio sent to all other nodes was also good. The problem seemed intermittent until I consulted groups.io and further determined chan_echolink has audio quality problems when more than three EL stations are connected simultaneously. Not ideal for a hub. Best workaround was to implement an Echolink Conference server. Then only allow chan_echolink connection to that conference server. Echolink users would then connect to the same conference server. This issue took a lot of time and a lot of hair pulling but implemented a workable solution that offers a quality system. Root cause is still unknown as an AllStar developer hadn’t chimed-in with any suggestions or possible reasons.

K8JTK Hub/DVMIS connections

The DVMIS hub hosts a couple nets. Tuesday nights at 9pm eastern, since about the first-time stay-at-home orders were put in place, is the Amateur Logic Sound Check net. The net encourages checkins to utilize as many modes as possible during the net to test equipment. If you haven’t seen the Amateur Logic podcast, it has been going for over 15 years and they release two shows monthly. The regular podcast has segments about technology and Ham Radio. “Ham College” is an educational show for those wanting to get licensed or upgrade. The guys asked me to put together a segment for the show. My segment can be found in episode 149. A huge thanks goes out to the ALTV crew and everyone checking into the net which helped me identify and resolve system issues. They’ve also been great in keeping up with all the changes over the last 9 months. At the end of December, I’ve been testing with the West Chester Amateur Radio Association – WC8VOA to add digital modes to their net on Monday evenings at 8pm.

Around the time my segment was airing on ALTV, Brandmeister did not approve of the linking method and linking to other networks. Brandmeister uses the MCC standard and they manage talkgroup IDs consisting of 3, 4, or 5 digits. 6- or 7-digit IDs are repeater IDs and user IDs respectively, and can be used however the assigned owner would like. The BM TG in the ALTV episode is now 3172783 and is correct in the listing above.

The Hub is open for all to use in testing equipment, software, or linking up with friends. I keep status updates listed on the page linked at the beginning of this article. For this and any linked system, please remember a couple practices. When keying your radio, pause a second or two to allow all links to rise, otherwise the first couple words maybe lost. Pause a minimum 3-5 seconds between transmissions to give time for links to reset and other stations to break in. Do not “tailgate.” Enjoy and join the nets to get a feel for the Interlink System’s capabilities.

Slow Scan TV has become big over the last couple years due to ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) events. One of the longer events will have begun before OSJ publication: starting December 24 at 16:40 UTC and continue through December 31 ending at 18:15 UTC. Dates are subject to change due to ISS operational adjustments. Images will be downlinked at 145.800 MHz +/- 3 KHz for Doppler shift and the expected SSTV mode of operation is PD 120. Radio enthusiasts participating in the event can post images they receive at the ARISS SSTV Gallery at https://www.spaceflightsoftware.com/ARISS_SSTV/. After your image is posted at the gallery, you can acquire a special award by linking to https://ariss.pzk.org.pl/sstv/ and follow directions for submitting a digital copy of your received image. Even an HT can receive images from the space station. If you would like to receive images using MMSSTV on Windows, head over to my tutorial.

Congratulations to Scott Yonally – N8SY who won his election as Great Lakes Division Vice Director! Since he cannot hold more than one elected position at a time, he will be stepping down from his current Section Manager position when he assumes the Vice Director position on Jan 1. I wish him nothing but the best in his new role as he has done a lot for the Ohio Section during his tenure. We will then welcome Tom Sly – WB8LCD who will be appointed the new Section Manager for Ohio!

Thanks for reading. Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!
73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – November 2020 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 Scott – N8SY 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 Scott 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,

With the continuation of ‘ronaFest 2020 and the latest blah-blah-blah from our GOV, individuals who didn’t have time to study for their ham exam have found themselves doing just that and passing their test! I’m hearing more new hams on the bands. Welcome. Most want to purchase a new radio as a reward. A new VHF/UHF handy-talky (or HT) is on many-a-new-ham’s shopping list. Great idea. There is a vast and wide range of features and options. For a while now, many new hams, and even current hams, have been purchasing Baofeng radios. Please don’t.

Yaesu FT-60R

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about my objection with Baofeng radios. Since then, they haven’t improved at all. Baofeng UV-5R radios cover the 2m and 440 ham bands and are available for about $25. Sounds great except nearly all of their radios do not comply with Amateur Radio service regulation, known as Part 97. Part 97 acknowledges the operator is responsible for operating all equipment within the limits set forth for the Amateur Radio service under FCC regulation. Other regulations, such as Part 90 (public service and business band, among others), certifies the specific piece of equipment stating it passes technical requirements. Each Amateur Radio license holder is responsible for the proper operation of all equipment.

It’s a very compelling argument, $25 for a handheld. Perfect options for new hams, young hams, or public service events were radios are prone to damage and misuse. Destroy it and it is $25 vs. a couple hundred, or $700, to replace. Newer, less expensive, radios could replace older radios that maybe didn’t have PL, low power TX, or were single band. Baofeng manufactures radios targeted at radio operators, including hams, for next to nothing. Inconsistencies in firmware versions lead to differing sets of features, programming software is in Chinese, issues getting the programming cable to work, complaints about the lack of support, and lack of a usable manual. I’m not installing software from China on my PC. You get what you paid for and even more than you bargained.

Baofengs have this nasty habit of transmitting everywhere at once. That’s tongue-in-cheek for they decimate radio spectrum by producing spurious emissions up and down the RF spectrum, which interferes with other licensed services. Part 97 specifically addresses this type of emissions in 97.307(e):

The mean power of any spurious emission from a station transmitter or external RF power amplifier transmitting on a frequency between 30-225 MHz must be at least 60 dB below the mean power of the fundamental. For a transmitter having a mean power of 25 W or less, the mean power of any spurious emission supplied to the antenna transmission line must not exceed 25 µW and must be at least 40 dB below the mean power of the fundamental emission, but need not be reduced below the power of 10 µW. A transmitter built before April 15, 1977, or first marketed before January 1, 1978, is exempt from this requirement.

Boldness added for emphasis. As hams, we are given plenty of leeway in how we use our frequencies and the ability to self-regulate. It’s up to each of us to make sure our radios are compliant and we are good stewards of the spectrum we’ve been afforded. It’s funny because I’ve been in radio club meetings were hams are the first to complain about interference, pirate stations, and unlicensed devices in the amateur spectrum. Yet, it seems, very few follow regulations minimizing interference to other devices and services. By not following Part 97, hams are in violation of their license which could lead to fines and even revocation.

The ARRL published their findings in a November 2015 QST article and another in January 2020. I came across yet another video demonstrating the non-compliance of these radios with Part 97. In this video, he keeps mentioning the 60 dB requirement. I believe that is incorrect because these radios are 25 watts or less and would fall under the 40 dB requirement.

Baofeng UV-5RX3 on a Spectrum Analyzer. Left most spike is the fundamental frequency. Next spike to the right of the fundamental is the first spurious emission. This emission is only -19 dBm (upper right) from the fundamental. These emissions are nowhere near -40 or Part 97 compliant. (The Radio Mechanic YouTube video)
Alinco DJ-F1 on a Spectrum Analyzer. Left most spike is the fundamental frequency. The diamond marker in about the middle of the noise floor is the first spurious emission. This emission is -57 dBm (upper right) form the fundamental. This radio is compliant with Part 97 as it is beyond -40. (The Radio Mechanic YouTube video)

Every transmitting device has these spurs. The manufactures employ filtering within the radio to knock down these spurs to a level that complies with regulations. Baofengs likely have none of this filtering or very, very, very poor-quality filters. The ARRL found units tested from big name manufactures are 100% compliant.

I stopped using and recommending Baofeng radios because they do not come close to meeting FCC requirements. No way would I transmit using one of these radios. Only receiving is fine, transmitting is the problem. Many tests from both amateur and professionals have validated these radios are not worth the money. Better off taking your money and throwing it out the window.

What radio, that meets Part 97 requirements, is available for the price? About the cheapest dual-band hand held radio is the $80 Yaesu FT-4XR or the $160 Yaesu FT-60R, which are fantastic entry level radios and very much Part 97 compliant. DMR radios compete on price and most were found to be compliant. Many usual ham features are missing and programming difficulty have not really put DMR radios on the same playing field.

Few years ago, I found another option. Unfortunately, the company has “Baofeng” in the name which doesn’t help its cause. A company called “Baofeng Tech,” or BTech, is a US based company offering the UV-5X3 for under $60! They have comparable offerings to other Baofeng models too. BaoFeng Tech not only sells improved Beofeng radios but they also support their products directly. It even ships free and supports the ARRL if bought using Amazon Smile.

BaoFeng Tech UV-5X3 and accessories

The radio looks and acts like a UV-5R. BaoFeng Tech updates the firmware, modifies the radio by installing better filtering on the transmitter, and includes an easy-to-read, nicely printed, 85-page manual. The UV-5X3 comes with all the same accessories including belt clip, antennas, charger, and ear piece. All original Baofeng accessories work too. To my surprise, they even squeezed in the 220 MHz (1.25m) band into the radio making it a tri-band radio!

BaoFeng Tech assured me their radios meet spectral requirements for Part 97. I had mine tested a few years ago at the Cleveland Hamfest by AD8G (ex KD8TWG). On VHF, one harmonic was a little higher than 40db down, UHF was spot-on. I feel very comfortable transmitting with this radio knowing it is compliant.

The CHIRP free programming software will program the UV-5X3. If you’re into the RT Systems programmers, the BTS-5X3 programmer is needed. The RT UV-5R programmer (BAO-5R-3) will not work with the UV-5X3. However, the same cable (USB-K4Y) will work on both radios.

Now there’s no excuse to get a compliant radio that is reasonably priced like the Yaesu FT-4XR, Yaesu FT-60R, or a BaoFeng Tech UV-5X3. These are great entry-level VHF and UHF radios. They can replace older radios, be a Christmas/holiday gift, and are options for young hams or new hams that just received their ticket. If you would like to check radio compliance, a number of Technical Specialists have equipment that can validate if it follows regulations. Also look for “test and tune” nights at a local club meeting – maybe when we’re all seeing each other again.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

K8JTK Hub DVMIS Presentations

Presentation on the K8JTK Hub Digital VoIP Multimode Interlink System which integrates many Ham radio modes, both analog and digital.

Framework

The framework I chose to use for the presentation slides is called reveal.js. It is an HTML framework meaning it will run in any HTML 5 capable browser. Looks a little better than a PowerPoint presentation.

Navigation

Useful navigation keys in the presentation. In addition to navigating with the keys below, you can swipe (tables/smartphones) or use the navigation arrows on screen in the lower right.

Toggle full screen: press [F11].

Advance to the next slide: press [n] or [SPACEBAR].

Go back to the previous slide: press [p] or press and hold the [SHIFT] key while pressing the [SPACEBAR].

Display presentation overview: [ESC] then use the arrow keys or mouse to select a slide. [ESC] again will exit overview mode.

Links

Clickable links are colored in brown text.

Presentations

Three variations are available: presentation version is viewable in a browser. Printable version for printing or saving in a different format. Finally a PDF version.

They may take some time to load because I left original images untouched and some were a couple MB in file size.

Slides

The presentation is about 10 minutes in length which aired on the AmateurLogic.TV podcast on 11/13/2020 for episode 149.  It includes additional slides referenced in the video segment.

Presentation version
Printable version
PDF version

Segment:

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – October 2020 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 Scott – N8SY 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 Scott 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,

October is associated with a number of things: apple cider, fall weather, foliage displays, pumpkins, and Halloween costumes. One thing that might be gruesome, like some Halloween costumes, is most people’s cyber hygiene. Cyber hygiene relates to practices and precautions users take to keep their data safe and secure from outside attacks. October, in addition to the above, is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. It is a way to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and give everyone resources to be more secure online.

uBlock Origin on mlb.com

First up, web browser. This is the portal and gateway to modern computing. A browser should be current, supported, and one that is updated. Current web browsers are ones like Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Opera. These are constantly being updated to support newer technologies, protect users, and eliminate known vulnerabilities. Don’t use a camera, microphone, or other accessories during browsing interactions? Disable access to them in the browser’s options. I’m not sure the last time I used a MIDI interface. Disabling it hasn’t affected my browsing in Chrome.

Browser extensions (or plugins): Limit the number of installed extensions and make sure they are also current and being updated. The one extension I have on every browser I use, including at work, is uBlock Origin. It is an excellent ad-blocker and does it very effectively. Additional features include ability to block other sources of vulnerabilities, such as scripts, large media items, like videos, and known bad domains. A lot of people love NoScript. It’s even better, security-wise, than uBlock Origin. However, like everything in security, there are tradeoffs. NoScript does what it says, block scrips like JavaScript because they are a major source of security problems. This is great in principle but it basically breaks every site on the Internet. Whitelisting necessary scripts to make a trusted site work, I think, is more effort than it’s worth. Choose the better option for you. For me, it’s uBlock.

Another good browser extension is HTTPS Everywhere. When a site is loaded over an unsecure connection, this extension upgrades it to a secure connection is one is available. Most severs configured by capable admins are now serving up HTTPS by default and redirecting HTTP connections to HTTPS. Finally, PrivacyBadger is good at blocking third-party tracking and browser fingerprinting. Browser fingerprinting is the ability for a site to interrogate the browser about the system it is running on. For example, which browser, is it accepting cookies, plugins installed, time zone, screen size and color depth, system fonts, language, OS and platform, touch device, and device memory. PrivacyBadger blocks sites from accessing many of these properties.

Bad sites: In August, I talked about the Pi-Hole security device. This device provides similar blocking to uBlock Origin but at the network level. Any browser plugins only add protection to sessions in that browser. It doesn’t block tracking, malware, or ads in other applications running on the PC. It doesn’t offer protection for any other device on the network such as phones, tablets, streaming, surveillance, and “smart” devices. That is where Pi-Hole comes in by blocking known bad domains at the network level. It will keep ads off smart TVs, Roku’s, and keep digital footprints to a minimum. A caveat, devices using hardcoded DNS servers (usually IoT, DNS over HTTPS) will bypass any Pi-Hole filtering. Routers that can perform NAT Redirection can re-route requests to Pi-Hole and block DOH.

If you don’t want to add a device like Pi-Hole, changing DNS servers in a home router will offer more protection. I recommend OpenDNS as a security focused DNS service. OpenDNS is free to use and enabled by simply setting Primary DNS and Secondary DNS to these IPs: 208.67.222.222 & 208.67.220.220 – does not matter which goes into primary/secondary. They do offer paid services which can categorically block sites and does require a little more setup. Another good DNS filtering service is “Quad 9” or 9.9.9.9 as the DNS server. These services block access to known infected sites made through DNS requests.

Password managers: sites do a relatively poor job of securing their user and password databases. On the other hand, users do a poor job of choosing strong passwords. We know this because of sites like Have I Been Pwned (pronounced “owned”) which search stolen password databases for associated Email addresses. Showing as ‘pwned’ on that site indicates the Email address was found in a database breach. Searching an old Email address of mine found two services I did not recognize. I suspect the data changed hands through company acquisition but, more likely, my information was sold to the highest bidder.

KeePass main window (keepass.info)

Lists are published of the most commonly used passwords from these breaches. Many are even easy to guess like 123456, password, qwerty, dragon, baseball, monkey, and letmein. A password manager will generate strong passwords and remember them so you don’t have to. In general, if you can remember passwords for services, you’re doing it wrong. It’s good to know the password for logging on to the computer and the password for your password manager. That’s about it anymore. Being able to remember passwords means they’re probably easy to guess. 55@[hg@owtWF(6eDOXR0 – is not be an easy to guess password, has lots of entropy, and would take around 1.15 thousand trillion trillion centuries to guess using one thousand guesses per second.

LastPass & KeePass will do the job of creating strong passwords and remembering (saving) them. Both of these password managers are considered best-of-breed because of their features, history of responding to issues quickly, and constantly squashing bugs. Other password managers do not have this reputation and most don’t offer adequate protection from attacks. LastPass is an online service. They have a free option but useful features will be found in the $3/month for single user and $4/mo. for families. If you don’t trust “the cloud” or want to manage your own password database(s) offline, KeePass is what you want.

Both have the ability to generate, store passwords, and save notes associated with an account. Largely they’re both available on multiple platforms in multiple browsers. LastPass apps tightly integrate many device types with their service. KeePass relies largely on the community to implement addons and create apps for platforms like Android. LastPass has nice features allowing sharing among family members or sharing banking credentials with a spouse. Another feature I like in LastPass is the ‘dark web’ monitoring and alerting for breached credentials. These alerts let you know it’s time to change that password. To retrieve stored usernames and passwords from a password manager, they’re copied and pasted from the app or automatically filled into a webpage using a browser extension.

LastPass interface (lastpass.com)

Both services require some sort of master password which MUST be remembered. LastPass gets its name from the password used to access their service as the ‘last password’ you’ll ever need. An easy way to generate such as password would be to find a famous speech, song, or lines from a movie. Take the first letter of each word, throw in some numbers, and voila! Strong master password. This method will create a password that is hard to crack but easy for you to remember. As an example, take the first line of the Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Taking the first character of each word: Fsasyaofbfutc – even to the first comma is 14 characters and already on its way to being very strong. Get creative, maybe take the second or third letter of every word. Throw in some random capitalization. Then add maybe parts of an old phone number, an old address, old work address, old dorm room number, kids ages, etc. Then it becomes: FsasyaOfbfuTC219419216 – all of a sudden you have a password that takes 8.75 hundred trillion trillion centuries to guess. Sure, you’ll want to write down this password until its memorized. Destroy the written copy after it’s definitely committed to memory.

All this assumes there is no monitoring of the computer or device, no key logging, no intercepting communications, no monitoring the clipboard, etc. The strongest password does no good if it’s used on a compromised machine or used over an unsecure communication channel such as HTTP, FTP, or Telnet – which all use plain-text passwords.

Google Authenticator (play.google.com)

Should there be a situation where you can’t create a completely random password in a password manager or want to use a password that can be more easily remembered in certain situations (not your master password, that would be bad practice), use the xkpasswd generator. Inspired by an XKCD comic, it uses a method of random numbers and common words to create memorable passwords. The example they give: correcthorsebatterystaple – correct, horse, battery, staple.

Last practice I’ll mention this time around is use multifactor authentication. This is also commonly referred to as 2-factor authentication (2fa) or MFA. MFA uses more than one authentication method to validate identity. Usually consisting of something you know, a password, and something you have – a phone app or hardware token. This approach is an additional layer of authentication with the hope that miscreants don’t have access to one or more of those authentication methods. Good multifactor auth changes or rotates every time it’s used or changes after a set amount of time. Modern multifactor technology has been around for more than 15 years. Many companies are rapidly adopting it for all employees because they see value and it has proven to be a good way of keeping miscreants out of their systems. More and more services are adding two factor authentication.

Multi-factor works by going to site-I-login-to[dot]com. Enter your username and password. Usually after clicking log on, you are presented with a multi-factor prompt. Consisting of a pin that rotates frequently, clicking ‘approve’ in a mobile app, hitting a button on a hardware token, or being sent a unique code via SMS text or Email to enter into the site. A lot of services use SMS text messages and Emails. Those two should not be the primary multi-factor validation. SMS messages can be intercepted by miscreants who could have hijacked or cloned the SIM card from the carrier. If they have your password and hijacked SIM card, they might as well be you. Email is readily accessible to organizations hosting the mail server and often transmitted on the wire in the clear – though progress is being made to encrypt email messages in transit.

I like TOTP (time-based one-time password) solutions such as Google Authenticator on a phone or tablet. The password manager database is on the computer or in the cloud. The app lives on the phone, separate from the database. TOTP is an open standard, supported in nearly all services that offer multi-factor auth, doesn’t need a data connection, and isn’t stored anywhere except in a protected database on the phone. These passwords change every 30 seconds and are 6 digits long. In the case where a phone might get lost, there are “recovery” tokens that are generated at the time TOTP is configured. Where should the recovery tokens should be stored? They can be printed and stored in safe, or use your new password manager to secure them!

Scrap Value of a Hacked PC (krebsonsecurity.com)

It’s a couple years old, but Krebs on Security’s Scrap Value of a Hacked PC takes a look at all the things miscreants could do with information learned from a compromised machine. Things like hostage attacks through ransomware (encrypt files and demand payment to decrypt) and reputation hijacking of the social medias or credit scores. Brian’s site is also entertaining reading for taking a peek into the ‘dark web’ on things criminals do with stolen data and credit cards. Other useful security tools are Security Planner which walks you through creating a customized security plan based on interests and goals. PrivacyTools provides tools and knowledge for protection against mass surveillance. These steps and suggestions from known good resources will greatly improve your cyber hygrine for Cybersecurity Awareness month.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – September 2020 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 Scott – N8SY 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 Scott 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,

On this month’s edition of “Pi Talk” – just when you thought I couldn’t talk about Pi anymore! I received a question from Chet – K8KIZ who has a laptop used for station operation. He wanted to replace it with a Raspberry Pi. In searching, he found way too many choices and wanted help to set him on the right path. This might be a question that others have or one they are considering. He soon found out it was a lot more complicated than originally thought.

Over the past number of years, I’ve done a lot of integration work which involves making one system or application talk to or replace another. It frequently involves bridging communications with other services such as databases or API’s (application programming interface) and facilitating data flow between them. Sales, Account Managers, and System Engineers for the new vendor will always throw around buzzwords and catch phrases – “setup and integration are easy and seamless,” “automated,” “zero configuration,” “drop-in replacement,” “pays for itself in three days” (not really), “reduce costs.” List goes on and on. It is never any of those things.

They have absolutely no idea about your environment, how involved, and how costly it will be to utilize their services. They just want you to buy them. Soon after comes the nickel-and-dimming: “you want to process how much data? That’s an extra couple thousand dollars” or “that doesn’t come with the license you purchased, that will cost you an extra-large-number with many 0’s!” Internal business units do this too. They weren’t prepared or made it seem like they are in position to handle a situation and were not. Feature requests take an extraordinarily long time to implement or claims of not having enough man-power soon follow.

The FCC is in a situation similar to this or they’re making it seem like they are: ‘oh, our licensing process is all digital and we can eliminate that pesky licensing fee!’ And the peasants rejoice. Reading the latest news about the FCC wanting to reinstate license service fees, “…we propose a nominal application fee of $50 due to automating the processes, routine ULS maintenance, and limited instances where staff input is required.” Wait, isn’t that why they went digital to reduce these costs? Someone sold them a bill-of-goods that didn’t actually reduce their costs or they’re looking to recoup costs elsewhere.

Not wanting the same thing to happen to Chet, where the alternative didn’t actually improve his situation, I took the approach of having him think about his station. What does he use his station for and what he would consider “a success” of replacing his laptop with a Raspberry Pi? Anytime anyone is looking to replace X with Y, an evaluation of this nature. What is X used for and are the pros/cons of Y sustainable?

In Chet’s case, replacing a laptop used for ham radio with a Raspberry Pi, he would need to consider things such as:

  • Is the current laptop setup Windows or Linux?
  • If it’s Windows, would he want to climb the Linux learning curve?
  • Is he using any software apps that are Windows only? Examples would be: RT Systems programmers, Ham Radio Deluxe, N3FJP logging, SmartSDR, N1MM, Wires-X, etc., etc.
  • Can those Windows only apps be replaced by Linux apps – and are those Linux apps equally as good?
  • Does he have any hardware requirements (like multiple serial or parallel ports)? The Pi has UART via GPIO pins but two or more serial ports require USB-to-Serial converters.
  • How many USB ports are required? Pi’s only have 4. 2 ports would be taken up by using a wired keyboard and mouse.
  • Do all of his hardware devices and interfaces work in Linux? These would be things like radio programming, control (CI-V) or firmware flashing, audio mixers and audio interfaces.

This is not an all-inclusive list especially since I didn’t know anything about his station – though I seem to remember he was into Vibroplex CW key tuning and repair from a local hamfest. I thought through scenarios that might apply to the majority of HF operators and came up with that list.

G4DPZ running GPredict on a Pi (amsat-uk.org)

Some Windows programs can be run under Linux using a compatibility layer program such as WINE or run virtual machines (VMs). That would contribute to the Linux learning curve. Raspberry Pi isn’t powerful enough today to run VMs. VMs or hypervisors maybe an option for some Linux desktop/laptop situations.

Instead of wired keyboards and mice, Bluetooth devices could be a replacement option but are more costly. Wired is preferred to wireless for reducing interference problems. Built-in antennas for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi aren’t going to be as good as laptop antennas. Additionally, monitors without HDMI or mini-HDMI connectors will need adapters, cables, or outright replaced if it doesn’t have compatible connectors. USB hubs are an option for expanding the number of USB ports. I have yet to find a USB hub that is problem free. They don’t work well with some operating systems, attached devices do not fare well with temporary connection interruptions, and they tend to break down after a short time.

Best way to track these considerations and more is to make a list. Start by looking at all connections to the existing laptop, both physical and virtual (like with an SDR). Include any software used during operating (radio control, prediction modeling, packet, digital, etc.). Programming radios? Those tend to be Windows (or DOS) programs along with firmware updaters. If using a Raspberry Pi is still desired, another Windows machine will be needed for programming and firmware updates. Include all of these in the list and evaluate solutions on the Raspberry Pi or Linux platform for alternatives that meet the requirements. Consider splitting non-supported, but essential, functionality to another Windows machine.

Another way to approach evaluation would be to operate with a new “Pi” system, hands-on, but keeping the old system up-and-running nearby. The old system would be used as a reference for program settings, coping or migrating data files (such as export from one and import to the other), and a comparison point when evaluating Linux programs.

Lastly, completely ditching the previous system and entirely starting from scratch is an option. This type of evaluation style is more draconian by ripping and replacing. Most people have their own operating style and rarely want to deviate from their ritual. Rip-and-replace might be needed if they’re fed up with a current setup and want to start over with something else. The operator, in this case, would not care about migrating previous data, starting out anew, and take whatever options are offered by a different platform.

Raspberry Pi 3 projects for Ham Radio with 7-inch touchscreen (qrznow.com)

To future proof, I’d recommend going with the latest version of the Pi. Currently, that would be a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B with at least 4GB RAM ($60), 8GB ($90) if able to spring for the extra RAM. Quality of the power supply and SD card plays a role in stability as I talked about in July. Data corruption possibility is still not zero. Even on a desktop PC. Corruption seems to be more prevalent on Pi’s, likely because of cheap components chosen by the user.

