All posts by Jeffrey Kopcak

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – June 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,

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 within the section. When called upon, serve as advisors for RFI issues and work with ARRL officials and other appointees for technical advice.

Technical Specialists are a cadre of qualified and competent individuals here for the “advancement of the radio art,” a profound obligation incurred under the rules of the FCC. TS’s support myself and the section in two main areas of responsibility: Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) and Technical Information. They can specialize in certain areas or be generalists in those areas of responsibility. Those responsibilities include serving as consultants or advisors to local hams or speaking at local club meetings on popular topics.

In the Ohio Section, there are 14 qualified specialists able and willing to assist. 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, failing transformers, 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 offer advice to 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
  • Voice and data modes – including D-STAR, DMR, Fusion, NXDN, P25, APRS, IGates, packet, MT63, FT8/4, Olivia, PSK, and using programs like Fldigi
  • NBEMS – Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System
  • Computers, Windows and Linux, Raspberry Pi
  • Embedded devices
  • Networking: IP networks, AMPRNet, routers, firewalls, security, mesh, and microwave
  • Repeaters, controllers, and high-profile systems
  • Internet and VoIP linking systems – Echolink, AllStar, HamVoIP, DVSwitch, and PBX/Asterisk
  • RFI detection from power lines and consumer devices including working with governmental agencies to track down interference
  • Professional certifications such as Motorola Certified Technicians, Certified Journeyman Electronics Technician, General Radiotelephone Operator License (GROL), and Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) affiliations

This impressive list of qualifications is an available resource to all in the Ohio Section. Looking for guidance in one or more of these areas? Need a program for your club meeting? How about a technical talk or forum at 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. If you’re interested in being a Technical Specialist, take a look at the description on the ARRL site and get in contact with me. I’ll keep you in mind when a spot opens up.

One of the activities that got canceled over the last year-and-a-half was the West Chester Amateur Radio Association’s (WCARA) trip to K3LR’s contest station. The station is not far into Pennsylvania on I-80. You’ve likely seen it if you’re taking the turnpike into PA and look to the right about a mile after crossing the border. I decided to get out of the house and have my second tour of this marvelous station. For me, it’s only about an hour and a half drive. The rest of the club came fr

K3LR operating positions

om just north of Cincinnati, closer to 5+ hours each way with breaks and food. Tim is an excellent host as always and an amazing engineer. He built the station over 35 years and has one of the quietest noise floors you’ll ever see. As he’ll tell you, it didn’t come easy. He’s got really good stories including one involving a late-night party. I’ll leave that one for him to tell! It was great to get out of the house for a day and hang out at a superstation with the guys from VOA.

Above the clouds – antenna changeout view (YouTube)

Speaking of towers, if you’re like me and wonder what it’s like to work at a commercial tower site or TV tower, I came across a half hour video of tower work from the crew’s prospective. This video documents the entire changeout of the antenna from removing the old one to putting the new one in place. The tower crew and air-crane crew replace the television transmitting antenna for WTVX in West Palm Beach, Florida. You get to see what it is like to be working on a 1,500′ tower. It’s quite impressive with breathtaking views but one of the riskiest jobs in the world.

Field Day is 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. Field Day rules state messages must leave via [ham radio] 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). Copies of messages are included with the submitted Field Day report.

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 1st (9AM) – July 7th (midnight). There is an additional France bonus station this year, TM13COL. This is in addition to the bonus stations WM3PEN and GB13COL. A station does not need to work all 13 colonies to receive a certificate. The three bonus stations do not need to be contacted for a clean sweep.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – May 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,

The new FCC exposure requirements. Maybe you’ve heard about them. Maybe not. Maybe wondering how they apply to your station. The FCC Report and Order does not change RF Exposure (RFE) limits but does require all services, including amateur radio, to evaluate limits or take the exemption. There’s probably a lot I don’t understand. With respect to those much smarter than myself, I’ll try my best to explain this but I’m probably going to get some stuff wrong. In addition to covering reasons for these changes and what they mean to most hams, I’ll walk through an exception calculation. Those are easiest and likely the only calculation a ham might need to perform in most cases.

In 2019, the FCC adopted new rules to limit human exposure to radio frequency energy. These rules went into effect on May 3rd, 2021. Not much changed in these new rules except that Amateur Radio is no longer categorically excluded from performing these evaluations to demonstrate compliance. Previously, only when a station exceeded certain power limits was an evaluation required. For the most part, operating barefoot on HF (without an amplifier, typically 100 watts or less) or operating most dual band radios with 50 watts or less, all were categorically exempt. The second exclusion, no mobile stations had to perform these evaluations. Both exclusions are now removed, gone. Exclusions are replaced with the exemption.

Removing the amateur radio exclusions means hams are now required to perform evaluations in all cases. But! You do not submit anything to the FCC. Do the evaluation, print out/save results or put notes on paper – they are to be kept with each station’s records. These records would be used in a situation where a complaint is filed with the FCC against your station. Such as: neighbor doesn’t care for your tower/antenna. Writes the FCC saying their family is subject to harmful radiation. The FCC takes those complains fairly seriously and will come knocking for an inspection (which they can – and will do. See 97.103, (a) and (c) specifically). The representative may ask for this evaluation. They will implicitly trust the results if they appear to be correct and the station is otherwise compliant. This is the self-regulation abilities we are allotted by the FCC. The FCC will inform the neighbor, based on evaluation of the station, it was found to be compliant and they have nothing to worry about. Another scenario maybe a building permit is sought in order to erect a tower. The entity that grants the permit might ask to have an evaluation completed.

In any case, each amateur station certifies, on their 605 form, they will comply with Radiofrequency Radiation Safety. Licensed hams are considered trained in safety by way of passing the license exam. Completing an RF safety evaluation does not exempt any station from being otherwise compliant and responsible. If a station is transmitting, someone comes up and touches the antenna, the station operating the equipment is still responsible.

If you were one that completed an evaluation under the old rules, that evaluation is still valid until 2023. You have 2 years to complete an evaluation under the new rules. Every station (not grandfathered under the old rules) must complete an evaluation after May 3, 2021 – including new stations or when any significant changes are made to an existing. Changes would include an increase in power, better antenna, better coax, moving the antenna closer to areas occupied by humans. HTs manufactured before May 3, 2021 are grandfathered – no evaluation needed ever. HTs manufactured after May 3, a SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) evaluation is performed by the manufacturer.

The exemption calculation is a formula which indicates if the antenna is compliant or more evaluation is needed. Exemptions require less calculations than a full exposure analysis. Exemptions cannot be taken with in the reactive nearfield. Distance to a person is important. Any transmitter within 20 cm (7.87 inches) of the body is considered in the nearfield and requires a SAR evaluation. Nearfield also varies with frequency.

The HT falls into this weird area because they are almost always used within 7.87 inches of the body. At this time, the methods for completing an evaluation are not clear for a few reasons: 1) above 300 MHz is not really measurable, which only affects 2-meter handhelds. 2) SAR evaluations are very costly and require specially calibrated equipment. 3) absorption inside the body is very hard to measure. Cell phone manufactures have to complete SAR evaluations for every handset and antenna configuration. To add insult-to-injury, a SAR would have to be completed in each position of the radio. That is to say holding the radio straight up, slight angle, talking across the microphone, holding the radio with the right hand, left hand, and so on. Cha-ching! Not so fast. Radio manufactures will be responsible for performing this SAR evaluation. In the evaluation, they will likely use the stock rubber duck antenna provided with the radio. If you change the antenna (as most of us do) with a 3rd party or aftermarket, that means all evaluations need to be performed using the new configuration. This is an area the ARRL is still working out with the FCC for clarification. Right now, your HT is OK. Will manufacturers pass on the cost to the consumer? Unknown for sure but very likely.

MPE chart (hamradioschool.com)

Don’t forget these evaluations need to be performed at field day sites, repeater sites, and beacon locations. Field day sites may need restrictions placed on frequency or power allowed to meet the requirements. Adjustments to antennas maybe needed, adding time to the field day setup.

In places where SAR is performed, an MPE (Maximum Permissible Exposure) chart displays the amount of energy which should not be exceeded at different frequencies. There are two different categories: occupational/controlled exposure (hams and their families) at 6-minute average and general population/uncontrolled (everyone else, such as neighbors) with a 30-minute average. MPE is lowest between 30 MHz and 300 MHz because those frequencies are easily absorbed by the human body.

Say we have a station with a multiband antenna (20-10 meters) with 0 dbd of gain (manufacturer specs). There is a sidewalk 15 feet (5 meters) away (closest human exposure to radiation) from the antenna. The transmitter outputs 100 watts into 50 feet of RG-58. The highest frequency in operation is 29.70 MHz. 50 feet of RG-58 at 29.7 MHz is rated at 1db of loss (mfr specs), which is 22% (find a gain/loss table or calculator for this percentage).

First, are people within the distances (antenna to human) in the table below for near field exposure?

Nearest person would be 15 feet away and lowest band we plan to operate is the 20-meter band since the antenna is capable. No, humans are not within the reactive nearfield (10.3 feet). We can continue with the exemption calculation. If humans are within the nearfield, a full evaluation needs to be completed.

Next, calculate the maximum ERP. For a multiband antenna, ERP decreases at higher frequencies so you only need to calculate at the highest frequency the station plans to use. 10 meters in this case.

3450 R2/f2 = Maximum ERP (formula for the range 1.34-30 MHz)

3450 x (5 meters)2 / (29.7 MHz)2 = 97.8 watts maximum ERP

Calculate the station’s ERP:

(Transmitter power – Feedline loss) x Antenna gain = ERP

(100W – 22W) x 1.0 = 78 Watts ERP

To compare, 78 watts is less than 97.8 watts. This antenna qualifies for an exception!

What happens if the station cannot take the exception? If you never transmit 29.7 MHz and only plan to use lower frequencies, calculate at the lower frequency. Move the antenna further away from the sidewalk. Or perform a full evaluation. The exemption numbers are verrry conservative numbers and conservatively safe. If actual exposure is calculated on the sidewalk, it will be less than the exception calculation. Averaging time is not taken into account. If the station talks for 15 minutes and listens for another 15 minutes, the exposure is halved. Areas like a sidewalk, people are likely to be there for only a few seconds at a time.

Online calculators are a huge help in performing power density estimations. VP9KF’s calculator performs MPE calculations. The Lake Washington Ham Club site calculates MPE by taking into account transmitter duty cycle. It will provide minimum safe distance to the antenna.

To perform a full analysis, the FCC aid for evaluating human exposure is OET Bulletin 65 and OET Bulletin 65 supplement B. The no-longer-in-print book by Ed Hare – W1RFI is available for download as a PDF. Modeling software is available for free or little cost. One such modeling application is EZNEC. The ARRL is working on finding or developing tools for all hams to use. Those can be found at: http://www.arrl.org/rf-exposure and the ARRL Technical Information Service is a member benefit that can provide more information. Finally, Greg – N9GL, Chairman of the ARRL RF Safety committee, gave a very informative presentation on these changes. It runs 2 hours with Q&A. Ria – N2RJ, director of the ARRL Hudson Division, has a YouTube channel with a video on this topic. The majority of the information in this article came from both videos, thanks to both Greg and Ria.

FCC Radio Frequency Exposure Rules from Dan Marler on Vimeo.

Recent FCC NPRM’s have put ham radio use of the 5GHz band at risk. These frequencies are utilized for things like mesh networking. Who wants to take away these allocations? Commercial interests to push the 5G mobile standard. These same interests have already taken part of the 3 GHz WiFi band. ARDEN Mesh is fighting back, legally, against repurposing these allocations. If you have 5 GHz AREDN mesh nodes in the lower 45 – 5.850-5.895 GHz or upper 30 – 5.895-5.925 GHz channels, please take the time to read and respond to their solicitation for information.

Another huge thank you to the West Chester Amateur Radio Association – WC8VOA, which I’m also a member, for having me as the presenter at their May 6th meeting. West Chester is a suburb of Cincinnati and I’m in a suburb of Cleveland so this meeting was all virtual. The presentation was on ham radio VoIP modes (Voice over IP) and my system that links these modes together. There was great questions and discussion around VoIP. This is the club that operates out of the Voice of America Museum and holds tours during Hamvention. You can find their Monday night net on my system at 8pm.

That’s about it for this month. Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 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,

KA6LMS Special Event – Going QRT with a bang! … most certainly lived up to the name. Last Man Standing is a television sitcom starring Tim Allen. Tim plays Mike Baxter, a married father of three daughters and grandfather to a grandson. His character is an executive for a chain of sporting goods stores called “Outdoor Man.” John Amodeo – AA6JA is the producer of the show. As John tells the story, when the character of Mike Baxter was being developed, an aspect to this character was the ability to live “off the grid” in addition to fishing, hunting, and camping. John, being a licensed ham radio operator, proposed the idea of using ham radio to fill part of the character profile, and it was ultimately included in parts of the show.

This led to the factitious callsign for Mike, KA0XTT. The XTT was a throwback to one Tim’s former shows “Home Improvement” being formally (or ex) Tim Taylor, XTT. A small number of episodes included ham radio plots. Though shots of radio gear, QSL cards, and ARRL books are seen in the background of Mike’s office in nearly every episode. Ham gear seen in his office was fully functional according to Amodeo. Also seen on occasion was a setup in his basement and it was the focus of one episode.

Featuring ham radio on the show lead to interest and resulted in a number of cast and crew members becoming licensed hams, including Tim Allen and Jet Jurgensmeyer – who was the second cast member to play Boyd on the show. I heard recently that Tim plans to use ham radio as backup communications in case of emergency between properties he owns. I can’t imagine Tim getting on the air and not causing a pile-up! With all those licensed operators, a club was formed by the cast and crew called the Last Man Standing ARC, KA6LMS.

The show was originally carried on ABC stating October of 2011. Then unceremoniously canceled after six seasons despite being one of the highest rated shows on the network. ABC said it didn’t want to pick up the production costs but many believe it was canceled because – well, Mike Baxter was right leaning politically, the media’s least favorite candidate just became president. You put 2 and 2 together. The show returned in 2018 on Fox, where it ran for three more seasons and is scheduled to end its nine-season run on May 20, 2021. Unfortunately, in the transition, many cast members signed onto other projects and a good number of cast members were replaced or given recurring roles.

There were many criticisms by hams about the show including the lack of ham radio themed episodes. Episodes that featured ham radio came with complaints: ‘they were illegally transmitting and not identifying correctly.’ I love it that hams think ham radio appeals to everyone and that the world revolves around ham radio. When you talk TV shows it’s all about ratings – how many people are watching your show? To have a couple million viewers per episode is not going to cut it. There are not even a million licensed hams in the United States. The producers need to appeal to wider audiences of about 7 million viewers, otherwise there wouldn’t be any show at all. I’m thankful for the publicity we did receive. Want to make a prime-time TV show on a major network about ham radio? Do it. Let me know how that works out for you.

Over the years, AA6JA made many appearances on podcasts promoting the show, letting the ham radio community know the show loves ham radio and the ham community let him know we loved the show. For the many years of support, John wanted to do something special for hams as the show is winding down its final season. His idea became one of the biggest special events that many have ever seen and certainly the biggest where I had been involved.

The Last Man Standing Special Event started March 24, 2021 and ran through March 30th. This coincided with the taping of the final episode which also concluded on the 30th. All call districts were represented, KA6LMS/0 through KA6LMS/9. There was KA6LMS/On-Stage, KA6LMS/VE3, KA6LMS/VE7, and bonus stations of K6L, K6M, K6S, W6L, W6M, W6S (suffixes spelling out L-M-S) were all run by celebrity ham radio operators, contesters, and podcasters. This event covered HF, HF digital, VHF/UHF, VoIP digital, moonbounce, packet, and satellite. It was an all mode, all band special event. Final stats from the KA6LMS special event site:

LMS is in space! Over 134 Moon Bounce (with pile ups) and over 100 Satellite contacts including 7 packet QSOs through the ISS!

LMS had over 88,056 QSOs! 50 States, 139 Countries, 1,864 Counties, 1,187 Grids, 9,840 Grids(6)

The AmateurLogic.TV podcast has been using my Digital VoIP Multimode Interlink System (DVMIS) for their Tuesday evening net. They asked early in the planning if they could use my system for a multimode QSO party as part of the Last Man Standing special event. Of course! At first, I didn’t think much of it because I had been a part of D-STAR/DMR/Echolink special event stations in the past. For the number of contacts made, I would have only considered those events to be moderately successful. No one anticipated what happened the night of March 27th.

AllStar Link connection graph during the event. Blue is my system, white are public nodes, pink are private nodes.

As the start of the QSO Party drew closer, more, and more, and more, and more stations were connecting to reflectors that are part of my system. I was able to count 300 stations connected into my system and wouldn’t be too farfetched to believe it was more like 500 total stations were connected! Taking into account where I could not determine number of connected stations (Brandmeister, TGIF) and other Echolink Conferences that linked into mine. Internet traffic send and received was close to 20 GB.

The event was WAY more popular than anticipated. The ALTV guys thought the QSO party would run 3-4 hours. It ran for just under 8.5 hours! and still had stations wanting to check in. The whole event was streamed live on YouTube. I don’t know how long the video will remain up but as of this writing it was still available.

Traffic usage on two servers in my cluster. Shown are servers hosting AllStar and reflectors. Last Man Standing labeled “LMS SE” and AmateurLogic Net for comparison “ALTV Net”
Traffic usage on two servers in my cluster. Shown are servers hosting AllStar and reflectors. Last Man Standing labeled “LMS SE” and AmateurLogic Net for comparison “ALTV Net”

We learned some things:

1) Stations really need to listen and follow instruction. If you’ve worked any contest, DX, or special event, this is nothing new. When the net controller says ‘we’re going to pass it over to the net controller to begin,’ that is not the time for everyone to start throwing out their callsign where the net controller couldn’t break in for nearly 5 minutes.

2) Stations, mostly Echolink, need to eliminate courtesy tones, squelch tails, hang times, and the like from going out over the network. That caused problems where stations just ping-ponged back and forth. One transmitted their courtesy tone, then another with its hang time, etc. to over 500 Internet connected links. Set the repeater to use TX PL only when a signal is active on the repeater input and link radio to use RX PL COS to transmit audio.

3) AllStar gave me fits. The program segfaulted on me a couple times early on. For those not in computers/programming segfaults are very bad and often result in crashing the program or system. Haven’t gotten any advice how to troubleshot, but I have a couple things to try.

4) Wires-X stations got frustrated because they thought the link “wasn’t working” or had “one-way audio.” Being the proprietary closed-source implementation that Wires-X is, not being able to link that system using free and open source packages results in additional buffering that happens on the network, to the tune of 3 seconds. When a Wires-X transmission originates from that network, it is 3 seconds before the transmission is heard on the rest of the system. IF someone, within that 3 seconds, keys on any other mode – the Wires-X transmission is completely bumped from the system. Do I need to refer back to the ping-ponging mentioned above? In addition to being a popular event, it was almost guaranteed someone else keyed up before a Wires-X station could break in. If my system is used for a QSO party that large in the future, I would recommend not using Wires-X as a result and having those stations find alternative means.

Aside from those issues, my system handled the load without breaking much of a sweat. Wow, what an accomplishment! That’s going to be one I remember and talk about for a long time. It was a long day for me too as I had an early upgrade at work and by the time I went to bed, had been up for 24 hours. Closer to the end of the LMS event, the Amateur Television Network (ATN) linked into my system and transmitted around the world via ATN and on YouTube, all while working stations.

Thanks to the Amateur Logic.TV guys for their QSO party. Thanks to John Amodeo – AA6JA, everyone that put this event together and used their stations to make this event possible. Of course, thanks to everyone that participated making this event 88 thousand contacts successful! Certificates are now available for download on the special event website: http://gsbarc.org/lms/. John hopes to keep the Last Man Standing ARC and KA6LMS call on the air by doing other special events in the future.

Last but certainly not least this month, I would like to thank the Portage County Amateur Radio Service (PCARS) for having me at their meeting March 8th. They asked me to give a presentation on ham radio voice over IP (VoIP) and my interlink system. It was great to get out and travel to a meeting in person, though those who wanted could attend virtually. If you would like to have a VoIP presentation and demonstration of my interlink system, contact me at my email found at the beginning of this article. Already there have been new things added since the presentation.

That’s about it for this month. Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – March 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,

Not quite one year after the OpenSPOT 2 was released, the OpenSPOT 3 made an appearance on the SharkRF website. I suspected the OS2 was not selling very well. A quick look at the Brandmeister Dashboard shows 7.4% are using the OS1 and 2.5% are using the OS2. These are number of hotspots connected to the Brandmeister network on the evening of March 24th and does not include other networks.

Maybe low usage is a result of the six-month lag since stopping production of the blue box OpenSPOT 1 and when the OpenSPOT 2 arrived on the market. Maybe it was making the announcement to discontinue the OS1 right after Dayton (two years ago) upsetting customers who just spent money at the show on a now obsolete device. By obsolete, I mean can’t purchase the device new (no longer in production) and there’s been maybe a single firmware update since it was discontinued. I get it, they’re a small company out of Estonia but their business and design decisions upset customers.

Not to mention vendors. The blue box could be obtained from many ham retailers. They too probably felt burned after the OpenSPOT 1 to the point where I don’t see any retailers carrying the 2 or 3. Purchasing from a retailer meant users could forego the international transaction fees and shipping, or they were just included in the price.

OpenSPOT 1

I love the OpenSPOT 1 and think it’s a solid device. It beat all other offerings at the time and one of the first devices to offer cross mode support (DMR <-> YSF). At the time, Pi-STAR wasn’t a thing. The DV4Mini was one of the first multimode offerings but it stank-on-ice (it became usable recently with an MMDVM application). The DVMega and other devices around the same time were solid hardware but getting a working image (software) was a challenge. The problem with the OpenSPOT 1, it was wired Ethernet, didn’t offer a Wi-Fi option, and required USB power. A wireless bridge such as the TP-Link N300 made it Wi-Fi capable, via a wireless bridge, allowing the device to be paired with a cell phone hot spot or other Wi-Fi link. I was able to make a similar setup work on my Linux laptop acting as a NAT (network access translation – same as home Internet connections). Had a script to setup the DHCP server on wired Ethernet (where the OpenSPOT 1 would be connected) and iptables rules allowing communication from the wired Ethernet to the wireless interface (where the cell phone or hotel Wi-Fi would be connected). USB power could be a portable USB battery pack or plugged into the laptop USB. These setups worked but most found it not great for portability and keeping track of multiple devices.

I skipped the OpenSPOT 2. Shortly after release came reports of both Wi-Fi and radio range issues. To improve on design, SharkRF internalized the 440 MHz antenna as well as adding Wi-Fi capability, also removed the wired Ethernet. Apparently, the device had to be very close to Wi-Fi access points and the digital radio couldn’t be very far away either. It would work great in small areas like a car but it wasn’t winning bonus points for range. Coming out with another successor in less than a year was likely an acknowledgment of these problems.

OpenSPOT 3 (sharkrf.com)

Picked up the OpenSPOT 3 on a Christmas special from SharkRF and had a few months to use it. The OpenSPOT 3 is probably the most advanced digital hotspot available for ham radio, and also the most expensive. Cost came to €243 EUR including shipping, $288 US. For what it is, it’s a great device. Comparing it to a device with an external antenna, you’ll be disappointed.

It comes with a built-in Lithium-ion battery, built in radio and Wi-Fi antenna, USB-C for fast charging (though battery life seemed short under heavy usage), it has the same solid web interface as the OS1 with some nicely added tweaks including the ability to play audio from the web interface. Overall, it is fast. The web interface doesn’t lag and time to connect from power off is under 10 seconds. In comparison, my Pi-STAR on a Raspberry Pi Zero-W takes a couple minutes to boot and nearly 50 seconds to save and change any settings. Setup was easy with any web browser, including mobile. It offers the ability to work all current digital modes: DMR, D-STAR, NXDN, P25, and YSF. Also offers POCSAG and APRS-IS forwarding.

For the ham-on-the-go, this is the best option for a digital hotspot. The OS3 features a built-in hardware AMBE chip for transcoding, including D-STAR to other network types. This is the first and only hotspot with D-STAR cross-mode functionality built in and was the most requested feature that I saw on the forums. That means a D-STAR radio can work on DMR, C4FM (YSF), and NXDN networks. Likewise, a DMR radio can access D-STAR, C4FM, and NXDN networks. This is the perfect option for a traveling ham that wants access to digital while on the road but doesn’t want to bring all the radios. Table below notes which radios will be able to work which networks.

Radio/transceiver Networks
Hardware cross mode support
DMR D-STAR, C4FM, NXDN
D-STAR DMR, C4FM, NXDN
C4FM DMR, D-STAR, NXDN
NXDN DMR, C4FM, D-STAR
Software cross mode support
C4FM P25
P25 C4FM

I don’t know how bad the antenna issues were on the OS2 but I can’t imagine them being much worse than with the 3. I have always run hotspots on the lowest power setting because the lowest gave more range than I ever needed, however they all used external antennas. Depending on interference from nearby computers, I had some trouble with the device falling out of radio and Wi-Fi range. On average it would cover the footprint of the house. I bumped the power up to 20% and still have reliability issues of it hearing me or me to hearing it from out in the shack – with an external antenna. I’m a little disappointed by that. Another issue, P25 sounds better on the Pi-STAR for some reason – even after doing a calibration on the OpenSPOT.

Someone wanting a feature packed device for traveling, this is currently the best option. If you want range, stick with a hotspot that has an external antenna.

KA6LMS QSL card

By the time the Section Journal goes to press, most of the event will be completed – but there’s still time! The Last Man Standing special event is well underway. It commemorates the last week of taping for the TV show Last Man Standing which is ending its 9-season run. The special event will cease operation 3/30/21 at 23:59 UTC, so you still have some time. This event is everywhere: SSB, CW, FT8, D-STAR, DMR, YSF, NXDN, P25, Hamshack Hotline, Echolink, Satellite, EME, AllStar, ATV and probably a few more I’ve forgotten. Everyone including Technicians can get on board. There are promo videos and an information site with details about call signs, log sheets, how to send QSL cards, and the certificate. Look for KA6LMS/1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 0 as well as K6L, K6M, K6S, W6L, W6M, and W6S bonus stations. My multi-link system will be part of the event that happened on the 27th. I should have stats and info on how that activation played out next month. After the 30th, Last Man Standing will be QRT.

Lastly, something I didn’t know existed. RFC 1149 defines an experimental standard to encapsulate IP traffic using avian carriers (IPoAC). That’s right, IP packets via carrier pidgins! It is really useful in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs). Devices in your home are connected to a Local Area Network (LAN). These LANs would be connected to larger regional networks called MANs. “Avian carriers can provide high delay, low throughput, and low altitude service.” They also have collision avoidance systems increasing reliability. Unlike packet radio, these communications are not limited to line-of-sight. Format is very easy to understand and follow:

The IP datagram is printed, on a small scroll of paper, in hexadecimal, with each octet separated by whitestuff and blackstuff. The scroll of paper is wrapped around one leg of the avian carrier. A band of duct tape is used to secure the datagram’s edges. The bandwidth is limited to the leg length. The MTU is variable, and paradoxically, generally increases with increased carrier age. A typical MTU is 256 milligrams. Some datagram padding may be needed.

Upon receipt, the duct tape is removed and the paper copy of the datagram is optically scanned into a electronically transmittable form.

Wonder if I have to install a landing pad or birdhouse to have these messages delivered?

 

April fools! Emile – KE5QKR was talking about this after taping one of the Amateur Logic shows and I had to look it up. It really does exist but once I saw the April 1, 1990 date – I knew it was an April Fools’ prank. There’s your early April Fools’ joke for later this week!That’s about it for this month.Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ham radio VoIP and K8JTK Hub DVMIS Presentations

Presentation on Ham radio VoIP (Voice over IP) modes and 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 (Chrome, Chromium, and variants compatible only). 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 around 60 minutes in length.

Version 1

Presentation version
Printable version
PDF version

This presentation was given at the following meetings:
Portage County Amateur Radio Service on 3/8/2021.

Version 2

Presentation version
Printable version
PDF version

This presentation was given at the following meetings:
West Chester Amateur Radio Association on 5/6/2021.

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 (Chrome, Chromium, and variants compatible only). 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: