Category Archives: Computing

Computing, networking, and the like. Non-Ham Radio related.

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – August 2020 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultimate Raspberry Pi Build

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

PiClock

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

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

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

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

Pi-Hole Dashboard (Wikipedia)

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

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

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

Grant Imahara (Wikipedia)

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – May 2020 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Well, this stay at home thing seems to have run its course – beginning week 11 soon. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know by now Dayton Hamvention was canceled this year. First time ever in its history. Weekend events that had the resources were virtualized such as Contest University. Some vendors and manufactures ran Dayton specials regardless of the lack of a physical showing. Technical Specialist Bob – K8MD pointed out that one of the retailers ran a special on D-STAR repeater components for $299 apiece. That meant a full stack (controller, 2m voice, 440 voice, 1.2G voice, and 1.2G data) could be purchased for about $1,500. Wow. Just ONE of those items cost about that much retail. Is ICOM feeling the pressure from the Yaesu repeater giveaway, DMR, or is D-STAR II around the corner? Hmmm…

Unfortunately, I’m starting to see on-the-air happenings return to previous levels. I guess that means people are returning to work, going out more, and returning to their normal. For me, I knew early on I wanted to utilize the hunker-in-place order to knock out some long-standing projects and “to-dos” of mine. Others had the same idea.

Among my list of annoying issues was a problem with one of my Fedora systems. As I’ve written about in the past, I made the switch to Fedora Linux as the primary operating system on my desktop and laptop. Fedora is a cutting-edge operating system and employs a very aggressive release and end-of-life schedule. The project releases a new version twice a year in April and October. When a new version drops, they mark the version two behind it as end-of-life. Fedora 30 released in April of 2019 means Fedora 28 went end-of-life one month after that date, May 2019. No bug fixes, no package updates, no security enhancements. And everyone complains about Microsoft ending life of a 10-year-old OS. Well, I knew what I was getting into.

Fedora 31 released at the end of October, 2019. I usually wait 2-3 months for the major problems to be ironed out and updates made available before I upgrade. When I tried to update to 31, I ran into a problem. Using the Fedora 31 Live CD or doing the automatic upgrade, the boot process would hang on this line:

A start job is running for Monitoring of LVM2 mirrors, snapshots etc. using dmeventd or progress polling

This process neither finished loading nor failed to load after any amount of time. Off to the Internet I went. Searching “Fedora 31” and the message above brought me to a couple bug reports and forum posts about the same message. Unfortunately, none of the suggestions got me past this problem. Due to life and other responsibilities, I put it aside secretly hoping Fedora 32 would have fixed my problem, saying I would upgrade from 30 to 32. I saw Fedora 32 beta was available (now a full release) and downloaded the Live CD. Problem still existed. Darn!

Since this occurred during the boot process of both the Live CD and after upgrading a previous installation, I couldn’t look or pull stored logs easily to see if those provided any clues as to why the process was hanging. Live CD images are the lifeline go-to when the installed OS on the hard drive wont boot. In addition to installing the OS, they are used as a rescue method to repair a borked install. I couldn’t get the Live CD to boot so I was in trouble if this system ever became unbootable because I’ve never *cough* have done something that *cough* *cough* caused my system to become unbootable…

Storage server supporting RAID (Wikipedia)

The forum post above gave me a clue and I started exploring this as being an issue with my RAID array. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive (or Independent) Disks. It’s a technology that combines multiple physical disks into logical units for redundancy, performance, or both. I tried messing around in the BIOS disabling other arrays, that didn’t work. I thought maybe something in the RAID information written to the disk was causing a problem. Backed up everything on the array and deleted it. Deleting a RAID array destroys all data on those disks!! When I recreated the array, the Fedora 31 Live CD booted! Problem solved!!? Yeah, no. It would boot successfully once then hang on subsequent reboots or after being installed to the hard drive.

After screwing around with it even more, I finally searched “Fedora 31 Intel RAID array LVM2 dmeventd” and found this bug report and how to work around the exact issue I was having. Whoo Hoo! Problem solved, well workaround provided. It took a while to get there. Simply searching a message, error, or problem may not return the most relevant search results for your issue. You might have to dig at it a bit by gathering other information to determine the real reason or peel back the right layer to discover the correct answer.

Work around involved masking the lvm2-lvmpolld.service via kernel load parameters and at the command line after install. Masking creates a link to the Linux blackhole /dev/null device so the service cannot be started by systemd or dependencies. The service is a polling system for the Logical Volume Manager (LVM). After all that, I was finally able to get Fedora upgraded to 31! Just in time as version 30 was about to go EOL. I noticed the data consistency validation scan no longer automatically occurs on the arrays, which is likely related to disabling the service. I initiate it manually every couple of weeks. The problem of not being able to boot has an active bug report that’s assigned. Hopefully gets attention from a developer and fixed.

