Category Archives: Amateur Radio

Ham Radio topics.

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – September 2019 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. cAUZRdnMNrU?start=2051Those 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,

A ham in the section asked me about obtaining the latest Linux kernel. Not wanting to deal with problems found after the operating system install media was released, the latest stable kernel version available was what he wanted to be installed during setup.

Before I get started, if you are not familiar with Linux and have not read my April 2018 OSJ article, I encourage you to do so as some of the terminology defined will be used here.

There is not an easy answer to the question which version of the kernel is “stable.” The answer is: it depends. Depends on:

  • Definition of stable. There will always be bugs and constant fixes being released. Most IT personnel take ‘stable’ to mean: the least amount of issues after testing and polishing.
  • Linux distribution. How well does a kernel version work with the packages and drivers of a distribution. Availability of a new stable kernel depends on maintainers, developers, and the community’s time to update everything including programs, libraries, and drivers. Then test, document, ship, and address bug reports.

At kernel.org, there is a giant yellow button which indicates “latest stable kernel.” As of this writing, currently 5.3. Terminology on the Kernel Archives website for the different kernel types:

  • mainline = beta
  • stable = less issues
  • longterm = maintained and updated longer, typically for business production systems
  • linux-next = patches for the next version of mainline, stable, longterm

Logging into a handful of updated Linux devices I have around the house, their kernel versions:

  • Fedora 30: 5.2.14
  • AllStar Node (Debian 9): 4.9.0
  • Raspberry Pi – AllStar node (Arch): 4.14.97
  • Raspberry Pi – stock install (Raspbian Buster): 4.19.66
  • Wireless access point: 2.6.36

You’ll notice exactly zero are on 5.3. Even Fedora, which is considered a “bleeding-edge” Linux operating system will lag behind. Fedora is currently a single release behind the stable channel. Each distribution has their own definition of “stable” because it’s up to each distribution to maintain and update their releases.

A similar situation exists for software packages too. There will often be different versions of the same named package between different Linux distributions. Packages Managers almost always lag behind source code releases. For example, the Linux printing system software called CUPS for Common UNIX Printing System (cups.org), its latest is version 2.3.0. The latest in the Fedora 30 package manager is version 2.2.12. Therefore, 2.2.12 is the latest stable CUPS install for Fedora 30. Version 2.3.0 will be available when it is approved.

I have nearly 2000 packages installed on one of my systems! That seems like a lot but some are very small and Linux is very modular. Some are programs I installed like VLC or YouTube downloader. Others, I have no idea. Those are likely dependencies for other packages or programs pre-installed by the distribution. Anything beginning with “lib” is a shared common library. Packages prefixed with a program name are modules of that program: “cups” is the core printing system while “cups-filters” are the printer libraries for CUPS. Some are required system packages. “tzdata” is time zone data – so the system knows about different time zones, changes DST correctly, and processes leap-seconds. “Mint-themes” are themes for the Linux desktop GUI Cinnamon.

Linux diehards will “compile from source.” To get the absolute latest and greatest features and fixes, this practice involves downloading the plain-text source code and compiling it into machine executable code manually. It takes alot of trial-and-error to get a successful compile. Not only is the program source needed but the source code for any dependencies and libraries will also be required. Most will say this is to validate the code, add their own custom modules to the kernel, or do kernel development.

Could someone download and compile kernel 5.3 for Fedora, Ubuntu, Mint, or any other distribution? Absolutely. Fedora has a process documented to update the kernel manually. It’s 15 pages. Or you can run a single command. You choose. But you have to deal with any issues that arise from using a custom version of the kernel and doing so is unsupported by most distributions. I have no reason to be on a later kernel version before it is made generally available by the Fedora project.

Unless there are bandwidth concerns, there is little reason to worry about installing the latest version of the OS. The package manager will handle all updates to the kernel, operating system, and programs. Updates through the package manager have been approved for that version of the operating system by those who maintain those programs. It does not mean updates are 100% bug free. There is no need to install updates the minute they are available – even every-couple-weeks will be OK. We’ve all been trained like Pavlov’s dog to install updates the minute we see that pop-up. Thanks Windows. Cherry-picking is not a good idea either – unless you have a specific reason not to install an update, like an incompatible version of Java with another program.

How to install the latest Linux OS updates? I’m a command line guy because I was brought up on the DOS and Linux command lines. Recent Linux distributions have both a CLI (command line interface) and a GUI (graphical) package manager. Once the Live CD install is complete, reboot. When logged in, open a terminal window.

For Red Hat based systems (Fedora, CentOS), run:
sudo dnf -y update
Replace dnf with ‘yum’ on older installs.

For Debian based systems (Ubuntu, Mint, Raspbian, etc), there are two commands:
sudo apt -y update
sudo apt -y upgrade

The -y option means “assume yes” to any download questions or repository updates. GUI versions vary but usually involve refreshing the repository data and selecting all updates. These should always be run after a fresh install. When complete, reboot the machine. I run these update commands about once a week, maybe more if I’m waiting for an update or fix. These can be run at any time after installation as well.

On the topic of operating systems, the much beloved Microsoft operating system Windows 7 will no longer be supported after January 14, 2020. Windows 7 reaching end-of-life means there will be no further security updates – in theory. Even after Windows XP reached EOL, Microsoft went back and patched some “really bad” vulnerabilities in all operating systems, including XP. I can’t say the January 14th date will be extended or moved beyond that date nor can I say how long Windows 7 will remain a safe operating system to use. For the first time ever at the beginning of this year, the number of Windows 10 users just passed the number of Windows 7 users. That means about half of Windows users are still running version 7. There was talk of hackers stockpiling Windows XP exploits that would be released the minute Microsoft stopped updating XP, bringing the world to its knees. That was more hype by the media than reality. Chrome and Firefox browsers continued to support XP until a time came when they decided it was more work than it was worth.

A conversation I had recently, this person was of the mind that Windows 7 is going to stop working all together after January. Not true. It will still work as normal after January 14. You may see nag screens saying Win7 is no longer supported encouraging update to Windows 10. This is not a requirement to continue using your computer because Windows 7 will continue to run fine, you know, until the machine dies. There will be problems installing 7 on certain newer hardware because Microsoft thinks regression testing and customizations for Windows 7 security on modern hardware will introduce more problems. This time may, however, be the last chance you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free, for the life of the computer. If you qualify and have the latest Windows 7 updates installed, you will receive a pop-up from Windows saying ‘Microsoft recommends upgrading to Windows 10.’ This is a similar promotion to the one I talked about in April 2016.

In general, users have grown numb to the constant updating and bloatware of Windows 10. Believe it or not, Microsoft solved all the real problems with Windows 10. It’s called Microsoft Windows 10 LTSC (Long-Term Servicing Channel). It’s fantastic. It doesn’t force you into feature updates, doesn’t have the Windows Store crap, Cortana junk, or Customer Experience tracking. Feature updates can be delayed 18-24 months instead of having to be applied every 6 months. Not to mention Microsoft has frequently pulled back feature updates nearly as soon as they are released due to lack of adequate testing. The gotchya is you need access to a costly MSDN subscription. This version is out there if you look for it. Microsoft heavily criticizes the use of LTSC saying ‘users want feature updates.’ No, they don’t, that’s why users are seeking out a usable version of your crappie ‘modern’ operating system.

Time Code Generator for WWVB (wwv100.com)

The oldest continuously operating radio station in the world deserves a grand celebration. The Northern Colorado Amateur Radio Club (NCARC) will operate a special event amateur radio station with the call sign WW0WWV, on the WWV property starting September 28 and going 24-hours a day through October 2. For information on the Special Event Station visit: wwv100.com. In addition, HamSCI and the Case Amateur Radio Club of Case Western Reserve University (W8EDU) will sponsor a “Festival of Frequency Measurement” on WWV’s centennial. They are hoping to measure 5 MHz propagation over a given day and compare measurement techniques. HamSCI’s first attempt at measurements occurred during the total solar eclipse in 2017.

Jim – W8ERW, Technical Specialist for the Ohio Section, gave an informative presentation at the Wood County Amateur Radio Club in August about ARDEN MESH networking. He talked about generations of devices used for MESH networking, including the infamous Linksys blue-box, and brought many pieces of his own equipment for demonstration. Seneca county is getting involved and finding plenty of uses for MESH. If you would like a presentation for your club about MESH, get in touch with Jim.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – August 2019 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. cAUZRdnMNrU?start=2051Those 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,

July 18, 2019. The date ham radio and the Internet changed forever. Most hams didn’t know it or even know that we had a block of 16.7+ million Internet IP addresses for our exclusive use. Keyword: had.

If you’re not familiar with networking and CIDR notation, CIDR (pronounced similar to the drink, cider) is a method used to note networks and ranges of IP addresses. A computer network is a connection of devices or nodes that can communicate and share resources with each other. For example: Your home PC may have the IP address: 192.168.1.100, subnet mask: 255.255.255.0. In CIDR notation, this is written as 192.168.1.100/24. Similarly, the network 192.168.1.0/24 means the same subnet mask and includes the IP above. Usable IP addresses are 192.168.1.1-192.168.1.254. “.0” is unusable as it is the network address, “.255” is not either because that is the broadcast address between all devices on that network. Since the PC has 192.168.1.100, it can communicate with devices in the 192.168.1.0/24 range. Know that smaller CIDR notations mean bigger networks (more IPs). Larger CIDR notations mean smaller networks. Networks can be broken down into smaller networks or combined to form larger ones – maybe not quickly or easily, it can be done.

In the early days of the Internet, it was believed if a node were to communicate on the Internet it had to have a public Internet address. With this thinking, very large /8 networks (16,777,216 IPs each) were assigned to companies and institutions such as: HP, Xerox, IBM, Ford, Boeing, MIT, Halliburton, Stanford, MSU, Bell Labs, DuPont, the USPS, and the DoD. They were cheap and easy to obtain! Having large networks is no longer necessary due to advances in Network Access Translations or NATs which remap one network space into another network space.

Dr. Jon Postel (Wikipedia)

Back 40 years ago when the Internet was new and the original creators thought 4.2 trillion IP address were enough for the entire world, Hank Magnuski, KA6M and others saw the possibilities of the Internet. They obtained an Internet allocation from Dr. Jon Postel who, at that time, was responsible for overseeing allocations on the Internet. Today, allocations are the responsibility of IANA. Much like property, IP address spaces can be bought, sold, squatted, and even taken over in some cases. The non-profit organization Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) oversees Internet IP address allocations.

The allocation that was obtained is called AMPRNet (AMateur Packet Radio Network) or Network 44. In 1981, it was provided exclusively for Amateur radio operators to use packet radio, TCP/IP, and digital communications between computer networks managed by Amateur radio operators. The network consisted of addresses 44.0.0.0 through 44.255.255.255, in Internet notation 44/8 or 44.0.0.0/8, consisting of 16.7+ million IPv4 addresses.

TCP/IP was, at one time, an emerging standard and in minority use because of the protocol complexity. In typical fashion, packet node owners were outraged with this IP protocol and few systems on HF operated with this protocol because of the amount of overhead. TCP/IP then goes on to become the foundation of the Internet and in use by every device on the Internet today. Think about that anytime someone complains they don’t want to support or do something because they don’t like it.

In 1986, an agreement mandated about 8 million addresses of 44/8 be assigned for use within the United States under FCC regulations (44.0/9) and the other 8 million (44.128/9) for deployments in the rest of the world.

San Diego Supercomputer Center, host of AMPRNet internet gateway, and CAIDA/UCSD network telescope (Wikipedia)

Since 1990, most packets destined for 44/8 were handled by a router at the University of California, San Diego. This forwarding router was originally named mirrorshades.ucsd.edu, later gw.ampr.org or “AmprGW.” This Internet “border” router (gateway) is used to route packets to and from the ordinary Internet to computers or nodes on AMPRNet. When a request hits the Internet for network 44.0.0.0/8, it is routed to UCSD. Different protocols are used to deliver the packet from the Microshades router to the destination IP address in any part of the world. Internet routers like these would be similar to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) router often handling multiple networks at once and at multiple gigabits/second transfer rate.

In 2001, UCSD used 44/8 for research as an Internet Telescope which allows observation of large-scale events taking place on the Internet using Internet Background Noise and backscatter. Backscatter is used to determine Denial of Service (DoS) attackers and victims. They were able to monitor the Code Red computer worm in 2001. All data was captured and used to generate historical trends and data. For example, when attackers on the internet start probing systems with a known set of criteria, they can go back and look when those probes first started appearing on the Internet. In 2003, 0.75 terabytes per month was recorded. In 2016, 37 terabytes per month is seen.

Since hams have had AMPRnet, many have taken advantage of it for single use applications or using small blocks on a long-term lease at zero cost. It has been used for communications ranging from simple TCP/IP connectivity, digital voice, telemetry, and repeater linking. However, not more than half of the network was ever used. Peak usage happened between 1985-1995. According to the group now overseeing 44/8, Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC), a U.S. 501(c)(3) organization, less than one-third of the network is in use today and some address blocks have never been used.

It wasn’t too long ago (5-10 years) that I learned about AMPRnet when I became involved in supporting an APRS Igate. I knew APRS was using the space in some aspect, the EchoLink mobile app uses the 44 network, Michigan is actively using their allocation, and Europe was using it for their HamNET Mesh. I assumed the network probably wasn’t utilized but hopeful it had enough use to keep it in the Amateur Radio community. I would have like to have liked to see ham radio Internet technologies utilize network 44 like mesh, hot spots, and newer digital voice modes (D-STAR, DMR, and Fusion). It’s a cost and complexity issue. While there is no way to put a device on the Internet with a random IP address and expect the Internet to know how to reach that device. Routes and paths need to be established as was done with the UCSD router or other routing equipment which can be very expensive to setup and

HamNET Mesh (Wikipedia)

maintain. Too costly and too complex to support, other easier methods were utilized.

American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), who is responsible for distribution of IP addresses on the Internet, declared on September 24, 2015 their available IPv4 pool was exhausted. The Internet was quickly running out of IP addresses! This lead the push to IPv6, which is exponentially larger. IPv4 has 4.2 trillion IP address (minus some for special uses). IPv6 has 340 undecillion, or 340 billion billion billion billion, addresses. You could assign multiple entire IPv4 sized networks per household under IPv6 and still have some left over! Exhaustion caused IPv4 allocations to become much more valuable.

Companies and institutions who still owned all or large parts of their originally assigned networks were now sitting on a gold mine. Supply and demand: a resource (IPv4 addresses) is scarce but many people want IP addresses. The price will rise, at least until IPv6 is closer to universal adoption.

This led to the ARDC decision to sell off about 4 million addresses from 44/8 on the marketplace. Total network value of 44/8 was estimated to be $100 million. From their press release:

"...in mid-2019, a block of approximately four million consecutive AMPRNet addresses denoted as 44.192.0.0/10 was withdrawn from our reserve for Amateur use, and sold to the highest qualified bidder at the then current fair market value. This leaves some twelve million addresses devoted exclusively to Amateur Radio uses, which is far greater than the number of addresses which are currently or have ever been in use. We believe this is far more than the number of addresses that will ever be needed by hams before IPv6 takes over the Internet. We also believe that was the prudent and proper time for this sale to take place, for a number of good reasons, among which are a recent levelling off in address prices and a lessening demand as only a few large buyers are left in the market for such a large block of addresses."

We now know the highest bidder was Amazon at a price of $50 million completed July 18, 2019. There is no intention by the ARDC to sell any more of the network. Post sale, AMPRNet consists of addresses 44.0.0.0 through 44.191.255.255 (44.0.0.0/9 and 44.128.0.0/10). Portion sold was the uppermost 25% of the address space, 44.192.0.0 through 44.255.255.255 or 44.192.0.0/10.

Some of the guys at work heard about this before I did because it was trending on Reddit. Initially, like most of the comments, I too was outraged. Though, figured it was coming sooner or later. An IPv4 shortage, a valuable /8 not being utilized. Wasn’t hard to put two and two together. I’m never one to say never. ‘We’re never going to use something.’ How do we know? Maybe hams develop the next Internet with that address space. Putting the politicking and whining aside, taking them at their word (continuing from the press release):

"It is our intention to grant funds across all reaches of the educational, research, and development spectrum, with awards being made to support qualified organizations whose programs could well serve to advance the art of digital communication, with special emphasis on that which would benefit Amateur Radio.

Additionally, another way we will be able to help our community is to contract with research firms and consultants to carry out related research and development to produce procedures, techniques, methods, designs, and intellectual property that would then be made freely available for the benefit of all."

While I think this is a monumental asset having this money available to promote the hobby and research, I think it puts us in a dangerous spot. To me, the similarities between this example of limited resources on the Internet and the limited resources of our radio spectrum are uncanny: ‘it’s there and not being utilized,’ ‘we’ll never use it,’ ‘resource sold for public benefit,’ ‘take the money and run,’ ‘sellouts!’ This shows that everything is up for grabs and we cannot take it for granted. Just ask France. WRC-23 is considering a proposal to make Aeronautical Mobile as the primary service in the 2-meter ham band. This is how it starts.

Now more than ever, get on our resources and use them. We have more hams now than ever (in the U.S. anyway). Get on our bands. Get on our IP space. Improve the network. Grab some IPv6 space for Amateur Radio. Get involved with organizations and offer support. Yeah, everyone’s busy. If everyone’s too busy to support these organizations, we may lose all of this. Use it or lose it, so “See ya 44/8.”

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – July 2019 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. cAUZRdnMNrU?start=2051Those 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 latest addition to the Pi family is here – Raspberry Pi 4. Boasting impressive upgrades, this latest version of the device is becoming a suitable replacement desktop PC or multimedia device. Pi 4 keeps the same form factor and still remains competitive at the $35 starting price.
Device highlights:

  • 64-bit quad core processor running at 1.5 GHz with built-in metal heatsink
  • 1 GB, 2 GB, or 4 GB RAM configurations
  • 2 USB 3.0 ports
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • Gigabit Ethernet with Power over Ethernet (requires separate PoE HAT)
  • 2.4 and 5 GHz Wireless LAN
  • 2x micro-HDMI ports supporting 2 – 4K monitors
  • Micro-SD card slot for operating system and storage
  • 5V DC USB-C power connector
  • Standard Pi 40-pin GPIO with 5V DC

Instead of a single memory configuration, a new tiered pricing structure was introduced for the three different RAM configurations:

  • 1 GB: $35
  • 2 GB: $45
  • 4 GB: $55

Even the 4 GB model is very reasonable at $55. The addition of USB 3.0 and Gigabit Ethernet allows for faster network and data transfers. Great for rolling your own network storage or video streaming server.

The form factor remains the same but due to changes in the power and video connectors, existing Pi cases will not fit. The power connector changes from a micro-USB to a USB-C connector. Probably in an effort to alleviate the most common problem using the Pi, finding a quality power supply, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is selling an official USB-C 15W power supply. Micro-HDMI cables or adapters are required to connect a TV or video display.

Noobs/Raspbian remains the official operating system and comes with a push to the next version from Raspbian Stretch to Raspbian Buster. Existing Pi installations can benefit from a hardware upgrade even using the same SD card in a new Pi 4. MAKE SURE you have updated the Raspbian operating system to take advantage of the new chipsets. Existing installations WILL NOT work without an operating system upgrade. Availability in other Raspberry Pi projects not based on the official Raspbian operating system will depend on the project. A Linux Kernel update will likely be required and may come via package manager, manual update, automatic update, or at worst, a re-image of the SD card. Remember to backup first! The HamVoIP AllStar project I wrote about a couple months ago stated a Kernel update is required for Arch Linux and will come via their automated update menu option.

When is the new hotness available? Well, now. Sort of. The Raspberry Pi 4 was released June 28, 2019 but you’re going to have a hard time finding them in stock. The Pi Foundation has a list of official vendors. Checking Newark Element 14, Micro-center, and my favorite place to buy Pi and quality components, Adafruit, were all out of stock. Estimates were 2-3 months before more would be available. Check out this substantial update to this credit card-sized computing device for your next project.

FT4?

HF bands dead lately? Not if you are an FT8 user. This mode has kept the bands active with the lack of solar activity. Unless it’s a contest weekend, I’m seeing little CW activity and less voice. There’s that 3 kHz of FT8 where there is always activity. I think FT8 keeps hams excited about ham radio and operating in general during an otherwise miserable sunspot cycle.

FT8 allows a complete exchange in 1:30, from CQ to 73. High power and high-profile antennas are not a requirement. Low power and “apartment” type antennas work well too. At times, I don’t see any trace on the waterfall of the station I’m working.

The program and protocol are open-source allowing others to build other applications using the protocol. Those include JS8Call which takes the robustness of FT8 and builds a messaging protocol with the ability to relay messages, similar to FSQ.

The good keep getting faster, better, cheaper. On July 16th, version 2.1.0 of WSJT-X was released for general availability and introduced a new mode, FT4. According to Dr. Taylor – K1JT, developer of the WSJT protocols, message types are the same as FT8. Improvements over FT8 include a mode that acts more like RTTY, meaning no more fighting to keep your computer clock synced with UTC and no designated transmit times. Transmission duration is 4.48s vs 12.64s of FT8. Bandwidth is 90 Hz. A compromise for quickness is the ability to dig out weak signals. FT8 is limited to around -21dB, FT4 is about -16dB. For reference, an excellent CW operator who can pull out weak signals is -15dB (figures from the video). Update now to start experimenting with the new exciting addition to the WSJT family!

Groups.io

A service for collaboration I’ve been using lately is Groups.io. Joined during my recent trip to D.C. because a mesh group was using it for collaboration. I quickly noticed other ham projects I was interested in were using it too, like the East Coast Reflector and NW Digital Radio. It’s a service similar to Yahoo and Google Groups but so much better. Groups.io doesn’t serve ads, track users, and has a better reputation than Facebook, which I neither use nor trust. Featuring a modern platform for communities to connect through messaging, calendar, chat, polls, database, photos, wiki, and integration with a list of other platforms. Great for projects to post documentation and offer support or a platform to keep in-touch with club members. It will even move your Yahoo or Google Group over to Groups.io. It’s a freemium service. Most will find the free offering more than adequate. The $10/month level adds the ability to directly manage memberships and take donations.

IC-7300 Clock Sync Video

Have an ICOM IC-7300? Want to keep the radio’s clock in sync with a PC while learning Linux and Python programming in the process? Check out the tutorial video by Kevin – KB9RLW, the “old tech guy.” He talks about why he wants to keep the clock synced and explains the program he wrote. His script is heavily commented which helps to understand the commands and he explains each part in the video. The script is available on GitHub which means it’s easily to build upon. I really like Python and started to use it when I was still doing programming. Alot of Linux programs are written using Python meaning it has to be a powerful language. Depending which survey, it’s #1 or in the top 3 most popular programming languages used today.

SDR Concepts

Onno – VK6FLAB produces a podcast called Foundations of Amateur Radio. Unlike others, each episode averages 5 minutes. They are short, very concise, and does an excellent job of explaining topics efficiently. Since April, episodes have been focused on Software Defined Radios (SDR). A must listen if you picked up an SDR-based radio at Dayton this year and want to learn more. Covering terminology like Direct Conversion and Sample Rate, even comparing SDR to ones with transistors or valves.

Apollo 11 50th Anniversary

When this article goes to press, we’re in the middle of the Apollo 11 mission 50th anniversary first landing on the moon. I’m already out there working those on the air special event stations. Many are operating until July 24, only have a couple more days! Check the Special Event Station listing or the DX Spotting networks.

Steve – W8HF sent me a website that is amazingly cool beyond words. When someone asks to define sites that make the Internet, this should rank near the top. Called Apollo 11 in Real-time, it is “a real-time journey through the first landing on the Moon” and is “entirely of original historical mission material.” When you visit the site, you can select to visit the launch 1-minute prior or visit the mission in real-time, 50 years ago. Included in the real-time elements are mission control footage, TV transmissions, 2,000 photographs, 11,000 hours of Mission Control audio and discussions, 240 hours of space-to-ground audio. All synced and organized chronologically. Truly an awesome website and I hope they keep it online for a long time.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – June 2019 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. cAUZRdnMNrU?start=2051Those 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 the Technical Coordinator for the Ohio Section, I’m responsible for the Technical Specialists. The Specialists and I are here to promote technical advances and experimentation in 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. RFI can include harmful interference that seriously degrades, obstructs, or repeatedly interrupts a radiocommunication service. Ranging from bad insulators on telephone poles to grow lights and poorly made transformers, they can help with RFI direction finding or assist in locating bozo stations. Technical information is everything else from building antennas, repeaters and controllers, digital, computers, networking, and embedded devices.

How can we help? The knowledge and abilities of your Technical Specialists are quite impressive. Here are some examples of the knowledge the Technical Specialists provide:

  • Documentation and training
  • VHF/UHF portable operation
  • Antennas (fixed, portable, and mobile)
  • Batteries and emergency power
  • Experts in RFI from powerline and consumer devices
  • VHF/UHF/SHF contesting
  • Experts in test equipment
  • Automotive electronic compatibility (EMC) and interference (EMI)
  • Repeaters
  • Digital modes (D-STAR, DMR, Fusion, P25, APRS & IGates. HF: MT63, FT8/4, Olivia, PSK).
  • Computers and networking (VoIP – AllStar link, software engineering, embedded systems – Raspberry Pi, Arduino)
  • Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) members knowledgeable in interference problems

This impressive list of qualifications is available to all in the Ohio Section. Looking for help in one of these areas? Need a program for your club? How about a technical talk or forum at your hamfest? 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.

Where have all the maps gone?

A lot of ham radio is about location and maps – APRS, repeater locations, grid square, propagation, beacons, satellite, or spotting maps. You may have noticed, starting last year, the quality of maps has degraded or looked different on your favorite website or on your favorite app. You’re not going crazy. It’s because many of those who developed their map around Google Maps API were forced to make some changes and decisions.

Ohio map – Google Maps

If you’re not a programmer, an API stands for Application Programming Interface. APIs are a set of defined tools or commands that can be called allowing for easy communication between different components or systems. If an API is available, they are (supposed to be) well documented and available for anyone to use.

Since the Google Maps service existed, it could be used for free. There were usage limits but they were artificially high enough were most implementations we not going to hit 25,000 requests/day. If requests exceeded the daily limit, the owner was charged $0.50/additional 1,000 requests up to 100,000 in a 24-hour period. If that maximum was reached per day, it was likely a heavy traffic website and commercial in nature where overages could be supplemented.

Last year, Google reduced the number of free requests to 28,000/month, which is the $200 “credit” referred to in their pricing plan. Additionally, it was required of the developer to register for an API key. That key MUST be linked to a credit card even if usage didn’t come anywhere near the free credit. Overages are automatically charged to the linked credit card and amount to $7.00 per 1,000 additional requests.

Ohio map – Open Street Map

It still sounds like a lot of requests per month, but not when I think about sites I have running in the shack. I can easily refresh sites 10 times while I’m operating. If 2,800 other hams did the same thing, all of a sudden, they’ve blown through their free credit. This put many free and non-profit developers between a rock and a hard place. Start shelling out for hefty overage fees for access to Google Maps – which was arguably very good, move to an alternative, or close shop. Commercial sites, which sell products and services or rely on ad revenue, have stayed with Google Maps because they can offset that cost with subscriptions or ads. Free, non-profit, and programmers doing it for fun have moved to a free and open license alternative called OpenStreetMap. I came across one website that said, “I’m done” citing the price hike and closed their site.

These microservices are provided free (as in beer). They end up not being able to monetize the service so they drastically change it or its pricing. This is happening quite often in tech and will continue as we rely more and more on other services.

100 Points at Field Day!

The next big ham holiday, Field Day, is right around the corner! Get out and join your club or find a club to join if you’re not a member of one. It’s a great time to bring friends or hams that have been out of the hobby excited about ham radio. Hams that come out get bitten by the bug to expand their station or learn a new mode. Check the Field Day Locator for operations taking place near you.

Sending 10 messages over RF from your site gets you 100 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. I haven’t seen the usual post on the Winlink site of other stations willing to receive messages from Field Day stations as in the past.

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – May 2019 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. cAUZRdnMNrU?start=2051Those 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,

Back in January of 2017, I wrote an article published in the OSJ that talked about different sources of repeater and frequency information. A couple things have changed since it was published. The ARRL no longer prints a pocket-sized directory, much to the chagrin of my dad, and prices have gone up. There is still no great source for the most current list of repeaters. The workplace required me to do some traveling earlier this year to D.C. and Dallas. The D.C. tip was going to allow for much more hamming it up time because I was driving and it was a two-week trip. Dallas required long working days so I wasn’t sure how much radio time I would have but I took an HT anyway. These trips gave me a chance to review different sources of repeater data.

For D.C., I took my HTs along with the gear I typically pack for a public service event where I’ll be riding in someone else’s vehicle. It’s pretty basic consisting of a mag-mount antenna, ICOM IC-2820H dual-band radio with D-STAR, and adapter to go from the radio’s power plug to a cigarette lighter. I take a couple extension cables: coax extension with PL-259s and a barrel connector in case the antenna coax is not long enough. I also take the remote mount cable for the display head just in case.

The cigarette lighter car adapter is more than good enough to power the radio especially when listening more than transceiving. I checked the manual, and verified on an amp meter, the highest power setting (50W) draws about 12-13 amps. Most car adapters are rated at 10A so I’m limited to low or medium power. Components of the typical car adapter are flimsy and drawing anywhere near 10A, or more if the line is fused higher, for a sustained period of time could cause failure or even fire. Low power (5W) draws 4A and medium power (15W) is about 7A (a little less on 2m). One thing that has surprised me, no reports of alternator whine where I’ve used this VHF/UHF setup.

Winterfest hamfest, Annandale, VA

Traveling to and from D.C. and to any new area, I use the band scan memories or scan edge memories. To me it’s easier than making banks of repeaters for different cities along the way. Scan edges are memories available on most modern radios. Set the start and end frequency and the radio scans frequencies in-between, stopping on any signals received. Once it hits the end frequency, returns back to the start frequency and begins scanning again. Often notated “xA/xB,” “xL/xU,” or similar memory locations for beginning and ending frequencies respectively. The 2820 is capable of dual band operation (2 frequencies at once). On the left side of the radio I had a scan starting with 144.000, and ending at 148.000 which covers the 2m band. On the right side was 440.000 – 450.000 for the 70cm band. The “step” setting determines frequency increments. A setting of 15.0 kHz will start on 144.000. The next frequency scanned will be 144.015, then 144.030, 144.045, and so on. A step of 5.0 kHz will start on 144.000, then 144.005, 144.010, 144.015, etc. Most 2m band plans are 15 kHz steps and most 440 are 25 kHz. I stick with those frequency steps. Setting the step to 5 kHz catches more frequencies in cases where a repeater might be coordinated on a non-standard frequency, but it does take much longer to scan and it will stop on a lot more interference from the car or near-by transmitters.

In this day and age, noise will be an issue and the scan will stop frequently. This can be reduced by turning up the squelch or attenuator, but you’ll miss weaker signals. Some radios have a ‘skip’ (sometimes called “lock-out”) function that will skip over problematic frequencies. I use the radio’s “scan resume conditions” to resume scanning 10 seconds after arriving on a signal. This is nice so I don’t have to keep messing around with the radio while driving. If there is an interesting conversation, I have to stop the scan in order for the radio to stay on that frequency.

I use RepeaterBook almost exclusively for downloading repeater lists at home and places I’m staying on the road. The search is straight forward but I do massage the data. I start off with a Location search with a radius of 50 miles. 50 miles is good if you want to hear distant repeaters or driving around the area. A radius of 25 miles is sufficient if you’re staying in or around one city. I export that to CSV (a portability format in plain text for databases, separating the fields by commas) and open in Excel removing anything the radios can’t receive. ATV repeaters, P25, NXDN, 900 Mhz – all get removed. The ICOM radios will get analog and D-STAR repeaters, but not Fusion or DMR. The Fusion radios get Fusion repeaters, not D-STAR or DMR. Then use RT Systems to import the modified CSV for each radio, save it in RT’s file format, and finally download data to the radio. There are entries in RepeaterBook that haven’t been updated so an analog repeater which is now DMR will slip through, for example. I remove those from the RT file later and download again if necessary. I generally don’t spend time writing a DMR code plug while traveling. I don’t find much benefit in researching repeaters static and PTT talk groups for use over a short period of time. If I don’t find a code plug browsing a couple club sites in the area, I use a hotspot.

For some reason, the RFinder application was not loading any data during most of my time in D.C. There was a fix which corrected that toward the end of the trip. I found the website of the local coordinating body for D.C. and Northern Virginia, T-MARC. The website looks like a callback to 1995 but it had information I found interesting including recent coordination actions, detailed interference FAQ, policies, band plans (including digital voice), and updated frequency lists. It should really come as no surprise because the president is a guy that did a lot of good for the Cleveland area before moving to Maryland, Dave – W8AJR. What does our repeater council website have? Complaints the ARRL is not using their repeater data anymore and the 2016/2017 Ohio Repeater Directory!

K3RTV station at The National Capital Radio & Television Museum

When looking for things to do during downtime in D.C., I discovered they had a Radio and Television museum. It was something I wanted to see because I did television production in high school and professionally in college. The National Capital Radio & Television Museum was located in a converted house. I walked in and you’re standing in a side room welcoming area, library, and gift shop. I immediately notice a SignaLink and some ham radio gear. There was a bulletin board with ham call signs next to the station. I asked the docent if he was a ham. He wasn’t but the guy in charge was the station Trustee of K3RTV and would arrive a little later. The museum had a couple of pieces from Ohio, KYW pictures and “newspaper delivered by radio” in 1939 from WLW. I hung around and talked to station Trustee Jim – N3ADF after perusing the exhibits. The museum gives him another place to operate radio in addition to another workshop. The club station at the museum does operate a couple special event stations. I’ll be looking for them on the air.

On the way back from the museum, a QSO revealed there was a hamfest coming up that weekend in Virginia. I attended the Vienna Wireless Society’s Winterfest held at Northern Virginia Community College. If you’ve ever been to NOARSfest in Elyria at Lorain County Community College, it was very similar. Outdoor and indoor flea market areas and catering provided by the college. I was happy I attended because of a couple deomonstration tables that were setup. The NoVA ARDEN Mesh (Northern VirginiA) group had nodes setup demonstrating capabilities of the network including phone and video. That area of Virginia has a lot of datacenters. AOL used to be headquartered with 3 datacenters in that area. It was good talking to those guys who could give me more of a deep-dive into technologies used on the networking side. As I’m talking to the mesh guys, I look over at this guy talking about Winlink. He looks familiar but I can’t place why. I figured it out a little while later. If you go to YouTube and search “winlink” he is the first video you’ll see. It was Greg – KW6GB whose video I had seen doing research for a Winlink writeup. I talked to him for awhile and I’m participating in his Winlink Wednesday.

In Dallas, I knew we were going to be putting in long days and since we were flying, I didn’t want to be hassled bringing ham radio equipment by TSA. I did some research and most of the comments read: ‘keep a copy of your license’ which I always have, ‘keep batteries in your carryon’ this is regulation especially for any Lithium-Ion batteries which have been known to explode in checked baggage, ‘it’s unlikely you’ll have a problem.’ This was exactly my experience in both CLE and DFW. I didn’t have large wire antennas or any HF equipment. I can’t say if you’re transporting that type of gear, you’ll have the same experience. Ship it if there is a concern.

Portable ARDEN mesh setup, Winterfest hamfest, Annandale, VA

As it turned out, I didn’t get any time to play on the radio while in Dallas. One night we did have severe storms roll through. After our work was done, our group made it back to the hotel that night while the ground was dry. Storms were threatening, alot of lightning and weather alerts were popping off. By the time we made it up to our rooms, it was raining sideways.

I was in a hurry to find local Skywarn frequencies and I hadn’t pre-programmed the radio before making the trip. I went to RepeaterBook for Dallas county, 93 repeaters were found. Didn’t have time to sort through or scan for the Skywarn frequency. I remembered something I found and noted in my 2017 article, the RadioReference database has a list of Amateur Radio frequencies for an area. The ones listed tended to be repeaters actually on the air, more popular, Emcomm, and Skywarn type repeaters. Sure enough, tuning into 146.880, the first frequency on that list was the Dallas RACES and Skywarn net. The storms blew through with no major events. More like the storms experienced on Thursday night/early Friday morning at Dayton this year. Lotta rain, flooding, and some damage depending on location.

For some reason, this new location for Hamvention and lodging is prime area for thunderstorms. Fine by me. I love a lightning show and it has become a highlight every year to see storms roll through. Sometimes they roll through during the show which wasn’t so neat. This year they seemed to happen before and after the show which was perfect. There seemed to be more people attending Hamvention which was probably attributed to the dryer weather. My dad and I spent most of our time in the flea market since it was sunny and dry. Sunscreen was a requirement otherwise you were going to be toasted. I usually don’t need sunscreen on my legs but even the backs got a little burned.

My dad and I had some excitement the first night at the hotel. About 4:30am Friday morning, all were woken up by the sound of the fire alarm. Just after being awakened, I heard thunderstorms outside. At that point, I hoped it was a false alarm and would cease before we left our rooms. While in Dallas, the fire alarm went off but it stopped 20 seconds later in the early morning. Enough to be annoying but I was now 2/2 over my last two hotel stays where the fire alarm sounded. Got dressed and left our room with everyone else. The alarm panel was showing smoke detected in the pool maintenance room. A large awning provided shelter from the storm, pouring hard but not blowing. Waited there 15 minutes or so while the fire department showed up with two firefighters. The hotel staff couldn’t get in the pool maintenance room. They finally shut off the alarm but we had to wait in the lobby. Another 40 minutes later we could return to our rooms but they couldn’t get the fire alarm to reset. That pretty much set the tone for the weekend at this hotel. *Insert Circus theme music here*

Yaesu FT3DR

At Hamvention, Yaesu was showing off a demo unit of their new Fusion HT. The FT3DR is the same as the FT2DR though a little smaller, more like the size of the FT-70DR, with a color screen and Bluetooth. Elecraft had a demo of their K4. Seems a little higher in price than other SDR radios but those who have them swear by ’em. It’s cool that it’s running Linux because many other SDR radios have been running and require Windows.

Probably the biggest news came in the Ham Nation wrap-up of Hamvention. It maybe answers the question, what happened to Mendelsons? They had the biggest tent in the flea market when the show was at Hara Arena with loads of surplus gear. Since the switch to Xenia, I think they were there in some corner one year. George – W5JDX went to visit the store location and found out they are planning to close the store. They maybe still around for visitors of Hamvention 2020 but sounded like they might be closed by next year. George shot some video but hasn’t edited it yet. It will probably appear on Ham Nation or his other show, Amateur Logic. Sad to see another Hamvention vendor go!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 2019 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. cAUZRdnMNrU?start=2051Those 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 thing about ham radio, there is no shortage of linking systems. Most are familiar with analog linking like EchoLink and IRLP but there were less popular ones such as WIRES and eQSO. Digital has many more options because when someone disagrees with an implementation, they make another. This allows for options but leads to fragmentation and incompatibilities. The AllStar Link project can link different infrastructure systems together or be a completely independent system. I learned about this linking system and accepted a challenge from one of the Technical Specialists.

Some of your Technical Specialists and I have this spirited debate about Motorola radios. They are correct claiming Motorola radios can take a lot of beating and keep on ticking. Not quite Timex but close. Commercial radios are designed to endure extreme conditions. Think police trying to wrangle a criminal or fire fighters in extreme temperatures of a working fire. You don’t want to worry about your primary line of communication being destroyed in the process. Ham grade gear won’t stand up to that kind of use and abuse. Older Motorola gear is very popular with hams as dependable FM repeaters and for use on 900 MHz. They make great repeaters because they have excellent adjacent channel rejection (selectivity) which minimizes interference from other transmitters.

Motorola CDM1250

My counter is most of this gear is not capable of VFO, a must when working with other agencies and not familiar with their frequencies. Some models are better than others getting them to transmit in the ham bands if the radio’s band split is just above or below the ham bands. A common practice is to bring a radio with the 450-512 MHz split to transmit in the 440-ham band. Aligning the radio is often needed because it has drifted off frequency. A service monitor or RIB (Radio Interface Box) cable are needed. Everyone should have a service monitor or scope, few do. Many older radios require a PC with a serial port and/or DOS application to be programmed. Serial ports are becoming harder to find on computing devices. I’ve heard USB to Serial Port adapters work, for the most part, with the help of DOSBox. DOSBox is an emulation of DOS that works on modern operating systems. Primarily designed as a tool to run DOS-based games but it also works for other DOS applications. To download a legitimate copy of the Motorola CPS programming software, the subscription cost can get ridiculous. A Radio Reference thread indicated it could range from under $200 to $400 with an increase last year for MotoTRBO equipment. As a former programmer, pirating doesn’t support developers and doesn’t allow the company to put money back into developers and adding features. If you’re kind enough, someone with a subscription maybe willing to program the radio for you or find a ham-friendly radio dealer willing to do the same or sell the software at cost. Pro tip, don’t ask about pirated software in the RR or in other forums.

Out of this debate came a challenge from Bob – K8MD to try out a Motorola radio. I eventually found a project where I need a radio but the programming wouldn’t change often. I did a lot of reading and research on BatLabs and Repeater Builder which are great resources for repurposing commercial radios and building repeaters. The used market is where these radios will be found. Advice from those sites will be very useful in not getting ripped-off, especially decoding the radio model number. My project was to setup an AllStar Link node and it was a perfect time to try a Motorola CDM1250.

AllStar Link, often called AllStar, is an Amateur Radio linking system on a Linux computer, running the open-source PBX telephone switching platform called Asterisk. An AllStar module called app_rpt turns Asterisk into a powerful, full featured, Ham Radio repeater controller, and linking package. It is theoretically capable of controlling hundreds of nodes at a time. Jim Dixon – WB6NIL (SK), developed app_rpt and is considered to be the father of AllStar. Asterisk is typically used as a SMB (small/medium business) phone system.

Like other analog Voice over IP systems (VoIP), such as EchoLink or IRLP, it links radio systems together. AllStar is flexible enough to link other infrastructures together as well. The ability to make connections on any IP network makes AllStar decentralized, meaning it doesn’t need to rely on other infrastructure. No central server for someone to pull the plug resulting in a complete collapse of the network. The concept of a node in AllStar terminology is a loose definition but they all run the same exact software. Node types are generally defined as:

  • Repeater: full duplex node and user functions accessed by DTMF
  • Simplex node: half-duplex node, also with user functions available by DTMF
  • Remote Base node: a half-duplex, frequency agile HF, VHF, or UHF remote base. Will not respond to DTMF on RF.
  • Hub node: a common connecting point (similar to Conference or Reflector) with plenty of Internet bandwidth to handle many connections at one time, has no RF connected hardware

Nodes can be public, private, or a combination of both. A public node would be accessible by any other public node on the AllStar network and requires Internet access to the AllStar infrastructure for the phonebook of public nodes. Private nodes can be limited to select users or on a completely private network, like a mesh network, where you don’t want many uses connecting over limited bandwidth links. These are great for connecting repeaters at different sites over a mesh network, point-to-point link, VPN, or public Internet. Private nodes are reserved node numbers ranging from 1000 – 1999.

A hybrid approach of both public and private nodes can be taken. Repeater 1 at location A, repeater 2 at location B, and repeater 3 at location C are all at sites with no or poor Internet. Setup Ubiquity point-to-point links between the repeater site and the Trustee’s house (for example) with a better bandwidth connection. AllStar nodes would be setup at the repeater site and use the Point-to-Point as the route to the Internet.

Say you don’t want public nodes to connect directly to the repeater over long-range WiFi, but wanted to link all three repeaters together and have controllable public access. Nodes at the three repeater sites would be setup the same except as AllStar private nodes. A fourth node would be setup with a public node number at the Trustee’s house. The three repeater nodes and any public nodes could be connected or disconnected from the fourth public node as needed. A friend of mine in Colorado, Jeff – K0JSC, has his WE0FUN “fun machine” repeater sites linked in a similar way. The 15 repeaters are private nodes connected over a private network to a central hub.

Asterisk supports standard protocols for making phone calls over IP, SIP and IAX. Using these standards makes integration easy with other systems that support similar protocols. Options range from softphones, hard phones, other Asterisk systems, to PBX systems on the Internet. A softphone app is an application which runs on a computer or smartphone providing the ability to make calls. Iaxrpt is the Windows PC softphone client and DVSwitch Mobile for smartphones. Hard phones are IP connected phones such as Cisco or Grandstream that support either protocol. A second line on the same Cisco phone used for Ham Shack Hotline is provisioned to dial into my AllStar nodes. An extension can be added to an existing Asterisk phone system allowing any handset to dial into AllStar. Last but not least, a cloud VoIP provider can add forward and reverse autopatch capability to any node! Loose autopatch ability due to new repeater hardware, an expensive addon board, or it became cost prohibitive based on use? Though an active Internet connection is required, a cloud PBX provider, such as voip.ms, adds autopatch functionality for fractions of a penny per minute (including long distance) with pay-as-you-go pricing. For younger hams, autopatches connected an amateur station (often repeaters) with the public land-line telephone system and were popular when cellphones didn’t exist or were expensive.

The first thing about AllStar I found interesting is the ability to interconnect with other ham radio systems. EchoLink support comes out-of-the-box. IRLP can be added but an existing node is needed to copy the system key. To obtain a new node number, the purchase of IRLP hardware is required. Cheapest way is to purchase the preloaded SD card with configured node on the IRLP Node Order Page for the Raspberry Pi.

AllStar has all the essential capabilities of a repeater controller, IDing every 10 minutes and adjustable time-out timer. The time-out timer can be disabled with a command – useful when broadcasting ARNewline, which can be played automatically with a script, or hosting windbag nets. The scheduler is replaced with Unix Cron. I’ve written custom scrips that announce weather conditions, PL tone, and number of connections at certain times during the hour. For a net, my node will check to see if it’s already connected to the far-end node hosting the net. If it is not connected to that node, it will drop all existing connections then connect to the remote node. Dropping all connections seems useful to avoid airing a local net over a large reflector or being booted from an IRLP reflector for being an irresponsible node operator. Some repeater owners like to place repeater objects on APRS maps showing repeater location and frequency. AllStar can inject these objects into the APRS-IS network.

DMK URIx

Not unlike the infrastructure flexibility, nearly any sound device recognized by Linux will work with AllStar. Cheap audio fobs (with a few modifications) to commercially or ham produced products are all options. The Repeater Builder site offers many options and products. The connecting device I choose was the DMK URIx. The USB connection converts data over to a DB-25 connector. Pin assignments are listed on the device itself for easy access. I wired up a connector using a Motorola connector kit I purchased off Ebay following instructions I found online from W2YMM. I’ve had a great experience and no problems with the URIx. However, it’s not cheap now running $85 including shipping. In addition, mailing lists are indicating a change in chipset is causing performance issues. I would wait awhile before purchasing this device again.

With Raspberry Pi as an option for running a node, portable nodes are popular for use in a vehicle or backpack. Open Internet ports, or port forwarding, is not a requirement for outbound connections. This is especially useful because cell phone companies make it impossible for open ports due to CGNAT. This was a big problem I talked about with WIRES-X before Yaesu introduced their portable node software. Incoming connections to a portable node on a hotspot will not be possible.

Diagram of connections to my AllStar node

There is a fork of the main project called HamVoIP. They were the first to release a Raspberry Pi image. A Beagle Bone Black image was available but it has been deprecated and no longer updated to concentrate on the Raspberry Pi image. About the time WB6NIL passed, the main AllStar project had some internal conflict, upgrades caused lengthy outages, distributions were becoming dated, and hard to setup. HamVoIP claims to pick-up that slack, improve on the project including infrastructure and code cleanup. Their assertion is having better than 70% of the AllStar market running their image. Recent strides have been made to improve the main AllStar project. I have used both distributions and feel HamVoIP does work better, has more features, frequent updates, and better documentation. Nodes running HamVoIP still utilize the AllStar infrastructure and are fully compatible with non-HamVoIP nodes.

There is a claim that HamVoIP is in violation of GPL license agreements. Again, being a former programmer and someone who publishes articles and presentations, I would be upset if someone was violating my usage terms. However, those making accusations are also making judgement calls based on lack of response – which doesn’t mean there is a violation. In addition, a claim can be filed with the Free Software Foundation or have the copyright owners of Asterisk make a decision. It does not appear either correct course of action is being pursued. Airing this grievance on social media accomplishes nothing, as usual. The HamVoIP side isn’t helping their case by not being transparent and some responses were “feeding the trolls.” A troll is a person online who posts a provocative message to an online forum with the intent of causing disruption and argument. You can read the Reddit thread (some language maybe NSFW) and HamVoIP response. I’m going to keep using HamVoIP until I see a response from someone that has standing in the matter.

AllStar is flexible but definitely a more an administrative (Sysop) system and not entirely user-friendly. Connecting to other AllStar nodes is pretty straight forward. The DTMF sequence is *3 to link and *1 to unlink. Integrations with EchoLink and IRLP can be implemented a couple ways: directly linked to an AllStar node where the AllStar and EchoLink/IRLP node act as one. EchoLink/IRLP can be setup on a different node (often private) on the same AllStar setup. Having separate nodes allows for disabling EchoLink or IRLP connections completely should those nodes cause problems. Great for control, not great for users. An RF user can link and unlink EchoLink/IRLP, not to specific nodes. It maybe possible to do with a script but would add complexity.

Having AllStar and EchoLink/IRLP on the same node allows RF users to link and unlink to those systems. Remembering the DTMF combinations is not easy, I know. Connecting to EchoLink nodes is the DTMF sequence *3 and *13 to disconnect. IRLP is *38 and *18 respectively. Example, EchoLink test node #9999 is *3009999 and *31009999 to disconnect. IRLP test node #9990 is *389990, and *189990. Not exactly straight forward, easy to remember, or the simple “73” IRLP users are used to for disconnecting. Sysops can use the Supermon webpage utility for easier control of a node and can make it read only for users.

I learned some things about using Motorola equipment. My CDM1250 is the high power (40 watt) UHF model. Radios such as the CDM have a 5% duty-cycle. This means transmitting only 3 minutes every hour. Don’t forget, these aren’t rag-chew radios – they’re designed for police and fire which only transmit for short periods of time. Two ways to improve the duty-cycle is to lower the output power and upgrade to active cooling by moving a lot of air over the heatsink. Lowering the power on mine is still 25 watts. These improvements allow the radio to operate normally for a 90-minute net, as long as the fan keeps working. The antenna connector is a Mini UHF female and very easy to break with an adapter and stiff coax. A Mini UHF male to UHF SO-239 female pigtail is a requirement. It relieves the stress on the radio’s connector.

Learning about commercial radios has been a valuable experience. AllStar Link is a very flexible and customizable system that has excellent integration with other infrastructure. I still have a lot to learn and my next goal is to use AllStar for linking all digital modes – yes ones like D-STAR, DMR, and Fusion. Stay tuned!

If you would like to make an AllStar contact, it is best to setup a sked with me via Email.

AllStar node map: http://allstarmap.org/allstarmap.html

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – March 2019 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. cAUZRdnMNrU?start=2051Those 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,

Do you have your Network Radio? I do, well, maybe. Not the way most people define Network Radios. In the last number of years, outside Voice over IP (VoIP) services have found their way into ham radio. Services cAUZRdnMNrU?start=2051utilize mobile data connections like 3G, 4G, and WiFi to connect users over the Internet. The app turns a cell phone or tablet into a HT-like device, complete with PTT button. “Network Radios” has been used to define these types of transceiver and channels available on those transceivers.

Probably 4-5 years ago, and still used today, a number of hams were all abuzz about this service called Zello. Another service called IRN (International Radio Network) is built on TeamSpeak. TeamSpeak is most frequently used as an audio chat service for players in multiplayer video games. Both of these services were probably adopted by ham-radio operators because of the similarities. Use a speaker, microphone, and can carry on round-table style chats. One person talks and the rest receive. These are called “channels” – similar in ham lingo to a reflector, conference, or talk group.

The term “Network Radios” is making the rounds because devices are being sold that integrate with VoIP services and are made to look like an HT or mobile radio. Most run the Android operating system meaning they come with the Google Play store. Having the Play store means any app can be installed, such as other VoIP apps like the EchoLink app or Repeater Book repeater directory.

RFinder was the first to design and sell Network Radios. They took a cellphone and attached a dual-band VHF/UHF transmitter capable of analog or DMR. Make phone calls or phone-calls. A similar tablet version is also available. Their devices are integrated with and promote the RFinder application (digital version of the ARRL repeater directory). Running the application and using the GPS makes it easy to locate near-by repeaters. Clicking a repeater would program the radio for use with the selected repeater, including offsets and sub-audible tones. Press PTT and you’re on the air!

A store with the completely original name, Network-Radios, is selling a whole range of Network Radios including the RFinder devices. The HT Network Radios have, what looks like, an antenna but few lists the capability of transmitting in the ham bands. None of the mobile Network Radios have any kind of RF connector.

This brings up the question: is this ham radio? My definition: if a legal identification is required, it is ham radio. More-or-less, I’m looking for Internet-linked endpoints to be connected to some kind of RF transmitting device in the ham bands that follows Part 97. I would like to have all linked end points transmitting in the ham bands, but I’ll take what I can get. My reasoning: our bands continue to be under attack by commercial entities that would pay big money for our frequencies and EVERYONE always complains our repeaters and frequencies are underutilized. Actually using our bands shows whoever is out there listening (FCC, commercial interests, people scanning the bands, potential hams, …) that ham frequencies are being utilized and we’re doing stuff with our bands. Call me crazy!

I’m not opposed to hams using these Network Radio services to find a better tool. Some Network Radio channels are even linked to repeater systems. That’s OK if private channels are properly controlled, seems like a lot of extra management. However, the overarching use of these services is mobile-device to mobile-device using non-ham bands. That is not at all ham radio. One argument is that some people need a place to let loose a little more than would be allowed on a regular repeater. Whatever.

I heard, from hams, in recent Emcomm situations how great it was that Zello was being used by the public to phone in needed rescues. Other channels were created for family members looking for relatives to make sure they were OK. Great use of technology. If average people can be mobilized at a moment’s notice with boats and rescue gear through a phone app, are hams still relevant? Anyone else see the irony?

The argument is always made: “the cell network can, and will, go down.” The exact opposite argument is being made promoting Network Radios as seen at the beginning of this blog post (some language NSFW, that is “not safe for work”) on the Network-Radios site: “I get 99,99999% of cell signal no matter where I am. I wonder if you can reach a VHF or UHF repeater for 10% of the time of your travelling with a typical 4 Watt handheld with its rubber duck antenna. And if GSM is not available, I could use a global wifi hotspot.” We’re doomed. Too soon?

New Podcast

The ARRL is sponsoring a new podcast that launched March 7. “So Now What?” is geared toward those who have obtained their license and need mentoring on the next steps to get the most out of the hobby. “Topics to be discussed in the first several episodes include getting started, operating modes available to Technician licensees, VEC and licensing issues, sunspots and propagation, mobile operating, contesting, Amateur Radio in pop culture, and perceptions of Technician license holders.” I’m sure there will be ideas for new and old hams alike. Subscribe to this new podcast and get the most out of ham radio!

Networking Basics

I made a career move over a year ago from programming into a networking position and quite enjoy it. Pascal – VA2PV, has a quality Youtube channel where he frequently does product reviews, how-to videos, and shares his experiences with things like PL-259 installation and re-cabling his shack. Video and audio quality are excellent with many videos available in 4K (great opportunity to experience a 4K stream). He released a video on the basics of IP networking. It won’t go in depth to the level of things I do at work, but if you ever wanted to know how devices on your home network can communicate with devices on the Internet, what is DHCP & DNS, then his video is required viewing.

FreeDV QSO Party

A group in Australia has announced the first ever FreeDV QSO party starting on April 27th 0300z to April 28th 0300z 2019. FreeDV is an open source digital voice mode, commonly referred to as Codec 2. I’ve played around with this mode before and was impressed by the resulting audio quality in such a narrow bandwidth. I hope this will create some FreeDV activity on the bands. It does require two sound cards (or sound devices) to operate. If you have an internal soundcard and a SignaLink, you’re set. The internal soundcard records and plays voice audio while the SignaLink (or other) transmits and receives digital modulation to and from your radio. Look for you on the bands using FreeDV!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – February 2019 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,

A couple months ago, I received a question regarding digital mode transmissions. This ham was using Fldigi and wondered about “strange” transmissions at the start of a BPSK-63 transmission. BPSK-31 looked OK.

Strange tones (circled in orange) on the Fldigi waterfall

These tones are known as RSID, Reed Solomon IDentifier, designed by Patrick Lindecker, F6CTE. RSID tones are codes used to automatically identify digital signals and often precede a digital transmission. These are a burst of tones lasting 1.4 seconds with a bandwidth of 172 Hz. They are robust being decoded down to -16 dB, which is better than most digital modes. According to the W1HKJ documentation for Fldigi, programs that support RSID are:

  • PocketDigi, Vojtech, OK1IAK
  • FDMDV, Cesco, HB9TLK
  • DM780, Simon, HB9DRV – part of Ham Radio Deluxe
  • fldigi, Dave, W1HKJ
  • Multipsk, Patrick, F6CTE

The documentation link has a table of all RSID codes. Not all variations of baud, tones, and bandwidth are assigned a code because RSID is limited to a total of 272 unique codes. The programs listed support RSID, not necessarily all modes assigned an RSID code. Typically, that means the program will not react to codes for which it does not support.

RX RSID enabled

To detect RSID alongside the desired operating mode, digital programs will run a separate detector listening for these tones while the main detector focuses on decoding the selected mode. To receive RSID tones in Fldigi, the option on the main screen in the upper-right “RxID” needs to be green (enabled).

RSID announcement

The default behavior of Fldigi, I think, is a little weird. When an RSID is received, an announcement will be displayed in the receive pane (tan box). The blue clickable text takes you back to the previous frequency at the time the RSID was received. It does not move you to the frequency of the received RSID. An example, RSID was received at 1300 Hz on the waterfall. The cursor is currently on 1500. The clickable link in the receive pane will return the cursor back to 1500. Fldigi will search for RSID in the vicinity of the cursor (about +/- 200 Hz), not across the entire waterfall.

Useful configuration options are available in the Configure menu -> Other -> IDs. The “Searches passband” option will listen across the entire waterfall. “Notify only” will display a popup box when an RSID is received. You’ll have the option to click “go to” that frequency.

TX RSID enabled

Consequently, on the transmit side, “TxID” needs to be enabled for Fldigi to transmit RSID tones. Fldigi offers an option other programs don’t, transmit RSID at the end of the transmission. I don’t see much use for this as your signal is gone but someone might want to be ready for the next station in the exchange or break-in.

Why wouldn’t a station see RSID tones for a (B)PSK-31 signal? Two reasons: PSK-31 is a common mode that most hams, who have operated digital on the air for any period of time, would encounter. No need to keep identifying commonly used digital signals. According to Fldigi, CW, RTTY, and BPSK-31 are the only supported ones that fall into this category. The second reason is bandwidth. Transmitting an RSID of 172 Hz will clobber more than a couple nearby PSK-31 transmissions.

Transmission mode list

On the same configuration page, click “Transmission modes.” This list indicates which modes have RSID enabled. Clearing the checkbox will not transmit RSID for that mode. For example, operating a lot of BPSK-63 and the RSID annoys you, but not for MT63-2000, uncheck BPSK-63 in the list.

Transmitting RSID helps ensure receiving stations are tuned and decoded for modes like MFSK. Modes like JT65 have RSID tones but they’re not used during normal operation and could throw off the timing of the exchange. JT65 is also operates in designated windows of the digital sub-bands. It’s probably meant more for identifying EME transmissions using JT65.

RSID notification

The ‘strange’ transmissions are not strange at all but rather letting others know which modes are being operated.

WWV update

There was a lot of FUD (that’s fear, uncertainty, and doubt) around the future of WWV back in September of last year. You can check my article in the September edition of the OSJ or on my website. While not yet signed, the fiscal year budget for 2019 does include funding all WWV stations. As it turns out, this year is the 100th year of operation. A member of the Northern Colorado Amateur Radio Club has met with NIST management and is planning a special event station between September 28 – October 2. I’ll be anticipating that event and hope to work WWV.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – January 2019 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,

Technical Specialist, Eldon – W5UHQ, has been busy playing around with FT-8 when he’s not doing the Ohio Digital Emergency Net. FT-8 was developed by Joe Taylor – K1JT and is the popular successor to the JT-65 & JT-9 modes. It has grown like wildfire due to the reduced time to make a contact, 15-second transmit windows compared to a minute, and the poor band conditions we’re experiencing. Eldon created documentation about setting up and operating with the WSJT-X software. Last month he was asked to give a presentation for the combined meeting of the Central Ohio Operators Klub and Newark Amateur Radio Association. Eldon gave a very detailed presentation on FT-8 titled “DX Band-Aids for our Spotless Sun.” Nice play on words. With terrible band conditions, many believe FT-8 has kept interest in ham radio alive. His presentation is loaded with graphics and pictures – my kind of presentation. If you’re in the Columbus area and want a great presentation on FT-8, get in contact with Eldon. He’s been knocking out a lot of contacts with wanted DX entities like Ducie Island, Baker Island, and most recently Banana Island.

If you use the WSJT-X software for the JT modes, a recent update to Ham Radio Deluxe allows logging directly to HRD Logbook. I set this up recently and it makes things a breeze with the faster pace of the FT-8 exchange. There is a YouTube video on the Ham Radio Deluxe channel showing how to configure both programs.

A quick reminder, if you haven’t upgraded to WSJT-X 2.0 your software probably isn’t decoding any stations on FT-8 and MSK144. A major update to the program and protocol was released. Effective the first of the year, everyone should be using WSJT-X 2.0. The change increased error checking by 2-bits to help with special exchanges in structured messages.

A couple days ago, I got a question from a ham about recording audio from their Ham radio. I’ve done this for various different reasons including streaming to the popular online scanner site Broadcastify, a net controller wanted an audio copy of the net, and posting audio clips online. There are a couple programs I’ve used over the years depending on the situation. This is very useful when documenting malicious interference or a bozo on a repeater.

First, station setup. You’ll obviously need to be close enough to receive the station or repeater. Marginal signals or ones with static might sound “ok” when listening through the radio’s speaker but will sound worse when recorded and played back. White noise is created over all frequencies and will be recorded over all frequencies. A better gain antenna, one located higher, or a directional antenna would improve reception of the station. Trying to monitor your own signal through a repeater will require separation between the radio transmitting on the repeater input and the radio receiving on the output. Otherwise, the receiving radio will be desensed causing little-to-no signal to be received.

A base station, mobile radio, or radio scanner is best depending how long you plan to monitor the other station. An HT or portable scanner will work but will likely need an external power source. Find a radio with a 3.5mm standard headphone / speaker jack. Nearly all ham radios made in the last 30 years will have this. The speaker portion of a Speaker & Mic jack will be the 3.5mm connector. Newer modern radios utilize a soft power switch (meaning it doesn’t physically cut power to the device) but rather power state is controlled through electronics. Turn of any of these (or related) settings: auto power off, power save, and turn off display and keypad lights. APO turns off the radio when idle which will disrupt recording. Power Save reduces current drain on the radio but takes longer for the radio to respond when a signal is received. This results in a missed word or two at the begging of a transmission on the recording. Turn down or off LCDs or any display lights as there is no need to shorten the lifespan while the radio is used unattended.

A 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable is need to go between the radio and computer or other recording device. These can be found at a local hamfest, on the Internet, or look at Monoprice for good prices. Either a TRS cable or TS cable can be used, these are known as a stereo or mono cable. The radio will often output only one channel. A radio connected to an audio interface, like for digital modes, is not ideal unless you’re monitoring sideband or AM. Audio from the digital port will be un-squelched and nearly impossible to utilize VOX or sound activated features.

Inexpensive USB Sound Card

Recording to a PC is the most versatile solution. Plug the audio cable into the Line In jack of the PC. If another sound card is needed, the very cheap USB sound cards available for a couple bucks will provide another audio input. In my experience, audio out of these inexpensive USB sound cards is very noisy while the audio input is quiet. Don’t need audio out so the noise problem doesn’t matter. The audio/speaker out level from the radio will be adjustable via the volume control. Set that at about half or 50%. On the computer, go into the Sound settings in the Control Panel. On the Recording tab, find the audio device – “Line In” on most PCs, “Microphone” on the USB devices. Set the Level to 50 in Windows. Linux doesn’t seem to distort audio as much and can be set at 100%. Line In audio may need to be boosted while Microphone connections will likely need to be turned down. The setup I have with the inexpensive USB sound card is set at 7 (out of 100) with the radio at 50%.

VOX is a voice activated switch in traditional radio operation but it’s really an audio level reaching some threshold which then activates the transmitter. In this context the program would start recording. VOX is nice because it eliminates long pauses on FM. A repeater may only be used 10% a day. The resulting recording will not be 90% dead audio. VOX is useful but may miss a second or so before initiating recording. Long pauses during the transmission, where the audio would fall below a threshold, will stop recording momentarily. When the VOX threshold is set too low, you may record unwanted static bursts. HF is very difficult to set a threshold because there is no squelch on sideband. Some kind of log is useful to determine when a repeater is used or will be needed for documenting interference issues. Another option is a real-time recording. A lot of extra hard drive space is required for these extended audio recordings in real-time. A more on this later.

Audacity

For Software, Audacity is pretty flexible and free. It can do real-time, timer recording, and VOX. Once Record is pressed, it will run until it’s out of hard drive space. The Timer Recording feature will start at a specific time and continue for the duration. This is useful when recording a net. Timer is found under Transport -> Recording -> Timer Record. The VOX-type feature called “Sound Activated Recording” is found under Edit -> Preferences -> Recording. It does not have a logging feature, though.

Scanner Recorder

The program I like for monitoring a repeater is Scanner Recorder. It is a VOX program that is simple to use but configurable enough to delay a couple seconds after the signal disappeared. The clock, amount of time elapsed since recording began, and length of recorded audio is quite nice to see how busy is the frequency. It does have a logging feature showing date, time, duration, and relative time in the audio file.

Recording settings is a matter of quality tolerance and preferences. Sample rate is measured in Hz. For voice recordings, 11 kHz or 22 kHz is good. Recording raw digital signals such as MT63 or P25, use 48 kHz. Space requirements for uncompressed (WAV) mono audio at 16-bits:

  • 48 kHz: 350 MB/hr
  • 22 kHz: 170 MB/hr
  • 11 kHz: 80 MB/hr

When using VOX, the per-hour rate only applies when the program has recorded an hour of audio.

The ham asked about recording with a rolling buffer. A rolling buffer would record over itself when it reaches a specified length. I don’t know of any programs that will accomplish this but I did find an Android app called Echo that seems to meet the requirement. It’s not available through the Google Play store, unfortunately, requiring the alternative app store F-Droid to be installed first.

Do plenty of tests and dry-runs first to check audio levels for overmodulation of the recording. You can use this setup for fun, documenting interference and bozo issues, or for finding out how often a repeater is used. On second thought, you probably don’t really want to know the answer.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2018 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,

Hi. My name is Jeffrey and I am a Windows user. Yes, I migrated my laptop a couple years ago from Windows 10 to Fedora Linux and six months ago did the same for my main desktop. Windows applications are better. THERE I SAID IT. I can hear the hate mail rolling in. Anyway, I’ve encouraged readers to check out Linux as a Windows alternative. These are my experiences moving to a (mostly) Linux world over the last 6 months.

My goal was to move to Linux as my daily operating system. That is done. In that transition, find Linux programs equivalent to the Windows applications I was using. Anything I couldn’t find suitable replacements would be run in a Windows virtual environment.

In previous articles, I’ve written about the disaster that has become Windows 10 and my desire to find a less restrictive and obtrusive operating system. I settled on Fedora Linux because the virtualization worked better in my experience over Ubuntu. Moving my main desktop away from Windows was the last hurtle. This PC serves the duties of: audio & video recording (DVR mostly), ripping, editing and playing, graphics editing, web site editing, file storage and backup, virtual environment, web surfing, ham radio programming, and experimentation station. That pretty much covers it. You could throw in gaming about 10 years ago – who has the time? Also, the occasional document (image) scanning. This will become important later.

In my experience, what does work?

  • Linux works. I have not had any issues getting Fedora to work on stock laptops or my custom-built desktop machine. With few drivers to install, all hardware works including USB 3.0. Most of the pre-installed programs (graphics viewer, LibreOffice, music & video player) are very usable programs.
  • Package manager. This keeps the operating system and programs updated when approved by maintainers of the distribution. When I can, programs are installed through the package manager and I’ve accepted all updates when made available. I may have had a Kernel issue once or twice but simply selected a previous version at boot time.
  • Customization. I spent some time trying out different desktop environments because I cannot stand tablet-style interfaces in desktop environments on non-touch screen devices. Gnome, I’m
    Oh My Zsh customized terminal

    talking about you! Cinnamon is probably the closest to a Windows desktop-like feel with start menu, taskbar, and system tray. This is the one I choose. Customization tools import and apply different theme options. I replaced the bash shell with Oh My Zsh. Came for the themes. Stayed for the awesome autocomplete.

  • Virtualization works very well with VirtualBox. I’m looking at getting virt, virt-manager, and KVM working in the future.
  • Cross-platform apps. I’ve had good experience with applications that have a strong user base and are ported to different platforms. These apps would include VLC (formally VideoLAN), HandBrake, Thunderbird, Firefox, VirtualBox, and VeraCrypt. This is likely because development efforts contributed to the project benefit all platforms.
  • Web apps. Many services today are moving away from software installed on a PC to web based services. Having a modern web browser is all that is needed to interact with these services.

Where have I run into issues?
(Lack of) Popularity, including vendor support. This covers 75% of my issues. According to StatCounter Global Statistics, looking over the last two years at desktop and laptop platforms used to browse the web, Linux hasn’t passed the 2% mark and is currently holding steady at about 0.8% in the U.S. In comparison, OS X is at about 20% and Windows about 75%. Servers typically don’t browse the web so these numbers represent users running Linux to do a common computing activity, like browsing the web. When there are financial decisions to be made on developing an app or service, you’re going to go where the customers are. Linux hasn’t gained any significant market share when compared to that disaster operating system or the hardware priced out of the budget of average users (Windows & Mac).

Fedora Cinnamon spin

Vendors are simply not focusing a lot of their resources on a small segment of users when others like Windows eclipse that 2%. I’ve run into a couple examples. First being the drivers for the NVidia graphics card in my desktop. The process of getting this driver installed is a fairly complicated process. It’s dependent on system BIOS and involves editing Kernel boot options – not something average computer users are comfortable doing. If you’re lucky, you’ll magically end up with an NVidia driver that works with the installed Linux Kernel. The open-sourced driver, Nouveau, generally works for me but I notice flickering on some screens like ones with dark gray backgrounds. Nouveau has crashed a couple times when I had a bunch of applications running at once. A sinking feeling knowing how many applications I had open and not knowing when I last clicked save is not my idea of a good time.

I installed the Epson Linux image scanning driver for my flatbed scanner. The app very closely resembled the Windows application which made it familiar to use. However, though the manual indicates I should have been able to scan multiple pages and save them as a single PDF file, I did not have this option. I tried the native Fedora app, Simple Scan. It was way too simple. Automatically scanning the next page of a multi-page document after a selectable 3-15 second interval didn’t make any sense to me. Others I tried created ginormous sized PDF documents, 50MB file vs 3MB using the Epson Windows app. There is no reason to have files that large and some email systems have attachment limits of about 25MB.

In August, Dropbox announced they were dropping support for almost all Linux file systems. Many users were upset. Speculation was Dropbox had to support a wide variety of Linux distributions, file systems, desktop environments, and Kernels where they didn’t see any return on this investment. Companies often take a chance hoping users purchase paid subscriptions to support further developments in these areas. Linux users weren’t subscribing to sustain further development and support, so it was dropped. Most Linux users like free stuff because, well, the operating system itself is free.

I would say the remaining 25% of my issues are round quality of applications. While there are video ripping, editing, and authoring tools available, they don’t hold up to the Windows tools I’m using. Most users are on Windows so that’s where companies devote their time. Application authors who set out to make equally good tools in Linux may run into problems or lack of interest either in terms of downloads, support from the community, or through life, job, or family changes. Handbrake and VLC work as well in Linux as Windows. Video stream repair and splitting, DVD and Blu-Ray authoring, DVR, and audio ripping – not so much. Still using Windows applications. Not saying all Linux tools are bad because there some really powerful ones.

My desktop was the big obstacle to accomplishing my goal of getting Linux as my daily operating system. 99% of the time that system is running Fedora. I do have a number of virtual Windows machines for things like MS Office, radio programming, SDR programs, and my cord-cutter service – which says it will work in Chrome, but its only Chrome running on Windows. For applications and hardware interactions that didn’t work well in a virtual environment, I resized my original Windows partition down to about 30 GB and boot into Windows only when I need it. My shack PC is going to stay on Windows 7 because some of my ham activity is tied to programs only available on Windows.

These have been my experiences in moving away from the Windows disaster into an alternative desktop & laptop platform – Fedora Linux. These might motivate you to try Linux or some other Windows alternative. It will be like learning something new for most people. I had ideas of what the experience would look like and challenges having supported and programmed in Linux environments for the better part of a decade. The Mac platform has really become popular with great applications and great support from Apple. If you’re not willing to drop a significant amount of money on their devices, consider looking at Linux as an alternative.

Late breaking for FT8 users: if you operate either the very popular FT8 or MSK144 digital modes, please update your version of WSJT-X to 2.0 by January 1, 2019. These protocols have been enhanced in a way that is not compatible with previous versions of WSJT-X. After that date, only the new version of those modes should be used on the air.

Thanks for reading. Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

73… de Jeff – K8JTK