I strongly recommend making frequent data backups. This applies to any system. There should be 3 copies of data: the local copy (on the Pi), another copy on a storage device like a USB Hard Drive or Network Attached Storage (NAS). A third copy, off-site, located at a friend’s house, relative’s house, or a work location. Another off-site storage location would be cloud storage or backup service provider. Think about where you would be if you lost those LOTW logs, FT8 contacts, SSTV images, or Winlink messages. This strategy is known as the 3-2-1 backup strategy and should be used for ANY important data. 3 copies of data, 2 on different medium, and 1 copy off-site.

Starting out, I would consider the “Ham Pi” or “Build a Pi” projects I discussed in August initially. “Ham Pi” has just about every Linux ham radio application pre-installed. That would allow an operator to try different programs, find one that suits their needs or one they prefer. “Build a Pi” can be a little more tailored to operating style. You can also get down and dirty by compiling programs from source, depending on Linux experience or desire to tinker with Linux.

That just about covers broad considerations. Chet realized this was a larger undertaking than finding a plug-and-play option. He appreciated the analysis of the issues at hand. I hope he is able to find a working solution to replace his station laptop. When considering major overhauls such as this, know that for most people, it’s a little more complex and involved than most realize.

A quick note about Winlink. The WINMOR protocol has been deprecated systemwide and will soon be removed from the client software application. First introduced by Rick – KN6KB in 2008, it was the first ‘sound card’ mode offered by Winlink as an alternative to modem hardware needed at the time. Rick and the Winlink Team have moved on to developing robust and speedier protocols such as Amateur Radio Digital Open Protocol (ARDOP) and VERA HF. RMS gateways will only support ARDOP, VARA HF, and Pactor 3 or 4 (where applicable) near term. If you are still using WINMOR, it’s likely been hard to find gateways that support the protocol because sysops have been asked to remove in favor of the other modes. WINMOR had a great run and was the mode I used when I first got on Winlink.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – August 2020 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 Scott – N8SY 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 Scott 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.
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Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

My article last month covered Raspberry Pi and problems users have experienced with the Pi 4 since its release last year. I gave some tips for keeping your Pi running like a top including choosing better power components, SD cards, and having the Pi run cooler despite higher idle temperatures. This month will cover recent projects you can make with the Raspberry Pi to learn about the device, computer programming, or Linux.

Ham Pi – formally the “W3DJS Raspberry Pi for Ham Radio image” is an operating system for the Raspberry Pi with over 80 ham radio applications pre-installed – which include digital modes, APRS clients, antenna programs, SDR, Morse Code, radio programming, and more. Dave wanted to have a Pi image loaded with any ham radio software application he might ever want to use. He initially shared it with a few club members and soon realized there was demand when his image had over 8,000 downloads. Since then, the build process is automated using an Ansible playbook. The playbook is also available on his github which is useful if you want to learn a provisioning technology or build your own customized version. A long time ago, I wrote instructions that just compiled Fldigi and Flmsg on a Pi2 for a go-box. Ham Pi is a definite must for anyone that has a Pi already in their go-box or wants to add one to an existing box.

Build a Pi – wanting a way to have ham radio applications installed on a Pi, Jason – KM4ACK wrote a script that does just that. Having many issues with the first couple implementations, which were mostly copy-and-paste installs, it was not flexible enough to update applications once installed. Version 3 includes an automated way of installing and configuring both ham radio applications and the operating system on a fresh Raspberry Pi OS installation. Differing from Ham Pi in that a stock Raspberry Pi OS download can be used, the user can also pick-and-choose which applications they want to install. A quick tutorial video is available.

Rig Pi Station Server – is a Raspberry Pi that controls your station and on-air activities. With a Station Server install and web browser or smartphone app, you can control a radio, rotor, use CW, operate digital modes, look for spots, and even upload your log. If you don’t want to spend much time learning about the Pi or Linux with the above projects, this is the way to get on the air remotely as quickly as possible. Hackaday did a review on the Rig Pi Remote Server.

“Rig Pi” may sound familiar because it was picked up and packaged by MFJ as the 1234 with a Pi and audio interface HAT. Before I receive complains (I’ve already seen them online), you can download the help and schematics as well as any of the software on the github repository absolutely free. Rig Pi is open-source. Not only that but no one needs to buy the commercial package. It can be installed yourself. People that complain about “selling” open-source projects really don’t understand how that typically works. It is common practice to release an enterprise grade software application as FOSS (free and open-source). A company/individual/whomever will make money on their application by selling licenses, services, or hardware. Same concept here. Assuming the license allows it, a vendor can package the program as part of a device. I’m going to assume the developer is getting a cut or donation as part of MFJ’s sales (but I don’t know this) as the product is promoted on the project page.

Pi-Star – create a digital hotspot or repeater with a Pi and transmitter. Providing complex services and easy configuration via a web interface, Pi-Star solved the problem of fragmentation when different hotspot boards all had their own Pi image. Most didn’t work well if at all. Pi-Star solved that problem by providing an easy to use interface for the beginner and allowing a tinkerer to dig deep into settings. Using the MMDVM suite from G4KLX, it can operate DMR, D-STAR, NXDN, P25, and System Fusion (depending on modem) and use many different protocols. This software is packaged and sold with different hotspot devices such as the ZUMSpot. Another example of software being packaged with hardware and sold commercially.

Ultimate Raspberry Pi Build

Ultimate Raspberry Pi Build – Julian – OH8STN from Finland covers topics related to off-the-grid and grid-down operating. He brings us an excellent instructional video on making a very portable QRP digital station using a Raspberry Pi. He set out to build a smaller and, in turn, much more portable setup than is available commercially with other devices. This video details hardware mods, HAT options, and software needed to operate digital, off-grid, from anywhere.

PiClock

Pi Clocks – a couple of clock projects are available depending on your level of interest. The first one is created by Kevin – N0BEL. It’s not a project specifically for Hams rather for anyone interested in making a nice weather display. His PiClock is a clock (“duh” – as he says) with weather forecast and radar map display. Though it could be used in the shack, it is better suited for a common area in the house, such as the kitchen, with an HDMI monitor. Everyone likes weather information. Emile – KE5QKR from Amateur Logic did a PiClock tutorial.

HamClock project – from Elwood – WB0OEW is geared toward the ham shack. It has clock (again, duh), current temperature and weather conditions, solar conditions, VOCAP predictions, satellites, DX spots and daylight map. His project can be built on any UNIX-like operating system including the Raspberry Pi. It cannot run naively on Windows but can run on a Unix system and displayed on Windows using X server forwarding. This has the appearance of a regular Windows application. Tommy – N5ZNO of Amateur Logic did a segment on setting up the HamClock.

Open Repeater – I lost track of this project. I first heard about it back in 2014 when they didn’t yet have a domain name for the project. Goal is to create an open-source and simple to use repeater controller. Utilized for high-profile repeaters or basic simplex nodes, the software walks the user through setting up a repeater controller. Owners can have traditional Morse IDs or create longer messages at every hour via audio recordings. Having SVXLink at the core allows seamless integration with VoIP modes like Echolink. Additional modules can be added to the core package providing more functionality.

Pi-Hole – not specifically Ham Radio related but a fantastic network appliance. DL6ER, a ham radio operator in Germany, is a Developer and Administrator for the project. Pi-Hole acts as a Domain Name System (DNS) sinkhole (returning a fake value) which blocks devices on a home network from accessing ad sites, trackers, or other malicious websites. Though originally intended for Raspberry Pi devices, it has been expanded to include any Linux operating system or docker container. It doesn’t filter bandwidth or inspect network traffic. The Pi-Hole acts as the DNS server for a home network instead of your ISP. DNS is referred to as the “phone book” of the Internet by looking up names such as arrl-ohio.org and returning the IP address in order for a network device to access the server hosting the Ohio Section website. When a request for a blacklisted website (such as some-malicious-website[dot]com) is requested, Pi-Hole intercepts and returns a different IP address so the access request will never reach the Internet. This is better compared to a web browser plug-in because Pi-Hole is inspecting DNS requests for all network devices.

Pi-Hole Dashboard (Wikipedia)

It’s great to block trackers and ad sites in theory, keeps digital footprints to a minimum and reduces the chance of fraud through scareware-type tactics. In practice, it often blocks couponing and deal websites as well as promotional email links from a favorite restaurant. Those emails are coded to tell the sender which links a recipient clicked and can be used to measure the effectiveness of an advertising campaign. Whitelist exceptions can be granted though the very nice web interface when legitimate sites are blocked. I have a similar application running on my network. After I received complaints about sites being blocked (but they wouldn’t tell me when there were problems to create exceptions), I disabled this blocking all together, effectively opening up the Internet. Within 10 minutes I was asked to turn it back on as pop-up ads immediately started to appear stating ‘your computer is INFECTED.’ Scared the, uh, stuff out of some. Other issues involve in-home advertising and monitoring devices, like Alexa, which freak out when the device can’t reach its severs. These devices flood the local network with hundreds of DNS requests per second. Smart TVs and Rokus often have similar problems when they can’t reach their servers to track what is being watched. Data feeds containing bad sites are aggregated for free, so you get what you pay for. Sites are frequently categorized as bad when they really aren’t. Some are legitimate services. Blocking these sites could cause undesired behavior, for example, using a favorite streaming TV service where you may receive errors.

Windows 10/desktop replacement – with the power and speed of the Raspberry Pi 4, many are finding ways to install traditional operating systems. Windows 10, in its many flavors, has an IoT stripped down version for devices like the Pi. The guide at Tom’s Hardware shows how to get the full desktop version of Windows 10 running on the Pi. It’s a little sluggish and not for the faint of heart but if you screw up, just start over.

There are plenty more ham radio and non-ham projects to do on a Raspberry Pi. Applications listed in the first couple projects can be installed standalone for single use setups such as a Slow Scan TV (SSTV) receiver when the International Space Station is sending images. A friend in Toledo recently used my instructions to setup an APRS RX Igate. DL1GKK’s site has instructions on installing ham radio applications as well. Raspberry Connect contains a list of ham radio applications that can be installed through the apt package manager which simplifies installation. There is no shortage of things to make on a Raspberry Pi.

Grant Imahara (Wikipedia)

News missed my article last month, but I wanted to mention the passing of Grant Imahara at 49 years old due to a brain aneurysm. Most probably never heard the name but have undoubtedly seen his work. Not a ham radio licensee that anyone can find, Grant was an electronics genius and maker in the truest sense of the word. Landing jobs at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic), the George Lucas special effects company, he modernized R2D2. He was one of three official domestic operators of the droid for the Star Wars movies. His special effects movie credits also include The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Terminator 3, and Matrix movies. Grant also competed on BattleBots where his robot was often highly ranked. The robotic sidekick on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” was also Grant’s creation. He was a designer for the animatronic Energizer Bunny seen in commercials. Joining MythBusters in 2005 is where I picked up his career in front of the camera during my college years. The program took on myths, legends, and Hollywood lure to see if they translated to real-life – oh, and they liked to blow stuff up. Grant not only provided technical expertise but participated in experiments and designed machines to take the place of a person for myths that were too dangerous. A tragic loss and he will be missed.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – July 2020 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 Scott – N8SY 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 Scott 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,

Since its release, the Raspberry Pi 4 has had a couple problems. It’s not the first device in the lineup to have hardware problems. Raspberry Pi devices are single-board computers that are about the size of a credit card. The smaller Raspberry Pi Zeros are about the size of a 9-volt battery. Created to foster Computer Science in schools, they have become very popular with robotics, weather monitoring, and even ham radio. Size makes these devices very portable, they draw minimal power, and cost anywhere from $10 – $75 for a high-end model. In addition, they are capable of running Linux which makes them a great substitute for single applications or toying around with Linux – versus using older PC hardware consuming more power.

Raspberry Pi Zero and 9V-battery (lifehacker.com)

Dubbed the Xenon Death Flash, electromagnetic radiation penetrated the wafer-thin packaging of an on-board chip responsible for switching regulation. Taking a flash picture of the Pi would cause the entire board to shut down. A Power over Ethernet (POE) Hardware Attached on Top (HAT) module had major power fluctuations and delivered significantly less power to the USB ports than normal. The POE HAT was delivering 200mA. 500mA is standard through a USB 2.0 port.

This time around, the Pi 4 lineup was released but not all the necessary drivers were made available in the official Raspbian Operating System. A minor annoyance. This is an easy fix in software and corrected shortly after release.

Die resposible for the Xenon Death Flash in the WL-CSP package, enormiously magnified (raspberrypi.org)

The issue that received all the press: USB-C power port on the Pi 4 didn’t follow published specifications. USB-C connector is a symmetrical connector meaning it is reversible. Designed to deliver high power for charging, digital audio, digital video, and high-speed data. Android users are familiar with these connectors as phones in the last 4 years utilize USB-C replacing the Micro USB connector. Popular on PC docking stations as it allows the laptop to be charged while driving multiple HD monitors, including audio, utilize high speed Ethernet, and regular USB connections – all at the same time. E-marked (or electronically marked) cables will connect more of the 24 pins found in the USB-C connector unlocking features like additional power. These cables are found on power supplies of advanced devices such as Apple MacBooks and other laptops. These USB-C E-marked cables were a problem for the Pi. Non-E-marked cables worked fine.

In February, it was officially announced that a fixed model was available for the USB-C problem. How do you tell which board has the fix? That’s a little more complicated. Speculation is that board version 1.2 is the fixed revision. If you feel up to modifying an existing board by hand, that can be done too (insert standard disclaimers here). Best advice was to get a newer board and try it with an E-marked cable. Good going, guys.

That’s it, right? Not so fast. I found a post over at Hackaday that reported cranking up the HDMI resolution jammed the Pi’s own Wi-Fi. Using a display resolution of 2560×1440 (QHD resolution), the Wi-Fi drops out. At that resolution, the Pi emits noise in the range of Wi-Fi channel 1. Using a different channel might work but causing unnecessary RFI to other Wi-Fi users is unacceptable. The Raspberry Pi Foundation acknowledged the issue and issued a firmware update a few weeks later. Update the Pi using: sudo rpi-update at the command line if you haven’t done so in the last number of months.

I get it, designing things is hard especially devices that cost $35 and USB-C specifications running 329 pages. You would think the spec thoroughly covers power delivery but it does not. Consumers hope these issues would come out in testing and be fixed before they make a purchase. Working in the Information Technology field, likely these problems were observed in testing but was shrugged off as an ‘anomaly’ or ‘unable to reproduce’ or ‘affects a limited number of deployments.’ When the problem makes it into production and customers start complaining because everyone can now reproduce the problem, it gives customers a bad feeling about the device and company. Especially repeat offenders.

MacBook USB-C connector (wikipedia.org)

Unfortunately, the Great Lakes Division Convention and Toledo Hamfest was canceled in March due to the closure of the state. In my Raspberry Pi presentation, I was going to cover general tips when experiencing issues operating your Pi. They often boil-down to: crappie components. Stop buying the cheapest option overseas and expecting grade A+ performance!

90% of the time, problems are power related. “Under-voltage detected!” in the system logs are the result of an under powered 5V power supply, one that cannot deliver consistent voltage, insufficient AWG power lines of the USB cable, or both. Early Pi’s (Pi 1) can get away with a 1A power supply. Pi 2 & 3 really need a 2A. Pi 4 need 3A USB-C. The Pi’s will only draw as much power as needed.

Everyone forgets about the USB/power cable from the supply to the Pi. Not all cables are created equal! Power supplies with wired cables can be assumed to carry the full output of the supply to the device. A power supply can output 2A but the connecting USB cable is likely limiting power delivery due to the wire gauge. For delivery of 2A to the Pi requires a cable rated 28AWG/24AWG. This is printed on the cable itself. The first specification is the data cable wire gauge (28AWG) and doesn’t matter for carrying power. The second specification (24AWG) is the power cable gauge. Unless specifically printed on the cable, cables can be assumed to be a lesser 28/28 specification. A lower number is better in this case.

This is the reason a cell phone will seem to charge slower. I had an OEM cable that came with a new cell phone rated 28/28. The phone would charge for hours. When I upgraded to a 2A power supply and a 28/24 cable, it was charged in under 90 minutes from drained. This only really apples to Android devices because they use standard connectors. Genuine Apple chargers and Lightning cables will meet Apple’s specifications for device charging.

It is hard to find the AWG rating because most sellers don’t list it. One place that does list that spec is Monoprice. This Type-A to Micro Type-B cable will work for a Raspberry Pi (not 4) as a replacement cell phone USB charging cable. Keep the cable as short as needed. Don’t use 15 feet when 6 will do because it will reduce the amperage that reaches the device.

Crashes and SD card corruption problems are often attributed to bad power too. However, the aforementioned quality of the component itself also plays a role. Look for SD cards with lots of positive ratings. Most often recommend are SanDisk SD cards. I’ve had no reliability issues with G.Skill cards either. Quality 32GB MicroSD cards are under $10 these days. Validate the card is at least “class 10” which is usually signified on the card itself by a “C” and a “10” in the middle of the C. They come in classes 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10 – with 10 being the fastest. UHS (Ultra High Speed) cards are on the market and are slightly more expensive at over $20 for a 32GB UHS-3. UHS will have a “U” with a “1” or “3” in the middle. Class 10 and UHS 1 are equivalent in write speeds at 10MB/s.

Raspberry Pi 4 USB-C power port modification (raspberrypi.org)

Pi 4 generates significantly more heat than their predecessors. I’ve heard estimates of 50% more heat is generated while idle compared to the Pi 3. Many cases include a fan which is a moving component that could fail and be a problem if the device is at a hard-to-reach location. Heat sinks are an alternative, assuming decent airflow. The Raspberry Pi Blog includes tips and updates to lessen CPU temperature.

Does your project require the latest and greatest Pi board? Consider the project. Will all that processor power and memory be utilized? An upgrade to a USB-C power supply is required for power and micro-HDMI cables/adapters if you plan to connect a monitor to a Pi 4. It may come down to price. I see many places currently charging more for the Pi 2 and Pi 3 than a 4. Pi 2 is sufficient for headless wired Ethernet applications. Pi 3 if a little more CPU or Wi-Fi/Bluetooth features are needed.

Pi 3 and 4 boards include a 64-bit processor. As of this writing, the Raspberry Pi foundation has not made an official 64-bit Operating System release. Though a beta is available. The Pi 3 boards have been out since February 2016 and the Pi 4 boards since June 2019 – and there’s still no official 64-bit OS? A 32-bit OS can only address 4GB of RAM (4,294,967,296 possible addresses) and no Pi had more than 4GB. Other images for the Pi have taken advantage of the 64-bit processor. The Pi foundation still recommends the 32-bit OS for all Pi devices.

An announcement at the end of May unveiled a new Pi 4 addition, an 8GB RAM version for $75. Some minor improvements were made but the device is basically the same as the other Pi 4 versions. A 64-bit OS will be needed to address all 8GB of RAM though. In the same announcement, the official Raspberry Pi Operating System images are now renamed to “Raspberry Pi OS.” It will no longer be referred to as “Raspbian” though the name will probably stick around out of habit. The name change will likely be gradual over time. A card I burned with the new Raspberry Pi OS still referenced Raspbian in /etc/os-release.

Next time I’ll talk about (mostly) ham radio things you can do with the Raspberry Pi.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – June 2020 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 Scott – N8SY 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 Scott 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,

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, hamfests, and conventions. We’re available to assist program committees in finding or providing suitable programs for local club meetings, ARRL hamfests, and conventions in the section. When called upon, serve as advisors in issues of RFI and work with ARRL officials and appointees for technical advice.

The Technical Specialists really make all this happen. In the Ohio Section, there are about 15 qualified and competent Specialists willing to help. They meet the obligation of advancing the radio art bestowed to us by the FCC. The TSes support the section in two main areas of responsibility: Radio Frequency Interference and technical information. EMI/RFI 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 and poorly made transformers – including one’s hams brag about getting from China for a few dollars. I die a little inside when I hear this. Our Technical Specialists can help track down interference or locate bozo stations. Technical information is a wide-ranging category including everything from antennas to Zumspots.

How can we help? The knowledge and abilities of YOUR Technical Specialists are really quite impressive. Here are some 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
  • Digital modes – including D-STAR, DMR, Fusion, 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
  • Repeater 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 help in one or more of these areas? Need a program for your club? How about a technical talk or forum at your hamfest? Assistance or direction on a project? Feel free to contact myself. 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. One of the Specialists might hear a plea for help and reach out to you as well.

Over the last month, we gained 3 new Technical Specialists! I would like to welcome Nick – N1TVI who is a Certified Journeyman Electronics Technician and brings experience in commercial radio systems. He is Trustee for the Northern Ohio Digital (N8NOD) repeaters in the northern Ohio area. Other experience includes repeater systems, power, grounding, and antenna systems. Jason – N8EI brings us his experience in repeater building and maintenance for the W8WKY machines in Doylestown and others, supports SHARES organizations, voice and data digital modes, and IP technology. Last, but not least, John – N8CD is co-builder of many multimode repeaters and an AllStar linked repeater system. Both John and Jason maintain a resilient network of 5.8 GHz microwave and Internet links that connect repeaters they and others maintain. They put a lot of work into their network implementation and use AMPRNet (network 44) IP addresses. Welcome to our newest Technical Specialists! Contact them or myself should any of those topics be of interest to your club or hamfest.

Pi-Star Update

Pi-Star 4.0 was released in beta earlier this year and 4.1 available as general release since most of us have been working from home, March 2020. According to the change log, these later versions bring many improvements for cross-mode support. These are YSF2xxx and DMR2xxx options: YSF2NXDN, YSF2P25, YSF2DMR, DMR2NXDN, DMR2YSF. There is no direct way to upgrade from 3.4.x or previous to 4.1.x. You must reflash your existing installation card or flash a new SD card. A new card is preferable in case you have a problem with the new version, pop-in the old SD card and boot. If your hotspot is a Pi-Zero, you should not overwrite your existing install right-away and give the new version a try on a separate card first.

Pi Zero W with ZUMSpot GPIO HAT board, compared to a quarter

Perform a backup in the web interface on the existing device. On the Dashboard, click Configuration, login, then click “Backup/Restore.” This will download a ZIP file with Pi-Star settings to your PC. Boot the new SD card and perform a restore by uploading the same ZIP file. I noticed some settings previously set were defaulted to initial values in the web interface. Do a once over for important settings and re-set them as necessary.

Pi-Star runs on nearly all Raspberry Pi models with a supported digital modem. It solved a problem, 3-4 years ago, when everyone making their own Raspberry Pi digital interface board with their own operating system image. It was anyone’s guess as to which worked and which was the “best” option. None of them worked well or consistently between users. Pi-Star solved that problem by taking the MMDVM software that can “speak” many different digital modes and network types, implemented a web front-end, and supported nearly all digital hardware boards. Once I got the hang of Pi-Star, I became a fan. The site by KE0FHS is probably the most complete documentation “notes” of the Pi-Star in one place. It’s a good read and provides a lot of great information about Pi-Star. I came across it looking up how to do custom host files for private reflectors.

One thing Andy – MW0MWZ, who wrote the Pi-Star web configuration front end, pointed out on the website was the move to Raspbian Buster for version 4.1 has been “painful” – citing missing drivers in releases among other issues. My experience with Pi-Star 4.1 on a Raspberry Pi Zero W was also painful. I’ll preface this by saying I tried 4.1 on a Raspberry Pi 3B and had less problems. I have a ZumSpot GPIO HAT for the Raspberry Pi. On the Pi Zero, after booting the first time, I was frequently greeted with weird errors and timeouts trying to configure the hotspot. Some settings were not remaining after I “applied changes.” Selecting my ZumSpot HAT from the modem list and saving, I would get a subsequent message saying I needed to select my modem from the list. Doing this a handful of times it would finally save. I saw ‘gateway timeout’ messages on both the Pi Zero W and Pi 3 during the first configuration session. I was able to seemingly avoid the timeout and configuration issues if I booted the Pi-Star on the new SD card and didn’t touch or connect for 15 minutes. Plug-it in and walk away for 15 minutes.

Pi-Star dashboard (v3.4)

Once I figured that out, configuration went smoother. The web interface, though, sluggish is a nice way to put it. On the Pi Zero W with a fully updated Pi-Star 4.1.2 install, making any changes on the configuration page would take (on average) 1:45 to save. That’s right, one minute and 45 seconds. This is unusable. I’m changing modes constantly. Think about a net you forgot about. If you have to turn off one mode and turn on another, that’s 1:45 right there. Needing to make further changes to the newly enabled mode (change previously used reflector or network), you’re looking at 5 minutes before you’re on the net – if you don’t screw up. Some nets are over in that time. In comparison: 3.4.17 is at a somewhat more tolerable 45 seconds to save using a Pi Zero. Running both versions on a Pi 3B was nearly identical at about 25 seconds after clicking apply.

CPU load was much higher using 4.1.2 on the Zero. I suspect the under-powered nature of the Pi-Zero, OS and kernel upgrades in addition to the updated code of MMDVM and associated modules is causing these delays. As popular as the Pi Zero form factor is for addon boards and portability, it’s just waaaaaaay to slow for me to be useful. Not making configuration changes in the dashboard you won’t notice these issues so much because it runs fine otherwise. Stick with 3.4.17 on a Pi Zero or consider moving to a faster Pi like the 3B if you need 4.1.2 features now.

K8JTK Hub – now with P25 & NXDN

A quick update on my interlink system pet project, K8JTK Hub, I was able to add two more modes: NXDN and P25. Both are TG 31983 using hotspots or repeaters running the MMDVM software. If I include Wires-X (because it’s not full-time), that’s 6 digital systems and 3 analog systems – a total of 9 – that can communicate with cross mode interoperability. Being part of the AmateurLogic.TV net on Tuesday evenings, I determined packet loss was causing frequent data drops and disruptions. I moved the system to a new provider and that has remedied the problem. The net right after saw a significant improvement in data stream reliability. Huge thanks to the AmateurLogic guys allowing their net to be a load test of the system. They have a lot of fun with it as participants check into the net multiple times testing different modes. The Hub is open for all to use and for testing setups, all the ways to get connected are available here.

Field Day Bonus Points

Field Day will likely be completed by the time you read this, keep this in mind for next year. Sending 10 messages over RF from your site gets you 100 bonus points – including Winlink messages. I love to receive messages about your 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 is any question or problems, send the message using the NTS network or Radiogram form in Winlink.

With July around the corner, if you’re looking to do something while flipping burgers at your 4th of July picnic, my favorite event is the 13 Colonies Special Event which will be on the air July 1 – 7.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK