Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – February 2019 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

Strange tones (circled in orange) on the Fldigi waterfall

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

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

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

RX RSID enabled

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

RSID announcement

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

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

TX RSID enabled

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

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

Transmission mode list

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

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

RSID notification

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

WWV update

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – January 2019 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inexpensive USB Sound Card

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

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

Audacity

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

Scanner Recorder

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

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

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

In my experience, what does work?

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

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

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

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

Fedora Cinnamon spin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – November 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-Nov-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

A couple years ago, Medina county asked me to create a training session for them on how to use Fldigi specifically for NBEMS. Recently, Lorain county ARES encouraged participants to utilize NBEMS methods. NBEMS stands for Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System. It is a set of standards for the ham radio community to communicate with each other using text and E-mail type traffic. Standards are good to have so there is not a situation where different groups use different digital standards and cannot communicate between themselves.

Two hams are responsible for the NBEMS standards: Dave – W1HKJ, author and maintainer of the Fldigi suite of applications, and Skip – KH6TY, author of one of the first PSK applications, Digipan. Their idea was to have a prolific digital communication standard that followed these important principals:

  • Utilize radios, software, and hardware that are used in every day ham radio (familiarity)
  • Inexpensive. All can participate. Older computers can be used.
  • Simple. No steep learning curve in an emergency situation but flexible.
  • Independent of infrastructure

To make digital interaction possible: a radio, computer, interface between the two, and software to tie it all together is needed. An interface is typically a device like the SignaLink or RigBlaster. One nice thing about NBEMS, it’s possible to operate MT63-2KL by holing your radio up to the computer. This means a separate interface is not required. It’s great in a pinch but doesn’t provide an ideal operating situation.

Fldigi is a modem application. It modulates and demodulates – what sounds like noise – into data. Flmsg, used in conjunction, is a forms manager. It allows you to create and reply to standardized forms and verify reception through a checksum. A checksum is an algorithm used to detect errors in storage or transmission. Standard forms included are ICS, IARU, Radiogram, or the ability to send CSV data. CSV is a plain-text file that stores tabular data with each line being a single record contains one or more fields separated by commas. In NBEMS, CSV is a low-bandwidth way to transfer Excel documents without formatting and extra Meta data. As an example: a Excel document can be 17 kB in size but the same data exported to plain-text CSV is only 5 kB.

Tim – NC8OS, EC for Lorain, asked if I would give an Fldigi training session, which I was more than happy to do. A few years passed since I gave similar training in Medina. A number of changes have happened and it was time to update my presentation. Changes include much more frequent (and not always stable) Fldigi and Flmsg updates, changes in work flows – especially within Flmsg, and I have gained more experience interacting and interfacing with digital nets across the country.

Fldigi had some cosmetic changes, mostly around the menus and configurations. Workflow changes in Flmsg seem like they could be beneficial but were poorly implemented. Luckily, we can go back to familiar behavior. Most important lesson I’ve picked up: all these whiz-bang things are tools. This or any other technology needs to be played with to figure out how it can be best utilized (offering a real advantage), how it can be utilized efficiently, and have people who know how to use these tools. Groups are finding digital operators are ones who have the least amount of problems and greater success during drills than someone who hasn’t opened the application in 6 months. This, too, means someone who wants to become successful needs to practice, practice, and practice by operating, participating in practice nets or starting one if one is not available.

For my presentations and training, I feel people get much more out of a hands-on session. I encouraged participants to bring their stations or go-boxes which helped facilitate a great question and answer session to address a good number of problems. Eric – N8AUC, DEC for District 10, was on hand to answer questions as well. We accomplished a lot, answered a lot of questions, and got them on the right track.

I learned that I need to be figuring out interactions with this combination of hardware, software, and Windows 10. As more people are upgrading, replacing computers, or purchasing new devices this means more questions and issues will center on the most widely used operating system platform. Though I have stopped using Win 10 in favor of Linux, I do need to spend time with it to better answer those types of questions.

Thank you to Lorain ARES for allowing me the opportunity to pass on knowledge about digital and NBEMS. My presentation is available online on my website. Contact me about setting up a training session with myself or a Technical Specialist if you would like to host a session on NBEMS.

Speaking of Technical Specialists, another meeting night idea for your club is to hold a “Test and Tune Night.” Dave – KD8TWG hosted one of these events for LEARA. It usually ends up being a “Test and Test Night” because the operating manual does not have the information on how to make adjustments. Those are found in a Service Manual. Professional test equipment was on hand including Service Monitors, wattmeters, and analyzers to test radios, scanners, and coax. Dave could tell you if that $30 Baofeng is compliant with spectral requirements. VERY good chance it won’t be.

Dave reminded all of us that Part 97 certifies us as operators to be compliant with the rules. This allows us to build our own radios and not have to do something crazy like file a testing and compliance report with the FCC for a home brew project. Just because the radio ‘sounds good,’ ‘does everything I need,’ or ‘was cheap’ doesn’t mean it works correctly especially when transmitting. It is up to each of us as hams to make sure our equipment is compliant. Contact Dave or myself to help get a Test and Tune night for your club.

It’s that time of year again! For the 13th consecutive year, The 3916 Nets will be presenting The Santa Net on 3.916 MHz. Good girls and boys can talk to Santa Claus, via amateur radio, nightly at 8:30 PM (Eastern) starting Friday, November 23, 2018. The Santa Net will run nightly at 8:30 PM Eastern through Christmas Eve, December 24, 2018. This fun opportunity is great for connecting kids or grandchildren with the Head Elf himself. Details and updates will be made via their Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/3916santanet/.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

NBEMS – An Introduction Using Fldigi and Flmsg presentations

I was asked to give a presentation on using Fldigi and Flmsg in NBEMS — Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System (or Software).

Framework

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

Navigation

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

Toggle full screen: press [F11].

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

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

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

Links

Clickable links are colored in blue text.

Presentations

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

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

Slides

Introduction to NBEMS

The presentation is about 60 minutes in length.

Presentation version
Printable version
PDF version

This presentation was given at the following meetings:
Lorain County ARES on 10/21/2018.

VHF/UHF NBEMS

This is an older version without the HF information.

The presentation is about 60 minutes in length.

Presentation version
Printable version
PDF version

This presentation was given at the following meetings:
Medina County ARES on 11/10/2015.
Mansfield Hamfest on 2/21/2016.

NBEMS – Doing It The Ham Radio Way

Archived from: uspacket [dot] org/network/index.php?topic=44.0

Archive reason: domain expired, server shutdown, or otherwise unaccessible.

Notes: Some reformatting applied.

I do not take any credit for the content or make any claim of accuracy.


NBEMS – Doing It The Ham Radio Way
by Charles Brabham, N5PVL
Updated 06-27-2012

NBEMS ( Narrow-Band Emergency Message System ) is perhaps the best solution available for moving eMail and other text-based information over amateur radio frequencies, to handle emergency communications. Here I will outline the reasons that I have come to this conclusion after reviewing the available amateur radio messaging systems.

Mission Parameters:

Our mission is simple. – To provide an alternate means of moving messages into and out of a disaster area where regular internet access has become compromised, is limited or nonexistent. For this purpose, it is seldom necessary to transport messages or eMail via amateur radio any farther than 100 miles or so, or to move any great volume of data. It is important however that the messages get through with 100% accuracy, and in a timely manner. In most cases, this service will be needed for anywhere from a few hours up to several days.

Considerations for Amateur Radio Operators:

For amateur radio operators, the best method is to utilize the radios, software and equipment that we use every day for ham radio, and so are already familiar and comfortable with. The system should be inexpensive and easy to use so that all amateurs may participate, and are not faced with a steep learning curve in order to be ready to act in an emergency. Extensive training and drilling should not be required in order for hams to function well when needed. There also should be some flexibility to handle different needs of unexpected situations that may be encountered. The system should work independently of existing infrastructure, and require no costly and complicated infrastructure of its own.

NBEMS

I have reviewed the amateur radio eMail and messaging systems in current use, and have found that NBEMS best covers the mission parameters and the considerations for amateur radio operators outlined above.

NBEMS was developed as a collaborative effort between Dave Freese W1HKJ and Skip Teller KH6TY, the developer of the popular DIGIPAN PSK31 software. It consists of a suite of programs that send text, images and eMail files error-free. The two main programs, FLDIGI and FLARQ are designed to run under Linux, Free-BSD, Mac OS, Windows XP, Win2000, Vista and Windows7.

The NBEMS system is designed to operate on all amateur bands, but is optimized for short to medium range communications such as SSB VHF, or HF with an NVIS antenna can provide. It can also be utilized on VHF FM, and even operated through a FM voice repeater at need.

Digital modes currently recommended for HF NBEMS operations are: OLIVIA 8/500, OLIVIA 16/500, MT63 1k, PSK-125R and PSK-250R. For VHF use on simplex or through a repeater, MT63 2k is recommended and can be used to good effect without a soundcard interface.

The free FLDIGI multimode soundcard software offers many digital modes, but the modes listed above are most often associated with NBEMS. Amateurs who use FLDIGI for everyday QSOs in PSK31, Hell, Olivia, MT63 etc. will be familiar with the software when occasion calls for the NBEMS system to be called up.

An optional part of NBEMS is the FLARQ software, which provides the interface to your eMail program, and which also provides the ARQ feature for NBEMS which gives you 100% accurate transmissions of the messages and images you transmit. In addition to email, you can send comma delimited spread sheets/data bases, text, and many ICS form-based messages.

The FLWRAP add-on program allows you to transmit a bulletin to an unlimited number of stations simultaneously. Each recipient can confirm individually whether they have received the data with 100% accuracy, as FLWRAP generates a checksum for each message.

The FLMSG program makes authoring, sending and receiving text, ICS-205, ICS-206, ICS-213, ICS-214, and ICS-216 forms in addition to ARRL Radiograms a simple point and click proposition.

NBEMS Features:

  • Inexpensive ( free soundcard software )
  • Simple to use, reducing training requirements
  • Effective, perfectly tailored to the EMS mission
  • Narrowband modes conserve spectrum
  • A live operator on each end, eliminating interference potential
  • Flexible enough for use with most equipment under most conditions
  • The software is great for everyday use, again reducing training requirements
  • Specialized add-on software for net control, rig control, callbook data, logging etc. are available

To learn more about NBEMS and to download the software:

Basic information and software download:

http://www.w1hkj.com/

NBEMS info and a downloadable PowerPoint presentation:

http://www.wpanbems.org/

ARRL articles about NBEMS:

http://www.wpaares.org/ecom.html

http://www.arrl.org/nbems

Informative Weblog article about NBEMS:

http://wedothatradio.wordpress.com/2008/04/14/nbems/

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – October 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-Oct-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Digital mode access points, often called hotspots, have been in the news lately. Those are the 10mW personal devices used by digital operators to cover a relatively small area like a house, car, or hotel room. Instead of tying up a gateway repeater, which largely connects local users to the Internet, many have opted for these low-powered devices to provide similar functionality. Advantages over a repeater are the hotspot owner has complete control over which reflector, repeater, or talkgroup their hotspot is connected to. They are not beholden to the preferences of the repeater owner and have the flexibility to use their hotspot however they’d like. Many use them mobile in the car or take them on a trip allowing them to enjoy their favorite digital modes where there may not be repeater coverage.

Hotspot devices in general are about the size of a deck or two of cards and require an Internet connection, computer to run the software, application or web browser for configuration, and a radio capable of operating each mode. An Internet connection can be your home WiFi or cellphone hotspot (as in WiFi-hotspot). The original OpenSpot was the only device that required a wired Ethernet connection. A PC computer may serve as the Internet connection for USB access points. The computer could be a Raspberry Pi in many cases or might be completely self-contained. A web browser or application is needed to make configuration changes and adjustments such as call sign, transmit frequency, mode, or network. These hotspots are the RF gateway to the internet which means a radio capable of transmitting and receiving that mode is also required. Few hotspots today are single mode like the D-STAR DVAP. Nearly all on the market are capable of operating multi-mode and connecting to associated networks. To operate DMR the user would need a capable DMR radio, a capable Fusion radio for the Fusion networks, and so-on.

Hotspots can utilize the many available modes & networks:

  • DMR: BrandMeister, DMRplus, XLX
  • D-STAR: DCS, DPlus, XRF, XLX
  • Fusion: FCS, YSFReflector
  • NXDN: NXDNReflector
  • P25: P25Reflector

A keen eye might ask about Wires-X, P25net, or DMR-MARC. Those networks cater to a specific manufacturer of equipment and are often closed to other vendors. You might be able to reach resources on those networks because someone has cross-linked a closed network with an open network, usually at the point where digital signals turn into analog audio. This is how a user can be on Wires-X America Link and talk with a DMR user.

Hotspots and satellites

Not the Dave Matthews Band song Satellite either. A major issue for other hams has been caused by hotspot users. Every hotspot user and repeater owner reading this needs to verify your operating frequencies and take corrective action, if required. Under Part 97, hotspot devices are considered an auxiliary station. Auxiliary stations cannot operate within the satellite sub bands. Many hotspots are operating there illegally. Satellite sub bands for 2 & 440 are:

  • 2 m: 145.800 – 146.000
  • 70 cm: 435.000 – 438.000

If your hotspot is operating within those frequencies or near the edges, within the weak-signal sub bands, or any other sub band likely to cause issues, you need to take corrective action now!

In general, advice would be to ‘check with the local frequency coordinator’ but experience with the coordinating group indicates they won’t be of any help. What should you do? Note: this advice only applies to the U.S. band plan. Every band plan I’ve seen has the satellite sub bands defined. I do like the ARRL’s Band Plan because it spells out many details not included in graphical representations. The band plan has allowances in the following frequency ranges for simplex, auxiliary stations and control links:

  • 146.400 – 146.580. Usable (at 12.5 KHz spacing): 146.4125 – 146.5675
  • 433.000 – 435.000. Usable (at 12.5 KHz spacing): 433.0125 – 434.9875
  • 445.000 – 447.000. Usable (at 12.5 KHz spacing): 445.0125 – 446.9875

“Usable” indicates the lower and upper frequency limits that can be used with a digital hotspot. Don’t forget to stay away from the national calling frequencies of 146.520 and 446.000. Some of these ranges are shared with repeater links so remember: it is your responsibility to ensure correct operation of your equipment and find a frequency not already in use before using it! There is NO excuse for not adjusting frequency to eliminate interference with other operators and equipment! Listen to the desired frequency by setting up a radio or scanner with the volume turned up. If you hear any kind of obvious traffic, data bursts, or digital screeching, pick another frequency then rinse and repeat. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated!

OpenSPOT2

Right after Dayton I started hearing rumors that the OpenSPOT was discontinued. Not the news you want to hear if you just purchased one at Dayton. The website eventually confirmed the rumors and that another device was to be announced “soon,” which turned into months. Finally, the SharkRF OpenSPOT2 was announced. This replacement addresses many issues of the now legacy device including the need for a wired Ethernet connection, limited portability, and lack of newer digital modes.

Feature-wise it is nearly the same but includes a much-needed internal WiFi antenna and support for NXDN and P25 (two up-and-coming digital modes in ham radio). It includes POCSAG which I’m not familiar but told is a paging standard. Those under 35 have no idea what a pager is. The device operates off a USB-C cable (included) and looks to be about the size of a computer mouse. It will still have cross-mode support for DMR and Fusion radios and networks. As with the previous, you will not be able to use your D-STAR, NXDN, or P25 radio in cross-mode. Release date is expected before the end of 2018. Stay tuned to their website and social media portals for exact date.

ZUMspot review

At Dayton I added to my hotspot collection. On my shopping list was a ZUMspot or something I could use with the Pi-Star software. I picked up a ZUMspot kit and case from HRO. The kit lists for $130, $110 without the Pi board. The case adds $15. The kit came with the amazingly small Raspberry Pi Zero W (W for Wireless) and the ZUMspot modem board from KI6ZUM. You’ll need to provide a Micro-USB cable which powers both devices. I’ve seen demos and received feedback saying Pi-Star was a great application to use – and is stable. Many had issues with the DVMEGA (in particular) getting a good distribution that worked reliably with that device. Pi-Star is software written by Andy – MW0MWZ. It is distributed as a Raspberry Pi image for use with Digital Voice modems.

All configurable options are available through the web interface. It’s convenient and you don’t have to mess around with multiple interfaces or carrying around a screen for the device. Services like SSH are available but generally not needed.

Before I tried to use the image, I knew I had an issue. Since this was my first Pi device without a wired connection, I couldn’t edit the WiFi settings by wiring it to my network. Instead I mounted the SD on a Linux system and edited the /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf to include my WiFi information. Booted the ZUMspot and it connected to my wireless auto-magically. The Pi-Star site has a utility to help create the wpa_supplicant.conf file.

I’ve primarily used the ZUMspot on D-STAR and DMR but it supports all modes and networks mentioned earlier in the article. It doesn’t do as well as the OpenSPOT when D-STAR stations are marginal into their gateway. There’s more “R2D2” on the ZUMspot in that respect but it’s a minor issue. Pi-Star can enable multiple digital modes at one time. This is a great selling point and works great if conversations happen at different times on different networks. It is a “first wins” scenario. If a D-STAR transmission ends and one on the DMR network starts, nothing will be heard on the D-STAR radio until the DMR transmission ends. In other words, parts of an otherwise interesting conversation maybe missed. The case is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle but it’s fairly easy to figure out from the picture that was provided. The ZUMspot is an excellent little device and I’m happy with it.

Technical Specialists report

Dave – KD8TWG has been very busy recently. He was again in charge of the communications and networking for the Great Geauga County Fair where they run APRS tracking of their golf carts, setup a phone system and IP cameras to cover the fair. At the Cleveland Hamfest he gave his presentation on Digital Modes. He compared and contrasted modes available to ham radio operators, including quality and radio options. Updated for this year was information on digital scanners and receiving the MARCS statewide digital system. Coming up on October 30, he and a few buddies will be putting on a “Test and tune” night for LEARA. It’s a great opportunity to check operation of radio equipment and make sure it is not transmitting spurs and harmonics (*cough* *cough* Baofengs *cough* *cough*). Contact Dave if you’re in the Cleveland area, or myself for the rest of the section, to have a similar program at a club meeting or hamfest.

If you were involved with the State Emergency Test, Black Swan exercise the weekend of October 6 & 7, you likely received bulletins from The Ohio Digital Emergency Network (OHDEN). Eldon – W5UHQ and crew gave up a good portion of their weekend to help with this event. They did a fine job of handling bulletins from the EOC and those stations that came through on the wrong communication channels. Join them for the OHDEN net on 3584.500 USB using Olivia 8-500 set to 1500 Hz on the waterfall each Tuesday at 7:45 PM eastern.

WB8APD, SK

Cleveland Hamfest – 1999, hac.org

I received word that Trustee Emeritus and past long-time Treasurer for LEARA, Dave Foran – WB8APD became a Silent Key on October 10, 2018. I knew Dave for about 10 years as a member of the LEARA board and mentor but knew the impact he made on the Ham Radio community long before I was a ham. In the time I knew him, Dave was always a behind the scenes guy – rarely getting on the radio. He was instrumental in getting repeater sites and maintaining equipment for LEARA including having an input for one of the repeaters at his house. Stories have been told that his basement was the print shop for the club’s newsletter when the club had 400+ members no-less. Dave was incredibly smart with technology and the Internet before most of us knew what it was. He worked for the phone company and the joke was “Dave had half of Ma Bell in his basement.” Internet linking was something he was into early on with his own IRLP node. He owned a server that, for a long time, served resources for the Cleveland area – not only ham radio clubs but community organizations too.

HamNet BBS before closing
Maybe you even dialed into the old HamNet BBS system located in Dave’s basement (yet another reference those under 35 won’t understand). Dave was my mentor with technologies LEARA was using as I was going to be helping or taking them over. He is the reason I’m into digital modes. Cleveland’s first D-STAR repeater was in-part Dave’s doing. Of course I had problems at first and he was my go-to for questions. The little space here covers only a fraction of his involvement and lives he impacted through his countless contributions. Goodbye and 73, Dave.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – September 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-Sep-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Most hams and shortwave listeners know what the letters WWV mean. They are the call letters for the station that broadcasts the time, all the time. If you’ve never listened because you don’t have an HF radio or shortwave receiver, WWV is a shortwave radio station near Fort Collins, Colorado run by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and

WWV transmitter building (nist.gov)

Technology (NIST). WWV is the oldest continuously-operating radio station in the United States. It transmits time signals and bulletins in voice and digital formats on 2.5, 5, 10, 15, and 20 MHz AM 24/7/365.

The time and transmitted frequency of WWV is controlled by atomic clocks which are the most accurate standards due to the use of atoms as a time keeping element. Not only is the time broadcast by WWV the most accurate but the frequency of the transmitters is also the most accurate. WWVH is the Hawaiian sister station to WWV. WWVB is co-located with WWV but broadcasts a constant time code for radio-controlled clocks on 60 kHz. This is the frequency clocks that automatically set themselves listen to. Both WWV and WWVH announce Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) each minute and broadcast other recorded announcements including GPS health reports, oceanic weather warnings, and solar activity bulletins.

Cesium atomic clocks (nist.gov)

Whether you use these stations to calibrate equipment and instrumentation, calibrate ham radio digital software and hardware (Slow Scan TV or Fldigi), listen to bulletins, or use it as a beacon to check propagation, all of that is likely to end. NIST has proposed shutting down, by way of defunding, the WWV stations in their 2019 budget proposal. This means the 2011 NIST estimation of 50 million radio-controlled clocks and wristwatches equipped to receive WWVB will become obsolete. Not to mention it is an instrumental part in the telecommunications field and in scientific research. At first, WWVB was not listed in initial stories which made sense. Continuing to operate it would not obsolete radio-controlled clocks. But it too started to appear in later news stores.

In the ARRL report, the reason given for defunding these broadcast stations would be to “consolidate and focus” on other programs due to reductions in NIST funding. Taking the WWV stations off the air would save $6.3 million. The NIST FY (fiscal year) 2019 budget request for efforts related to Fundamental Measurement, Quantum Science and Measurement Dissemination is $127 million, which, the agency said, is a net decrease of $49 million from FY 2018. The administration’s overall NIST budget request is more than $629 million.

While I was distraught as I think most hams were, it gets more ridiculous when I started to break this down. Most people don’t understand huge numbers like millions, billions, and trillions of dollars because we’ll never see those numbers in our lifetimes and they’re just unrealistic. Let’s convert these figures into numbers most of us do understand. For comparison, I’m adding the published 2017 U.S. federal budget numbers: actual total revenue was $3.316 trillion and actual expenditures were $3.982 trillion. Breakdown is as follows:

15 Mhz WWV transmitter (nist.gov)
  • 2017 U.S. budget total revenue: $3,316,000
  • 2017 U.S. budget total expenditures: $3,982,000
  • NIST 2019 proposed budget: greater than $629
  • NIST 2019 proposed fundamental measurement budget: $127, which was reduced by $49
  • Shutting down the WWV stations saves: $6.30

A whopping $6.30! $6.3 million is almost 1% of the total proposed 2019 NIST budget or 0.00016% (rounded) of 2017 total expenditures. Yeah, it’s a HUGE burden!

I got pretty upset and there was noted concern over the shutdown proposal, especially amongst hams as would be expected since we utilize the service probably more than others. I figured everyone wouldn’t want their wall clocks to stop setting the time automatically. However, reality set in as the petition started at whitehouse.gov didn’t gain much traction. As of this writing, with less than 3 days before it closed, it gained a little less than 19% of the needed signatures for the White House to respond. Note: OSJ publication date will be after the petition closes.

What happens next? I haven’t heard if the dial-in phone numbers for WWV will be shut down or remain accessible: (303) 499-7111 for WWV (Colorado), and (808) 335-4363 for WWVH (Hawaii). Phone systems are converting to data services (VoIP) and there will be slight delays due to network switching, latency, and loss. If the phone numbers remain available, it will be better than nothing.

Canada has a similar time standard called CHU on 3.330 MHz & 14.670 MHz at 3 kW and 7.850 MHz at 10 kW. The 3 MHz station was strong into NE Ohio on one Thursday night as I’m writing this article. I’m also making the big assumption CHU will remain on the air. CHU broadcasts are AM with the lower side-band suppressed. Unfortunately, Canada doesn’t have the equivalent of WWVB and they relied on the U.S. for their radio-controlled clocks. Go U.S.! In other parts of the world, radio-controlled clocks rely on MSF in England and JJY in Japan.

Radio-controlled clocks will switch to some sort of other technology, likely GPS, listen for a cellular signal, or piggyback on WiFi. Radio-controlled clocks I’ve used set themselves in the middle of the night at about 3AM. Figuring most electronic noise emitting devices (like computers) would be off and longwave reception is better at night. GPS will reduce clock setup by one step. You won’t have to tell the clock in which time zone it is located. Ooohhh, yeah – that was so much work! I’m skeptical about using GPS. Any time I bring my car GPS into the house, it “lost satellite reception.” Being internal to a steel building (like an office), I do not see how this works at all without bringing the clock to the window to resync. More skepticism comes in the form of a question: what happens when the U.S. developed GPS system is unavailable? It could be unavailable because of solar flares, software bug, or an act of a nation-state. If you haven’t seen Dr. Tamitha Skov – WX6SWW’s solar reports, GPS is significantly affected by solar flares just like our HF bands, but in different ways. There are commercially available car navigation devices and smartphones that are capable of receiving both U.S. GPS and Russian GLONASS. Consider other parts of the world are developing their own global navigation systems and not relying on one single system, Europe: Galileo & China: BDS.

Computers and other Internet connected devices are not affected by the WWV shutdown. They utilize the Network Time Protocol (NTP) from publicly available time servers for syncing time.

I hope the best for WWV, WWVH, and WWVB. Maybe a private entity will buy out and continue to operate the stations. Nothing is looking too good without outrage from the public or more support than the few that signed the online petition. I’m getting tired of forced obsolescence.

Thanks for reading and 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

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – July 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-Jul-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Around the time of Dayton, the FBI asked everyone to reboot their routers. Why would they do that? Over the last two years more than 500,000 consumer and small business routers in 54 countries have become infected with a piece of malware called “VPNFilter.” This sophisticated malware is thought to be the work of a government and somewhat targeted with many of the infected routers located in Ukraine.

Src: Cisco’s Talos Intelligence Group Blog

Security researchers are still trying to determine what exactly VPNFilter was built to do. So far, it is known to eavesdrop on Internet traffic grabbing logon credentials and looking for specific types of traffic such as SCADA, a networking protocol controlling power plants, chemical plants, and industrial systems. Actively, it can “brick” the infected device. Bricking is a term to mean ‘render the device completely unusable’ and being as useful as a brick.

In addition to these threats, this malware can survive a reboot. Wait, didn’t the FBI ask all of us to reboot our routers? Won’t that clear the infection? No. In order for this malware to figure out what it needs to do, it reaches out to a command-and-control server. A command-and-control server issues commands to all infected devices, thus being “controlled.” C&C, as they are often abbreviated, allows the bad guys in control a lot of flexibility. It can allow infected devices to remain dormant for months or years. Then, the owner can issue commands to ‘wake-up’ the infected devices (called a botnet) and perform intended tasks. Tasks can range from attack a site, such as DynDNS which I wrote about in November of 2016, to steal logon credentials for users connected to the infected router. Back to the question, the FBI seized control of the C&C server. When an infected router is rebooted, it will try to reach out to the C&C server again but instead will be contacting a server owned by the FBI. This only gives the FBI a sense of how bad this infection is. Rebooting will not neutralize the infection.

Affected devices include various routers from Asus, D-Link, Huawei, Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear, TP-Link, Ubiquiti, Upvel, and ZTE, as well as QNAP network-attached storage (NAS) devices. There is no easy way to know if your router is infected. If yours is on that list, one can assume theirs is infected. As if that wasn’t bad enough, many manufactures don’t have firmware updates to fix the problem. The ones that have fixed the problem did so years ago. Since no one patches their routers, that’s why there’s half a million infected.
First thing to do is gather information about the make, model, and current firmware of your router. Then check for announcements from the manufacturer about affected firmware versions or preventative steps. The only known way to clear this infection is to disconnect it from the Internet, factory-reset the router, upgrade the firmware (if one is available), and reconfigure it for your network – or simply throw it away.

If those last couple words strike fear into your heart, there are a couple options:

  • See if your ISP has a device they will send or install for you. It can be reasonably assumed that devices provided or leased by the ISP will be updated by the ISP.
  • Find someone in your club that knows at least the basics of networking to help reconfigure things
  • Many newly purchased devices come with some sort of support to get you up and running

If you’re a little more advanced and want to learn more about networking:

  • EdgeRouter-X
    Use 3rd party firmware. Currently they are not showing signs of being vulnerable to VPNFilter or other infections. 3rd party firmware projects are often maintained by enthusiasts. They are updated LONG past when the manufacturer stops supporting their own products and updates often happen quickly. Some of those projects include: OpenWRT/LEDE, DD-WRT, or Fresh Tomato.
  • A Linux box could be setup with Linux packages to mimic router functionality or use a distribution such as pfSense or OPNsense.
  • Another great device to use is the Ubiquity EdgeRouter-X for $49.
  • Check the “Comparison of Firewalls” for other ideas.

That $5 hamfest deal isn’t sounding so great anymore. It’s the law of economics for these companies too. $10, $30, or $100 for a device isn’t going to sustain programmer’s time to find, fix, troubleshoot, test, and release firmware updates for a 7-year-old device. It’s a struggle. I think it will come down to spending more on better devices which will be upgraded longer or spend $50-$100 every 3-5 years to replace an OK one.

The Department of Commerce released a report on the threat of botnets and steps manufactures could take to reduce the number of automated attacks. It hits on a number of good points but lacks many details. “Awareness and education are needed.” Whose responsibility is it to educate? I can write articles in the OSJ but I’m not going to be able to visit everyone’s house and determine if your devices are infected. “Products should be secured during all stages of the lifecycle.” Automated updates could take care of this problem but doesn’t address what-ifs. What if the update fails or worse yet, bricks your “Smart” TV as an example? Who is going to fix or replace them? Will they be fixed if it’s out of warranty? Not to mention operating system “updates” are bundled with more privacy violations and ways to monetize users.

There’s a lot of work to be done. I wish I had the answers. Regardless, we all need to be good stewards of the Internet making sure ALL attached devices are updated and current.

More technical details on VPNFilter and citation for this article: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/06/router_vulnerab.html
https://blog.talosintelligence.com/2018/05/VPNFilter.html

Finally this month, thank you to all the clubs and groups that sent messages to this station via WinLink or NTS over Field Day weekend. It was the most I’ve ever received, about 12 – 15 messages altogether.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ham radio and tech.