Windows 7 Users: Take Heed

Broken Windows (Krebs on Security)

It’s become more imperative that you move to another operating system like Windows 10, Linux, or utilize a 3rd party patching service like 0patch. Unlike Windows XP’s end-of-life, there were not too many critical issues shortly after EOL. Microsoft did release patches for ‘really bad’ issues. XP, and any OS, always have an unknown number of undiscovered security problems. We were not so fortunate to run with Windows 7 as long without discovering major problems. There have been a number of significant critical issues each month since Windows 7 went EOL that affect Windows 7, 8, and 10, for which Microsoft has not (and likely will not) patch Windows 7.

My February OSJ article has information about how issues can affect ‘all versions of Windows’ and information on 0patch. March OSJ article covers upgrading to Windows 10 for free and check my Linux information article for choosing a Linux distribution. A reader previously tried to argue that exploits resided in browsers. Since the last official update for Windows 7 in January, these critical exploits are largely operating system based: ActiveX, Windows Installer, Graphics Interface, font rendering, and shortcut handling (.lnk files) with many being 0-day, meaning they are actively exploited in the wild. Could be a result of someone that has physical access to the machine, an application the user thinks are legitimate or an app that comes bundled with crapware/malware, or polled by an infected device on the network.

This month alone, 111 security holes were patched, 16 being critical, in supported Windows operating systems. Makes you wonder why anyone is still using a Microsoft Windows OS. Lack of software support and learning curve are probably the biggest. I have a few uses for Windows, ugh – thank you streaming services and your stupid ‘copy protection.’ Microsoft is looking at ‘containerizing’ the Win10 operating system. The belief being when a software component fails to update or creates a problem, it doesn’t affect other parts or crash the entire operating system – separate containers that only affect themselves. Or maybe Microsoft should focus on getting the operating system stable instead of “feature updates” no one cares about. </end rant>.

AmateurLogic.TV Sound Check Net

One of the nets created since the stay-at-home order is the Amateur Logic Sound Check Net. Amateur Logic.TV is a long-running monthly podcast featuring the latest in ham radio. There have been 5 nets so far. I became involved with the net because they wanted the ability to link D-STAR and DMR users to their EchoLink net. I was able to offer up my Digital Voice Multi-mode Interlink System Hub. Started utilizing only those three modes but quickly expanded to incorporate all. Users have checked in using all the modes each week, including Wires-X.

Previous net announcement with NCS K8JTK!

The AmateurLogic guys are using a local repeater in Mississippi connected to an Echolink node. I connect to their Echolink node and transcode audio to and from other modes: AllStar Link, Hamshack Hotline, D-STAR, DMR, YSF, and Wires-X. It has performed well as it mostly lives in the cloud and has data center level resources. Users and sponsors of the net have been impressed with how well it works and grateful to experiment with many modes to reach the net – one of the few, if not only, taking Hamshack Hotline checkins.

I was net control MC for a couple of their nets. It was my longest and most amount of checkins with about 40 at nearly 2 hours for a net. The net is on Tuesdays at 9pm eastern and should be running for at least a couple more weeks. Net can be reached by connecting to any of my hub nodes or checking ALTV social media for other connections. Everyone is welcome!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 2020 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Stay at home: day 42. Continuing to work from home. Haven’t seen co-workers or friends in a month and a half. Regular lunch outings and after work happenings have long since terminated. Virtual meetings and conferences have replaced in person interaction. Participation in Ham Radio activities is on the rise! Nets are seeing higher check-in counts than they’ve ever seen. The curve is rising for digital modes and logged contacts.

Are we all having fun yet during Corona Fest 2020?

As people are forced to work from home due to closures, companies are utilizing videoconferencing services to keep in touch with employees and teams. These are now methods for coordinating efforts and relaying the latest to employees about the status of their company. A videoconferencing solution was likely available for employees to interact with remote team members or vendors world-wide. Now, those services are utilized all-day, every day. My company decided to begin the transition from WebEx to Microsoft Teams for meetings. I liked WebEx and it generally worked. MS Teams, well it’s part of Office 365 and that’s probably down again. Corona Fest is forcing usage of these collaboration solutions, not only companies but social organizations that previously met in person. These include popular names like Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom.

Those who value open sourced solutions should use Jitsi or Jitsi Meet to hold meetings. The service is completely free and open-source where anyone can look at the source code of the project. The difference between Jitsi and Jitsi Meet: Jitsi is a roll-your-own solution meaning you can download server packages or code and deploy an instance however you want. Jitsi Meet Online is an extremely easy-to-use alternative solution for holding meetings – with no installation required.

Settings up a meeting is easy as visiting the Jitsi Meet Online link, create a name for the meeting, click Go, set a meeting password, then send out the meeting URL or phone numbers to participants. A meeting can be created in a matter of seconds! Yes, POTS phone service is available as part of the meeting for free. Note, plain old telephone service audio options will not be encrypted due to the nature of the technology. There is nothing to download for desktop PCs with a web browser and most smart devices. Smart phone apps are available for iOS and Android including the F-Droid store. Functionally, Jitsi Meet offers the same features as the others: video, audio, chat, and shared desktop.

If I had to pick one thing that I don’t like about Jitsi it is the use of WebRTC. Web Real-Time Communication is also a free and open-source project that provides web browsers and mobile applications with real-time communication (RTC). WebRTC is included in all modern browsers and enabled by default in most. This technology allows audio and video communication to happen without the need

Jitsi Meet options menu

to install additional plugins or apps. Makes it very easy. There are a couple problems with WebRTC in highly privacy focused implementations. One problem is the communication is direct, peer-to-peer. This makes it possible for a skilled individual to learn real Internet Protocol (IP) addresses even while the other is utilizing a VPN. Use of a VPN can allow a user to appear as though their traffic is coming from a different IP and aids in masking actual location. Corporations use VPNs to establish secure communications from their network to their endpoint devices over networks with unknown integrity. Another problem is that end-to-end encryption is not possible with WebRTC. Jitsi addresses this issue in their security document. End-to-end encryption (also abbreviated “E2EE”) is a method where only the communicating users can read messages exchanged, preventing eavesdroppers anywhere along the communication path.

I wish people used better tools such as Jitsi. That’s why there’s choice. I would use this for any meetings I hosted. It seems like a really good open-source alternative to the other solutions.

Zoom became very popular very quickly, almost overnight. It was even recommended right here in last month’s OSJ. Attacks and threats emerge as a result of that popularity and pose risks for users and clubs who are using these services to host meetings. Cyber criminals are crafting email messages to steal logon credentials and packaging malware to look like a Zoom meeting installer.

For most of us, club meetings are not doing anything that’s overly sensitive with Zoom. Some organizations (companies, agencies) banned the use of Zoom citing flaws in the encryption implementation making it easy to exploit and three Chinese companies develop the applications. These should be taken into consideration but there has been no evidence of influence resulting from these issues. Zoom should be commended, though, due to their responsiveness in correcting vulnerabilities and privacy issues that have been discovered in recent weeks.

Free for accounts, everything is managed by the Zoom cloud, including encryption keys. Data is encrypted between the clients and Zoom servers. However, audio is not encrypted if a paid account is using the POTS phone line options.

Shortly after its popularity exploded, so did the number of unwanted participants in meetings leading to the term “Zoombombing.” Having someone crash a meeting is obnoxious and an unwanted disruption. Examples of this have made the rounds where Zoom sessions were hijacked by individuals saying or showing things that are lewd, obscene, racist, or antisemitic in nature where everyone in the session can see or hear. Students themselves conspired to have pranksters harass teachers in their online classes. Others utilized ‘Wardialing’ tools to discover unsecured Zoom sessions. Wardialing is an early hacking term where every number in an area code was dialed to find computers, bulletin board systems, servers, and fax machines. The resulting list would be used to guess login credentials and gain unauthorized access to those systems. One person I know had her yoga session crashed by an individual cursing and displaying symbols associated with the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. I have not heard about any disruption to ham radio club meetings.

There are steps the organizer can take or have someone else follow the directions in the Zoom support articles to prevent these issues. Not all of these configuration recommendations are needed for every meeting, follow ones applicable to that meeting. For example, you may not want to lock a club meeting from participants but instead use a waiting room approach.

Latest version: ensure participants are using the most recent client version. In April alone, there have been three updates to the Windows client.

Meeting password: posting a meeting link to social media will draw attention. Send the event password to known users through a direct message or other means where your participants are known.

Waiting room: virtual staging area for guests and participants until you’re ready for them to join.

Zoom War Dialer (krebsonsecurity.com)

Manage participants: remove any participants that should not be in the meeting and set who can share their screen.

Disable video, file transfer, annotations, and private chat: cut down on distractions, unsolicited content, or messages as needed.

Accidental removal of a participant: a booted user cannot rejoin a session using the same email address unless a few settings are changed.

Put participants on hold during breaks: attendees audio and video can be disabled during lunch, bio breaks, or private moments.

Video recordings: exercise discretion when recording content and know where that content is stored. Paid customers have the option to record a meeting to the cloud.

Following these tips can lead to a successful, uninterrupted meeting.

I saw a posting by the developer of the MMDVM software, Jonathan – G4KLX. Digital hotspot and repeater owners should follow these guidelines.

This message contains important information that I want disseminated far and wide please.

I have been approached by the people who run aprs.fi and REF001/REF030 (not the same people) about problems being caused by hotspots. This is down to usage and I hope that people will act on this information:

1. APRS, it is important that when configuring your hotspot, that you ensure that the suffix used for accessing aprs.fi is unique. For example if you use more than one hotspot, then ensure that for every mode and for every hotspot, the aprs.fi access callsign is unique. This is usually done by specifying a unique suffix to the callsign used by the hotspot. If more than one hotspot attempts to access aprs.fi with the same callsign+suffix combination, the first one is thrown off, and the new one connects. In the meantime the original one tries to connect and throw the new one off. This can happen multiple times per second, and is causing problems for them. Please, please, please, look at your configurations and if you have a duplicate, change one of them.

2. REF001/REF030, apparently the network load on these D-Star reflectors is now very high due to the number of hotspots connecting and staying connected. Could you please consider changing your gateway configuration so that you disconnect after a certain period of inactivity (this means local RF activity) so that they aren't overloaded. I know we like to listen out for activity, but we must also realise that D-Star popular reflectors const money to run, and that includes network and processor usage. A quick look at their dashboards will reveal the problem, they're huge.

Jonathan G4KLX

Set unique SSIDs for APRS on different modes and on different hotspots. Finding where APRS information originates isn’t always easy with hotspots. The OpenSPOT 1 has a location information box in settings but it is not transmitted directly by that device, rather Brandmeister pushes that information to the APRS network. Disabling APRS data on the Pi-STAR requires editing the config files and setting priority messages in Brandmeister. The priority message solution should work for OpenSPOT devices too.

ZUMSpot on Raspberry Pi Zero compared to a quarter

Unlink from reflectors, talkgroups, and systems when you’re not using them, especially ones with large numbers of connected users. Users are apparently leaving their devices connected to popular reflectors ting up bandwidth and resources unnecessarily.

To put this into perspective, when I looked at REF001 there were 850 remote/hotspot users connected, about the same on REF030. A mere 12 had transmitted since they were connected. A 5 second transmission is about 9KB worth of Internet traffic. Multiply that by 850 connected devices, that’s 7.6MB of traffic in 5 seconds to connected hotspots, many of which are not being used. That’s an estimated 80 gigabytes or so for an hour-long net. There are ping/heartbeat packets to all connected devices even when the reflector does not have an active radio transmission taking place.

Please check your hotspot APRS configurations and disconnect when not in use.

K8JTK Hub Interlink System

Anyone wanting a place to meet-up for checking on friends and fellow hams or looking for something to do can use a system I’ve been working on the last few months. Currently, it offers 6 full-time ham radio VoIP modes interlinked for interoperability. Ways to access the system:

  • EchoLink: K8JTK-R 233196
  • AllStar Link: 50394
  • Hamshack Hotline: 94026
  • DMR: Brandmeister TG 31983
  • D-STAR: DCS/XLX983 A
  • YSF: K8JTK Hub 17374

Since I’m working from home, I’ve linked up my Wires-X room: K8JTK-ROOM 40680

More information or updates on the system: http://www.k8jtk.org/ham-radio/k8jtk-hub-digital-voip-mutimode-interlink-system/

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – March 2020 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Now that we’re all sequestered to our homes, what the heck do we do to not go iNsAnE? Idle down time is an opportunity to learn something new, catch up on lingering projects, or improve operating skills – all while staying sane. Improve operating skills can mean getting on the air, making conversation with new friends, checking in on our brethren, or practice being a better operator.

Ideas for learning something new: study for a license or upgrade, learn a new mode or Morse Code, configure your station for digital modes and get on the OHDEN net, make or update a DMR code plug, setup a hot spot, configure a Raspberry Pi to learn Linux or Python, make an APRS RX IGate with an RTL-SDR, setup Hamshack Hotline, make an AllStar node, or learn about MakerSpaces and how we can draw like-minded people into the hobby.

Free time is a good time to tackle the “I’ll get around to it” tasks, aka “the to do list.” That maybe fix/repair/replace a broken antenna, spring cleaning of the shack, selling or getting rid of unused equipment, organize or clean out junk piles, install that new radio, configure the new radio, figure out a lingering problem, clean out old data files and documents on a computer, phone, or cloud storage account, or purge and clean out email messages.

Pirates

While everyone has downtime, not everyone is using it for good. I’ve received reports since the imposed staycation of what can be described as pirate “preppers” appearing on local repeater systems and simplex frequencies. Preppers, as they are often referred, sometimes called survivalists, “is a movement of individuals or groups who actively prepare for emergencies, including possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales from local to international.” Survival preparations range from job loss to stockpiling supplies to building self-sufficient structures. They appear to be “testing” and asking for text message signal reports from their buddies. The have also been holding informal nets on simplex frequencies. It’s funny they want to communicate off-the-grid but are using the grid to receive text messages. Obviously, they don’t present a call sign and do not properly identify. One can only speculate that they obtained a wonderful (read: crappie) BaoFeng radio for a couple bucks, figured out how to program it or are passing around a codeplug someone found or programmed for them.

When these stations appear, first kindly remind them they are using a licensed service and obtaining a license is easy. Provide them resources for obtaining a license through the ARRL study manuals, an online resource like HamExam or Ham Test Online. While they maybe illegally transmitting now, encouraging them to take a license exam will strengthen numbers and get them legal regardless.

If, after repeated attempts of encouragement to become licensed, they continue to appear on frequencies, politely ask them to immediately stop transmitting. Keep calm, cool, and collected on the air. DO NOT become irate. Continuing to transmit in this manner qualifies as willful or malicious interference. Do not engage them further. Contact the repeater owner or control operator and see if disabling the repeater is an option. If shutting the repeater is not desired, see if the owner wants you to document incidents. If they do, you are the repeater owner/control operator, or they are using a simplex frequency, record audio as part of documenting process. The FCC requires specific information that includes dates, times, and frequency(ies). Audio recordings dramatically strengthens the case. A VOX activated recording program with logging, such as Scanner Recorder, and feeding the audio into the computer from the radio’s speaker jack makes this easy. Scanner Recorder automatically logs the date and time of the recordings. Verify the audio is clear and understandable by doing a sample recording.

KerberosSDR

Locating the offending station will take some work. Contact someone who has access to direction finding equipment. Some of our Technical Specialists have access to this equipment. KerberosSDR is a low-cost direction-finding alternative option which employs four RTL-SDR devices. There are a number of YouTube videos on setting up and using the KerberosSDR on their site. It might be “good enough” but not as good as professional equipment.

Do not indicate to the other station they are being tracked or located as they will likely cease transmissions, preventing an accurate location fix. Multiple readings and triangulation techniques will be utilized to pin-point the origin. If a location is determined, DO NOT engage. Document the findings and file a complaint with the FCC. Local authorities will likely be of little help unless one is active in the ham community and really understands the situation.

Windows 10 Free Upgrade

I ran into my neighbor, John WG8H, who is a long-time friend of my dad, at a local hamfest before they were all canceled. He said ‘I read your article on Windows 7 but couldn’t find anything about taking advantage of the Windows 10 free upgrade.’ I found references online that indicated the upgrade was still active and available but had not gone through the process recently. Figured the ‘out of support’ messages that appeared in Win7 would instruct a user how to do this. They did not.

Officially, the free upgrade program has ended. However, this process gave me an upgraded version of Windows 7 to Windows 10. It’s really in Microsoft’s best interest to have as many machines upgraded as possible. Check this forum post for more details or if you run into issues. As always, backup first! On a Windows 7 machine you wish to upgrade, it must have Internet access.

  • Go to: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10
  • Under “Create Windows 10 installation media,” click Download tool now
  • Signed in with an administrator account, run the downloaded Media Creation Tool on the local machine. “Run as administrator” will not work and it will tell you to sign into an administrator account first.
  • When the tool starts up, accept the license agreement
  • On the “What do you want to do?” screen, select Upgrade this PC now
  • Click Next
  • Follow the rest of the on-screen prompts to completion

I was testing on a machine that had an unsupported Win10 driver. If this message appears where drivers are not supported in Windows 10, I clicked Confirm and it proceeded. Upgrade these afterwards.

When the upgrade to Windows 10 is complete:

  • Click Start
  • Click Settings (gear)
  • Click Update & Security
  • Click Activation
  • Confirm the resulting window shows “Activation: Windows is activated with a digital license.” If activation failed, there was not a valid key installed on Windows 7 prior to upgrade.

Click Windows Update and apply updates – including the cumulative optional updates.

To tie the activation to you and the PC requires signing into Windows 10 with a Microsoft account. On the Settings home screen, click Accounts and follow the links to create a Microsoft account or login to an existing account. Otherwise, try following Reactivating Windows 10 after a hardware change if activation fails after a reinstall or hardware change.

It might be possible to update a Win7 machine that does not have Internet access by selecting the Create installation media option when prompted in the Media Creation Tool. Though I did not validate this.

K8JTK Hub Interlink System

Anyone wanting a place to meet-up for checking on friends and fellow hams or looking for something to do can use a system I’ve been working on the last few months. Currently, it offers 6 full-time ham radio VoIP modes interlinked for interoperability. Ways to access the system:

  • EchoLink: K8JTK-R 233196
  • AllStar Link: 50394
  • Hamshack Hotline: 94026
  • DMR: Brandmeister TG 31983
  • D-STAR: DCS/XLX983 A
  • YSF: K8JTK Hub 17374

Since I’m working from home, I’ve linked up my Wires-X room: K8JTK-ROOM 40680

More information or updates on the system: http://www.k8jtk.org/ham-radio/k8jtk-hub-digital-voip-mutimode-interlink-system/

Thanks for reading, stay sane, and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – February 2020 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Well. Windows 7 reached end-of-life on January 14, 2020. Systems didn’t meltdown. Internet is still running. The world didn’t end. Reaching “end of life” in Information Technology verbiage means the vendor no longer supports the software (or hardware in other cases), won’t provide security updates, and won’t fix bugs or problems. End-of-life (often abbreviated “EOL”) also implies there is a more recent version or iteration that is supported for those things mentioned above. Supported as opposed to the developer throwing in the towel or the company going out of business where there are no updates for other reasons. Windows 7 was my favorite version of Windows – the look and feel was nice, functionally made sense, and it was fast. Reality is that computers running Windows 7 will continue to work as they always have, but start considering alternatives.

No: Windows 7 will not stop working, you don’t need to run out and buy a Windows 10 computer, your files won’t be removed, past Windows 7 updates won’t be pulled from Windows Update, ISPs won’t disconnect you from the Internet for using Windows 7, caches of Windows 7 exploits will not be unleashed.

As with all past Microsoft operating systems, patches and updates will be available on their website and through the Windows Update service for all EOL operating system versions. An install of Windows 2000 can still receive all updates until it went EOL. No updates will be available to implement the latest in encryption enhancements, support newer hardware or protect from newer exploits found in the OS. One thing to note about Windows 7 is there were updates to the Windows Update process during its lifetime. You will run into problems updating a fresh Windows 7 install through the regular Windows Update process.

Your ISP won’t disconnect you for using older versions of Windows. The company you work for will most likely update your machine if it hasn’t been done already. This depends on license and support agreements with Microsoft or reseller. Most companies actively replace equipment to comply with those agreements, replace depreciated assets, and keep equipment current as a way to mitigate exploits that propagate through older operating system configurations.

Yes: you need to stop using Internet Explorer, you can still get the free upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 (for now), you can dismiss the full page Windows 10 update nag screen, you need to patch Windows 7, extended patches from Microsoft are available for a fee, there are third-party alternative patching systems; software, devices, and browsers will continue to work, most programs will still support Windows 7 – at least in the short term.

For the love of all that is holy, stop. using. Internet Explorer. Not only is it riddled with bugs and security flaws, Microsoft keeps flailing round with standards even in Microsoft Edge, which is never a good sign. Chrome is the market leader at over 80% and reports suspected security issues to Google for mitigation or blocking in the browser. However, if you’re not a fan of “the Goog” knowing everything you view on the Internet or heavy-handed implementations in the name of security, alternatives are: Firefox the favorite with Linux users, the privacy focused Brave browser, or Opera if you want to be a one-percenter.

Microsoft offers extended patching (with associated fees) for Windows 7, usually for corporate customers. Consumers can get in on the action but they make it very complicated. Third-party patching is available through companies such as 0patch. The service is free for personal use and non-profit educational use. There are good reviews and many recommendations to use this service. Using these services requires a certain level of trust leaving the responsibility of fixing complex programs to a third-party – because we all know Microsoft has NEVER had problems getting their updates right.

Early Microsoft Windows 10 free update notification aimed at tricking the user into installing software they don’t want, similar tactics are used by spyware authors

The nag screen which recently started (re)appearing for Windows 7 users, reminding them to upgrade, can be dismissed. Click the text that says “Don’t remind me again” – and it actually seems to work as opposed to the weird mind games that were played during the initial push after Windows 10 was launched. Displaying this message raised awareness and reminded users about the impending DOOM of end-of-life. Continuing to offer the free upgrade is an incentive for moving users to a supported OS. Netmarketshare shows Windows 7 utilization is still around 25-30% or about 1-in-3 computers still runs Windows 7.

I was contacted by Jeff – KA8SBI who felt there was a lot of F.U.D. about Windows 7 EOL in the media and he is content using his Windows XP machine. He pointed out “A lot of security flaws have been in the browser.” A small number of browsers still support XP. Anti-malware and anti-virus programs still offer older operating system support as well.

Here’s the argument against running old and outdated crap on the Internet. I am of the school of thought that if you’re connecting any device to a larger network (ie: the Internet), that device (computer, Raspberry Pi, router, switch, server, security camera, TV, printer, DVR, repeater, hotspot, phone, car) must have currently supported operating systems and software. It is each user’s responsibility on the network to be good citizens, follow best practices, and not act as a conduit for spreading malware and exploits. The most effective way to do this is by keeping devices updated and current.

The argument can be made that ‘manufacturers force consumers to buy new devices by not providing any updates.’ Everyone wants their stuff cheap and buying cheap crap leads to these problems. Manufactures barely break-even on most devices let alone leave any extra for updates beyond initial device release. Consumers want to use the device well beyond its serviceable life too. A report released by the Commerce Department outlined things manufactures should do to reduce the number of attacks. It made some good points but was mostly vague [updated link for the report].

Jeff’s point about third-party anti-virus and anti-malware programs that still support XP is a valid one and will help. I stopped and don’t recommend using third-party anti-virus because they were found to downgrade the security of an encrypted session, like ones established during financial transactions, interacting with health care providers, or really almost all Internet communications today.

Remember, though, nothing is ever 100% secure. Secure just means there are no known vulnerabilities – until a researcher or hacker finds one. To Jeff’s point about the flaws being in the browser, the number that exist in the underlying operating system and supporting technologies including OS kernel, .NET framework, Office, database engines, media players, and graphics interpreters are just as important. Microsoft has never completely rebuilt Windows from scratch which is why vulnerabilities often apply across all versions of Windows. It’s the same underlying computer code. Search for stories about important Windows patches. It will often include some verbiage like ‘affects all versions of Windows.’ Some exploits are deemed so bad that Microsoft actually went back and patched some EOL versions, like XP. That does not mean there are no other vulnerabilities because there is no patch. Microsoft is not spending resources on an 18-year-old piece of technology. Non-patched issues still make a system vulnerable and less secure overall.

Ransomware is malware that encrypts files of importance on a system. That is things like downloads, programs, documents, PDFs, spreadsheets, pictures, movies, intellectual property, databases, or public records on local and network attached storage devices. Encryption renders these files unreadable and unusable. The malware then demands a ransom payment to obtain the decryption key and restore files to their usable state. Ransomware is lucrative for the bad guys because no one has effective backups of their data. Various companies, schools, health care, manufacturing, oil and gas, infrastructure, and municipalities have all been infected with ransomware and often pay the ransom. It is an economic trade-off between how much of a payment are the bad guys demanding versus time and effort it would take to restore their systems. Do a search for “ransomware attack” in your favorite search engine and browse the stories to get an idea of the scope and effectiveness of ransomware.

One thing that caused me pause around the details of the ransomware attack on the Georgia Department of Public Safety was a comment about the communication systems being affected. Believe it or not, their old radio system was still functional. This got me thinking about the radio system that covers the state of Ohio or regional systems and how they could easily be taken offline because of this type of attack. I have no knowledge of any instances where these systems were involved in such an attack – this is simply theoretical. As evidenced by the news story, it’s realistic to believe these attacks can take down a state-of-the-art radio communications system. Could be due to a targeted attack, a single computer where someone clicked a malicious link, someone viewed an infected attachment in a dispatch center, or even because of an infected authorized vendor or reseller of radio equipment for the system. Target anyone? It was an HVAC vendor that was compromised which lead to Target’s massive credit card breach. How many public service agencies still have their old/analog communication systems functional to fall back on if something like this took place?

Ransomware infections are utilizing and spreading through the EternalBlue exploit and BlueKeep exploit. EternalBlue, in particular, is present in all versions of Windows (see?) back to Windows 95!! It targets and attacks weak configurations of the SMB (Server Message Block) protocol used for sharing files, printers, and devices between hosts on a network. Microsoft has patched all versions back to Windows XP, even though XP is EOL. Win95, Win98, WinNT, and Win2000 were never patched and won’t be patched. The EternalBlue vulnerability still exists in fully patched systems running those operating systems.

Impending DOOM

I will keep using Windows 7 in the shack and as my Virtual Machine OS when I need a Windows VM. It will get replaced eventually. The reason I replace it will probably come due to loss of functionality, loss of application or hardware support for a particular program or device I want to use. Firefox was noted for supporting older operating systems. However, after 3 years of extended XP support, Firefox dropped support due to low usage and significant development time being devoted to working around issues in the operating system instead of providing enhancements on supported platforms. Sooner-than-later Windows 7 support will be dropped in favor of more recent and supported platforms.

Don’t have to jump ship on Windows 7 now unless there is a specific reason. Maybe a new computer device purchase is imminent, which will include Windows 10. Or if it’s desired to still use the old machine, maybe consider a move to a supported version of Linux!

Windows 7 is dead, long live Windows 7!

2020 ARRL Great Lakes Convention

The Great Lakes Division Convention and Hamfest 2020 sponsored by the Toledo Mobile Radio Association will be here soon. It is a two-day event with ARRL Great Lakes Convention Forums on Saturday, March 14, 2020 followed by the Toledo Hamfest on the 15th. I’ve been asked to give two presentations back-to-back on Saturday. Tentatively, the first on the Raspberry Pi and how it became a popular device with makers followed by NBEMS philosophy. I’m very proud of both presentations. The NBEMS philosophy has been presented as training in the Ohio Section and adopted by other ARES groups in other Sections. Details, locations, times, and tickets are all available on the convention’s website. Hope to see you there!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

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. 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 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. 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,

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

As 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 – 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

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – August 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: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Aug-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

One ham in our section was having WiFi issues on his back deck. Inside was no problem. Outside the house, the WiFi signal was zero. The service provider was contacted and a technician was sent. On site, the technician tested the line and indoor modem/gateway unit, which is also his WiFi access point. All tested fine.

What does this have to do with ham radio? Nothing. Until the technician said the cause of his WiFi problem was his 160-10m dipole in the back yard. It was very suspicious to the tech and is the cause of his WiFi issues ‘according to their training.’ It got better. Because the tech didn’t have anything like this “suspicious” antenna and had WiFi in his own backyard, this must be the problem of course! This is where I was contacted to consult on the issue.

More likely they are trained that WiFi interference is caused by other sources of RF. This is true. They’re probably trained to spot other nearby transmitting services like police, fire, cell towers, or any building with antennas. Other transmitting equipment will raise the noise floor and may cause interference. The ham didn’t seem to be in the vicinity of other services and this issue was occurring even while he was not transmitting. The suspicious antenna argument was, of course, unfounded.

If you are in the same situation, here are some tips to help determine and solve WiFi problems. Two causes of coverage issues are signal strength or interference. A signal strength problem is most often the culprit where the access point reaches the device but the device doesn’t have the signal strength to communicate back to the access point. Causes could be distance to the access point or some building material is blocking the signal like metal siding or rebar.

ASUS RT-AC5300

Most obvious solution to resolve signal strength issues is move the access point closer to where you want coverage. If the living room and an office needs the best coverage, locate it in close proximity to those locations. This poses problems if the access point has to be located near a certain phone or cable drop in the house (like the basement) because it also doubles as the modem/gateway from the provider. Carrier issued devices with access points are only “OK” for coverage. Mostly because there are no external antennas. The reason access points have multiple external antennas is for diversity reception and something called “beamforming.” Some can detect where the device is located relative to the access point by doing its own version of direction finding. Using multiple antennas, it aims more signal at that device. As ridiculous as the AC5300 access point looks, this is an extreme example of a router capable of beamforming.

There are two bands for consumer WiFi in the United States: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The device and access point must have both radios to utilize both bands. Typically cell phones and tablets made in the last 5 years are dual-band WiFi. Other portable devices like laptops probably have both but not always. The first Raspberry Pi WiFi module I purchased is 2.4 only. While 5GHz offers more channels and is typically ‘quieter,’ meaning not as many devices and access points, it does not equal coverage of 2.4GHz. 2.4 will have better comparable range.

Interference is another cause of WiFi issues. This could be from another WiFi access point or many access points in an overly saturated environment like an apartment. Since WiFi is low power, anything can easily jam it such as Bluetooth devices and microwaves. In the US, 2.4GHz access points are supposed to be on channel 1, 6, or 11. But nothing is stopping anyone from using adjacent channels. Using adjacent channels causes interference.

WiFi Analyzer (img: Play Store)

Using channel 4 will interfere with both 1 & 6 because of the bandwidth overlap. Interference is typically seen as a strong WiFi signal followed by a significant drop in signal. Things that can create broadband noise like a noisy power supply/transformer or noisy florescent ballast could be interfering near the access point or area you want to have signal.

Ideal thing to do is a “site survey” with a tool like NetSpot. It will create a signal strength heat map of your access point coverage around the house. There is a free version but it is limited. Another program that identifies the WiFi landscape (access points, devices nearby, channels used) is inSSIDer (free version is near the bottom of the page) available for PC and Mac. A similar program to inSSIDer is WiFi Analyzer for Android. These programs will give relative signal strengths but only at that moment. You could plot the signal strength readings to generate your own heat map.

To relocate a WiFi access point without moving the provided modem/gateway, first disable the WiFi in the carrier provided device. Then run an Ethernet cable to a point as close to the location where coverage is desired. Find any old router with WiFi. Configure the WiFi settings in that router, disable the internal DHCP service, then plug the older router into the Ethernet cable. Though any old WiFi router will work, there have been WiFi vulnerabilities discovered as recently as last month where bad-guys can gain access. Use devices with updated firmware.

Another option is try a WiFi range extender/booster or a look at a better access point. Extenders range from $20 to a couple hundred. They connect to your existing WiFi like any other device and re-broadcast the WiFi signal without any additional wiring. I’m a fan of ones that accept third-party firmware like Tomato or DD-WRT.

For the ham who contacted me, he decided to go with a range extender available from his carrier and placed it near the back deck. This is the best option as it would be fully supported and could get help setting it up if needed. Note there is a WiFi technical limitation with extenders that can cut transfer speeds. However, for web browsing and HD streaming, you won’t even notice any reduction.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK