Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – January 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,

What the heck is Hamshack Hotline? As you might have guessed by the name, it may have to do with a Ham’s shack and phone calls. Good guess because that is correct! Hamshack Hotline, often abbreviated HH, is a free VoIP telecom phone service put together for the ham radio community by hams. Similar services to Hamshack Hotline offer regular telephone service via VoIP (Voice over IP) but charge monthly, per minute (albeit small) fees and regulatory fees. Hamshack Hotline offers a way to enhance or augment communication between hamshacks, Emergency operation centers, National Weather Service Skywarn spotters, club members, and allow experimentation with VoIP devices and protocols.

John – K1WIZ got together with some ham buddies and decided it would be neat to experiment with an IP PBX service and started Hamshack Hotline in February 2018. An IP PBX service is an Internet based Private Branch Exchange. PBX’s were on-premise solutions used by businesses to provide internal communications. This allowed employees to pick up their desk phone handset, headset, or activate the speakerphone, dial an extension, say 2-4 digits typically, and connect to another employee’s desk phone. This was very useful during times when making outside calls was very costly. There wasn’t always “free calling.” Companies and households would be charged per call or per minute. A local PBX would interface with the public switched telephone network (PSTN) provided by a national, regional, or local telephony carrier allowing employees to make calls to any other phone number. Today, PBX services are almost all IP or packet-based systems and providers are cloud based meaning the Internet provides connectivity. Advantages include cheaper service, more features, and more connection options including mobile phone connectivity with an app.

Built on Asterisk, the same platform used for AllStar Link in Ham Radio and Small-Medium Business (SMB) phone systems, Hamshack Hotline offers traditional telephony functionality like full duplex phone calls, direct extension dialing, voice mail, notifications, Email notifications of voicemails, device flexibility, and FAX. There is no PSTN access through Hamshack Hotline. An amateur radio license is required limiting access only to licensed radio operators. A hard phone (also called a Desk Phone) which interacts with a configured phone service provider or providers and an Internet connection is required. Yes, the Internet is required to use system features and to make calls – as with any IP phone service. Wired is somewhat more reliable when cellular circuits get overloaded, though any Internet IP connection can be used as connectivity. When using Hamshack Hotline over costly bandwidth connections (such as cellular or 4G) during a call, data is always being exchanged at about a rate of 66 KBits/sec each direction, for a total of 120 KBits/sec. This includes quiet periods or when the phone is on mute. Data is constantly flowing during the duration of the call.

Architecture of Hamshack Hotline has changed over the years as popularity has grown. There were around 650 lines two years ago and 850 at the beginning of last year. HH Phone book shows just under 1,400 lines as of this writing. Most are located in the US with 3-5 new lines added per day. All servers are “trunked” together, meaning all can dial extensions on other servers and be connected. Today there are 4 servers: HHUS serves the US and Americas, HHEU for Europe, and HHAP in Hawaii serving Asia Pacific. These servers are for approved and supported devices of the service.

The fourth is HHX run by Jeff – VA3ISP and is the “experimental” server. Experimental requires much more knowledge of PBX and VoIP systems. It offers the ability to integrate unsupported endpoints like Polycom, Grandstream, and softphones using an app called Groundwire on Android and iOS. Credentials to the experimental service are provided and that’s it – no Help Desk or device support. To use the experimental service for a softphone, a hard phone line MUST be established on the network first.

Like traditional phone services, Hamshack Hotline offers Bridges which are similar to round-table conference or web conferencing services. They offer simultaneous full-duplex conversation, as opposed to half-duplex of most ham radio operations. Bridges can be public or private requiring PIN access to an executive board conference, for example. Both Hamshack Hotline and AllStar Link are Asterisk based. Allstar nodes can be connected as an “RF link” using Asterisk dial strings. AllStar can be connected to RF transmitters for ham radio and can act as radio-less hub nodes. A phone user in an EOC or local weather office can connect, listen, and interact with RF connected users through AllStar Link.

… It is Hamshack Hotline you’re looking for

Before we get too far down the road and I start hearing the cries of ‘this is not ham radio.’ Hamshack Hotline does not intend to replace any communication methods. Most hams stop at ‘when something uses the Internet, it’s not ham radio.’ It’s ham radio to me if it’s putting out RF. Hamshack Hotline doesn’t put out RF at its core so it doesn’t fit my definition of ham radio. Intent of this service is to “augment” methods by conserving primary communication channels – keeping them clear, placing back channel and managerial chit-chat offline. Aside from a way to chat with friends, the service is geared toward public service events and incidents where Emcomm is needed (flooding, power outage, weather events) and Internet communications are still possible between two endpoints. Additionally, it can automatically send voicemail blasts or paging instructions for an EOC activation, coordinate Skywarn activities, or simply notify members of regular club meetings. It also benefits those who are restricted from antennas in condos, apartments, or HOAs. Hamshack Hotline works well over ham radio MESH networks if there is an Internet route in and out of the network.

Section Technical Specialist and ARES Data Manager, Jim – W8ERW, has mentioned Hamshack Hotline many times in his OSJ articles. He has encouraged its use across the Sandusky and Seneca county areas. Hamshack Hotlines are installed in both EOCs and a conference bridge setup for event coordination. The phone bridge was used to coordinate events leading up to State Emergency Tests (SET) between team members. A curated list of import Hamshack Hotline extensions and bridge extensions is published and available to members as a quick reference.

Many of your Section Technical Specialists are on Hamshack Hotline: Bob – K8MD (who told me about HH initially), Tracey – W8TWL, Jim – W8ERW, and myself – K8JTK. Extensions can be found in the phonebook.

Ham Shack Hotline setup is easy and reasonably cheap. If you are thinking of joining, create an account on the HHOPS Helpdesk system and read through the Knowledgebase articles. There are some key articles that touch on issues such as satellite-based Internet connections and high latency connections which function poorly or not at all with the service.

First, purchase a supported phone or phone adapter. All can be found used on Ebay. The device must be UNLOCKED and factory reset. This is very important! Sometimes passwords are used to keep users out of messing with the configuration of their deployed phone in a business setting. Clearing those passwords are a low priority, if at all, before the equipment is removed, refreshed and resold. This will result in tracking down the seller for the password or, worst-case, loss of investment if the phone cannot be unlocked. A list of supported devices is listed in the Hamshack Hotline Knowledgebase here. If you don’t have an account, the list as of this writing with recent used pricing:

  • Cisco SPA-112 – 2 Line Analog Telephone Adaptor – $30-40
  • Cisco SPA-303 – 3 Line voip desk speakerphone – $30-50
  • Cisco SPA-504g – 4 Line voip desk speakerphone – $30-60
  • Cisco SPA-514g – 4 Line voip desk speakerphone – $30-90
  • Linksys/Cisco SPA941/942 – $20-30
  • Cisco SPA525G etc – $50-100+
K8JTK Hamshack Hotline – Cisco SPA-514g phone

The Facebook group and Mattermost chat service often have deals from members who want to resell hard phones to hams and is a place to obtain community support. Some phones feature Power over Ethernet (PoE), Gigabit Ethernet passthrough, or a color screen. A little research is required depending on desired features.

When the phone arrives, a ticket requesting provisioning of an extension is required. Open a New Ticket and select “HHUS (USA) New Line Request.” You will need to provide phone model, your call sign, the MAC address of the phone, and your location information for the map. A MAC address is a unique identifier of each network interface device. Technologies used in networking have unique MAC addresses including Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 4G interfaces. It’s easiest to take a picture of the MAC address sticker on the phone. If there is no sticker from the manufacturer, the MAC address can be found in the phone’s setup menu. Press the button on the phone that looks like a document, select item 10 Product Info, then 5 MAC Address. The web interface is another way. With the phone connected to the network, in a browser enter: http://<ip-address-of-phone>/ or http://<ip-address-of-phone>/admin/ . These may vary depending on phone model. If all else fails, look at the MAC, IP, or DHCP table in your router when the phone is connected to the network. Submit the ticket and your line will be provisioned with the next available extension number. The Helpdesk system is almost always shutdown during the holidays to give the support staff time off. Plan accordingly.

When the line is provisioned, a TFTP file will be created on their Helpdesk server with your phone’s MAC address. TFTP is an old way of sending a file to a device and often used as a boot configuration file for devices. This file configures the phone for use with Hamshack Hotline. The HHOPS representative will let you know when the file is created and instruct you to follow the provisioning guide for that phone in the Knowledgebase. A URL will be entered into a web browser similar to this:

http://<ip-address-of-phone>/admin/resync?tftp://apps.wizworks.net/spacfg-$MA.cfg

This tells the administrative web interface of the phone to resync phone functionality against the “spacfg-” file found at that Internet address. “$MA” gets expanded by the phone to fill in its own MAC address, that way each file remains unique on the server. It is not recommended to provision a device using TFTP over the Internet because of the lack of encryption and authentication, but it is effective. If the download completes successfully, the phone will reboot and you will be on the Hamshack Hotline system!

In general, you do not need to make configuration changes in your Internet router such as port forwarding. However, if you have more than the basic router/firewall provided by the ISP, you will have to make configuration changes and should have an idea of those changes. The need for changes will become obvious when you enter the URL from the provisioning guide and the phone doesn’t reboot after a couple minutes. A TFTP helper and/or port forwarding may need to be enabled for the incoming configuration connection. Once the phone is configured, these provisions can be disabled as the phone will use the locally stored configuration on subsequent reboots. If you want to re-provision the phone at a later time, the same router/firewall changes will need to be re-enabled. Communication is handled by the phone reaching out and establishing connections with Hamshack Hotline servers. If any outgoing connections are allowed by your firewall, there will be no need for additional router/firewall changes for normal operation.

Hamshack Hotline phones in Ohio

Once connected to Hamshack Hotline, what can you do? Check the phonebook or map for stations you know and give them a call! Over the air RF Links can be dialed and attempt to make contact over RF. RF Link configurations require *99 to transmit and # to stop transmitting via the phone’s keypad. Extension 94000 connects to Brandmeister DMR talkgroup 31688. A DMR radio or ID is not required to transmit. Your audio will be heard where other users monitoring the talkgroup can respond. Lastly, there are public bridges where you can meet other Hamshack Hotline users. Extensions 300, 302, and 314 are “Public” bridges 1, 2, and 3 respectively.

I purchased a Cisco SPA-514g after Dayton 2018 and have been on the system ever since. My extension is 4293 if you want to test your setup or chat. It’s best to email me for a sked or leave a voicemail. The 514 phone is capable of 4 lines. In addition to Hamshack Hotline, I configured a line to access my AllStar node. It allows me to dial in, monitor, and control my node while freeing up radios to monitor other frequencies.

The Hamshack Hotline service went through growing pains as it became popular rather quickly. In response, they reconfigured and added servers to the network. Since then, I have not noticed any connectivity problems. Instructions in the Knowledgebase are mostly complete, though in some cases there are errors. They don’t seem to be in a hurry to update the documentation. While troubleshooting is a valuable learning process, it’s frustrating assuming the documentation is correct only to find out it is not correct. I try to keep in mind that Hamshack Hotline is a ham radio project. All infrastructure and support are provided by volunteers who have fulltime jobs and families.

The project has a tri-fold brochure to hand out at a club or Emcomm group meeting to drum-up interest in giving Hamshack Hotline a try. Shoot me an email or leave a voicemail at x4293 to test your Hamshack Hotline or to chat!

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!

Oh, IRLP…

On the topic of VoIP systems, the Internet Radio Linking Project (otherwise known as IRLP) has been a pay-to-play system. They use a PGP key system to authenticate and allow users on the system. According to their FAQ, there are two ways to obtain PGP keys to the IRLP system: “IRLP PGP keys are only assigned to users that support IRLP, either by purchasing IRLP hardware or by making a donation to the project.” I had some experience with IRLP and felt I could build a node from scratch. I inquired about making a financial donation to the project to obtain a key and was told “no.” O.. OK. Sometime later, I purchased hardware in the form of an SD card from the IRLP website with the approved operating system and my legally assigned PGP key, great! I played around with that for a while but was more intrigued with AllStar. The AllStar distribution I choose offered a way to setup an IRLP node using a legitimate PGP key – though they warned this may not be sanctioned. I setup my IRLP node on the AllStar/HamVoIP distribution and was good for a little over a year. Well, this was “no Bueno” to the IRLP folks and they had enough. Sometime around the first of the year, IRLP removed PGP keys from the system for nodes who were not using approved IRLP hardware, including myself.

Most reasons given for taking such action are outlined in a posting to the IRLP Groups.io Message board. Non-IRLP connections reduced their ‘security policy.’ If the policy is to have a closed network with only approved hardware on the system, mission accomplished. ‘Links were non-RF links.’ Some might have been, mine was an RF link. This one got to me: “HAMvoip also seems to have created an informal network of passing around IRLP Boards so folks could surreptitiously obtain keys without buying the IRLP hardware. Then harvesting the PGP keys for use in an unauthorized software package such as HAMvoip.” I WILL NOT condone, support, or have any remorse for those who fraudulently obtained or generated keys to the system, if this was indeed taking place. No one has yet outlined the details of how these fraudulent keys were generated and installed. From my experience, I obtained my legally generated PGP key when I bought my SD card. It had to be created from administrator who, I’m presuming, authorized that key on the IRLP system because I did not create any key and my private key remains unchanged. If I had to jump through that hoop to be approved by an administrator, how were others getting around that? No details. IRLP was able to revoke my legitimate [public] key system-wide. This argument seems suspicious.

I’m a little more than miffed that I paid their tariff to access the IRLP system and now am blocked until I rebuild my node with only approved hardware. Only then I can obtain a new, valid key to the system. It is true that I did not follow, to the letter, using only approved IRLP hardware and software. That’s their right to revoke my access, as it is their system.

Some replaced old or aging IRLP hardware with other systems or Raspberry Pi computers acting as repeater controllers. Others, like myself, wanted to have more linking flexibility and options. As it turns out, when IRLP removed keys for non-IRLP hardware from the key ring, without ANY advanced notice, they brought down a repeater during an emergency EOC net. Response was basically: you were doing something we didn’t like “So you should not have been surprised” (link, same as above). Showing disregard for emergency communications and banning experimentation – two foundational pillars of the Amateur Radio service – there is no reason to support this type of behavior. I would actively remove IRLP from all communication plans and utilize more open linking systems.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 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,

‘Tis the season for … regulation. The FCC and ARRL have been quite busy with proposed and amended changes affecting Part 97. Both organizations take on proposed changes brought by technical requirements, additional research, lobbying organizations (commercial and private), other laws/regulations, and of course, other hams. The FCC publishes proposed rules and invites the general public to comment on changes. Comments help decide if the FCC should enact a proposal. Once again, our allocations are under scrutiny and attack.

FCC WT Docket 19-348 and WT Docket 19-138 seeks to change 3 GHz and 5.8 GHz allocations. Nearly all allocations for the Amateur Radio Service above 220 MHz are on a secondary basis. Secondary allocations are services allowed to use the same frequency range as a primary user. A secondary user cannot cause harmful interference to primary users and cannot claim protection from primary users. Protection can only be claimed by the same or other secondary services. WT Docket 19-348 seeks to eliminate the secondary allocation of the Amateur Service on the 3 GHz frequency range. WT Docket 19-138 seeks to modify primary usage on the 5.8 GHz bands. Though not eliminating the Amateur Service secondary allocation, this would affect and restrict secondary usage.

HamNET Mesh (Wikipedia)

What’s in those frequency ranges? Primarily WiFi networks. 5 or 5.8 GHz, commonly referred to as 5 GHz WiFi (not to be confused with the mobile broadband 5G standard) or the commonly known standard, 802.11ac. Consumer WiFi in both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz are unlicensed ISM spectrum meaning you don’t need a license from a regulatory agency to use that spectrum. This is the reason you don’t need a license to operate a WiFi router or hotspot where a laptop, mobile phone, or Internet of Things device would communicate with a wireless network or the Internet. The 3 GHz spectrum is also used to create wireless networks but does require a license in other to operate. Our allocation (3.3 – 3.5 GHz, or 9-centimeter band) is just below commercial WiFi but the same equipment is modified for amateur use.

This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is in response to the MOBILE NOW (Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless) act passed by Congress to make new spectrum available for fixed and wireless broadband, aka your mobile phone and 5G devices. From the introduction to docket 19-348 by the FCC, “By proposing to delete the existing non-federal secondary allocations from the 3.3-3.55 GHz band in the Table of Frequency Allocations, we are taking an important initial step towards satisfying Congress’s directives and making as much as 250 megahertz of spectrum from this band potentially available for advanced wireless services, including 5G, the next generation of wireless connectivity.” “Currently, the entire 3.1-3.55 GHz band is allocated for both federal and non-federal radiolocation services, with non-federal users operating on a secondary basis to federal radiolocation services, which have a primary allocation.”

“Needless Obstacles” are apparently Amateur Radio and using that space to build out high speed networks to support Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs), non-governmental agencies (NGO), and first responders. Most notable use of the 3 GHz spectrum for Amateur Radio has been pioneered by the AREDN (Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network) group which came out of an ARRL group on High-Speed Multimedia (HSMM). For more than a decade, AREDN has developed software for a large number of commercially available wireless devices, in the $45-$95 range, allowing operation in Part 97 allocations including 900 MHz, 2, 3, and 5 GHz bands. Commonly referred to in the ham community as “Mesh” networking, these devices utilize the same protocols used on the Internet allowing served agencies connectivity to Internet-based services. Independent of Internet infrastructure, they can additionally provide video, email, voice, and chat service when the Internet is not available.

Though the proposal offers re-locating secondary services, the AREDN project has posted their response to these proposed changes citing such a move “would be difficult if not impossible without a complete redesign, manufacture, purchase, and installation of new custom Amateur hardware and software… raising the price out of reach for the typical ham.” The ARRL news posting includes information on how to file a comment on the proposal at the end of the article. An earlier post from the ARRL indicates the changes also affect satellite operations in the 3.40 – 3.41 GHz segment.

Obviously, I’m against commandeering bands and spectrum of the Amateur Radio Service. Trying to lessen the impact by seemingly providing good-will relocation assistance always comes with catches and gotchas, not-to-often many benefits. Many outlined in the AREDN post. Contributions are always of question of when, how much, and how far will it go. It’s unlikely they’re going to make any manufacturing contributions to redesign and sell new equipment at a reasonable price. Prices for mesh equipment is reasonable because of commercial interests in the 3.65 GHz licensed WiFi band. Not to mention time invested by volunteers to develop mesh technology hams have available today. Please consider commenting on the proposal or support the ARRL Spectrum Defense Fund which takes on challenges such as these and protects our operating privileges.

3 GHz AREDN mesh nodes (AREDN)

I’ve been in favor of the symbol rate elimination from Part 97 and adopting bandwidth limitations of 2.8 kHz on HF band data emissions – though I would like to see bandwidth limitations set across the board. Arbitrary [low] baud rates are not allowing experimentation of more innovative and spectrally efficient digital modes, and curtail experimentation with modes that can transfer the same data at a much faster rate. The ARRL has renewed its request to delete the HF symbol rates and adopt the 2.8 kHz bandwidth requirement.

The ARRL believes a proposal filed by New York University (NYU) would add further uncertainly to Section 97.113(a)(4) – prohibiting “messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning.” In relation to the deletion of symbol rates, the NYU proposal seeks to adopt language the ARRL feels could weaken the prohibition of encrypted messages. The wording “effectively encrypted or encoded messages, including messages that cannot be readily decoded over the air for true meaning.” The League has an issue with the wording “effectively encrypted.” “ARRL said that adding the word “effectively” would make the definition even more vague by including all encoded messages plus an additional set of undefined messages, the extent of which is unknown.” It has asked the FCC to dismiss the NYU petition.

The issue of encryption will continue to be a hot-button issue and will be as heated as it has become among scanner enthusiasts when disusing encryption on public safety radio systems, if not more. I completely understand and fully support the openness and transparency of Amateur Radio. However, I think there are a few issues we, as hams, need to have very solid responses when encryption comes up in discussion and in competition with other sources.

The first is privacy and security. More laws are being passed such as GDPR in Europe. It is mandated regulation around the privacy and protection of European Union citizens including data collection, retention, disclosures – and encryption standards. On the heels of that regulation, many states have passed similar laws mirroring those compliance requirements. I see us (hams) sitting at the table with served agencies. Some representative has mandated some form of encryption on network links and retaining control of data. Is ham radio now off the table? Probably depends on the wording. What is our answer when commercial entities are pushing their “first responder” networks and reserved bandwidth that can offer data encryption and protection? Is the expectation of coding patient data into TAG IDs good enough? Does it keep ham radio relevant because we can’t offer encryption and why? Proposals to modify the obfuscation requirements of Part 97 have pointed to such requirements or potential requirements by served agencies. I guarantee we have not seen the last of these arguments.

Experimentation side of ham radio is another issue. I have seen the maker movement as a way to bring younger and like-minded people into the hobby. If these technically minded individuals are experimenting with technologies that probably offer some form of encryption by default, how can ham radio win at this argument? Why would they choose a non-encrypted method when there are readily available encryption methods and they are becoming the foundation for newer technologies? Maybe the thought of being able to use higher power or not as crowded spectrum might be an incentive. To me, it’s not an issue of ‘what are they hiding’ or ‘why do they need encryption.’ Technical (ie: Information Technology, I.T.) professionals are opting for security and encryption instinctively. Technical individuals and the industry have conditioned average users to look for secure options such as checking for the green lock on websites and using “secured” WiFi networks. Vint Cerf, considered to be the father of the Internet, reflected on the progression of the Internet by stating “If I could start over again I would have introduced a lot more strong authentication and cryptography into the system.” How would that have affected ham radio TCP networks? Maybe those who would utilize ham radio for their experimentation purposes just don’t want someone else peering into their information exchange or use it as a method of authentication, not necessarily hiding something.

In a devil maybe in the details change, the FCC modified Part 97 RF exposure safety rules. Current safety limits will remain unchanged. The amateur-specific exemption from having to conduct an RF exposure evaluation will be replaced by the FCC’s general exemption criteria. Certain stations are exempted from having to conduct evaluations based only on power and frequency. The Commission indicated that if the source was excluded from routine evaluations under the old rules, they will be exempt under the new rules. From the ARRL news release: “For applicants and licensees in the Amateur Radio Service, we substitute our general exemption criteria for the specific exemption from routine evaluation based on power alone in Section 97.13(c)(1) and specify the use of occupational/controlled limits for amateurs where appropriate,” the FCC said. “RF exposure of other nearby persons who are not members of the amateur licensee’s household must be evaluated with respect to the general population/uncontrolled exposure limits. Appropriate methodologies and guidance for evaluating Amateur Radio Service operation is described in the Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) Bulletin 65, Supplement B,” the revised rule concludes. Further review by ARRL technical, legal staff, and ARRL RF Safety experts is needed to determine any changes in requirements.

(Wikipedia)

In 2017, Norway was the first country to shut off FM broadcasts in favor of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB). In North America, we use the HD Radio standard. Not amateur related, but interestingly the FCC is seeking comments on a NPRM allowing AM broadcasters to voluntary change to an all-digital broadcast. “We tentatively conclude that a voluntary transition to all-digital broadcasting has the potential to benefit AM stations and provide improved AM service to the listening public,” the FCC said. “We seek comments on proposed operating standards for all-digital stations and the impact of such operations on existing analog stations and listeners.” We’ll see where this goes. This maybe an incentive for low-power AM stations to move to HD Radio. I didn’t think there were many AM HD Radio stations. This was confirmed by HD Radio – Find Stations that indicated there were about a half-dozen total in the major cities of Ohio. I also wonder how HD Radio will work with signal fading or can it be received at a great distance from cities like Chicago, New York, or Nashville. Instead of being able to receive AM radio with a crystal set or HF radio, you might need a computer for some stations in the near future.

I usually don’t get to publish ISS Slow-Scan TV events in advance because they are often last minute and at the mercy of crew availability. There was an announcement of a possible SSTV event starting December 27 or 28 of this year. No special setup is required to copy images, even an HT can be a crude way to receive. To receive the best images, Yagi antennas on a tracking tripod is best. I just use my external VHF antenna and let the computer listen for transmissions. To receive SSTV images, the popular choice for Windows is MMSSTV and QSSTV for Linux. Tune a radio to 145.800 MHz FM and wait for the ISS images to appear on screen. I have tutorials available to help get your station setup and get started with MMSSTV for more details on receiving images.

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

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – November 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,

Have you recently built something? Came up with a solution to a problem in the shack? Accomplished something new? Now, ask your club newsletter editor (or even our own Section Manager) if they are looking for content from club members. I’ll bet they say “yes!” Hams are interested in good articles written by others sharing experiences with projects and adventures. You’ll be surprised to find out how many other people are interested in the same thing or how it will motivate others to experiment with something similar. Believe me, it happens.

Not sure where to start? Contact the newsletter editor first. Give them some notice about your intent to write an article. It’s important to find out how much space you’ll have, what format to send everything (Word Doc, PDF, TXT, JPG, TIFF), and most importantly when they need it for publication. They can ask questions about the project to help jump start your thought process which will make it easier to get it down on paper. Take note of questions they ask and refer back to them if… when… you get writer’s block.

Organize your thoughts and come up with some logical order to them. Chronological often works best. Jumping around and referring to events you haven’t described yet will leave the reader confused and likely to move on to another article.

Introduction/problem

Answer the question “what did you try to tackle or what problem did you solve?” Wanting to build an interface for digital operation, build a portable direction finding antenna, evaluate mobile antenna mounts, build out a mesh network, learn Linux or Raspberry Pi, learn a programming language, build a timer circuit, use an SDR to add a spectrum analyzer and waterfall to an older radio, work a satellite contact, find the noise source on 40 meters – are all examples of what you might have set out to accomplish.

Research/finding a solution

How did you research the topic? Watch YouTube videos, read online posts or blogs, research in the ARRL Handbook, consult with friends or club members, attend a session or forum? Include some of the more outstanding resources you came across. Resources like a website that has a calculation tool for antenna length, tracking satellite passes, finding 6-meter openings, detailed setup and walk through video, or cloned GitHub repository.

Implementation

This is the meat and potatoes, main focus, of the article. This section should include how parts were acquired, ones that were cheaper/more expensive, better/lesser quality, substituted better parts than projects were using in your research, design changes, and trial and error antidotes.

Diagrams used, schematics, flow charts, reference tables, and pictures are good as long as they don’t take up an excessive amount of space. There probably won’t be a lot of space for highly detailed graphics. If this is the case, upload high quality graphics and images to a Dropbox or Google Drive folder. Create a read only sharable link. Include that link in the article or put it at the end of the article.

Installation

Steps taken to get the project ready for final assembly and results of initial testing. How did you make the project look clean and organized? Mounting methods for the project – housing or risers/standoffs, installation issues, cable management, or systemd code snippets to automatically start the program. Initial test results? Did they point to a good build, point to any issues, or did you miss something along the way?

Testing

Any problems encountered, anomalies you came across, or last-minute changes? Antenna analyzer readings, triangulation techniques for foxhunting, signal strength of the next mesh node, speed tests, or were adjustments needed? Include any debugging tips that another reader is likely to encounter.

Don’t be embarrassed of things you’ve messed up either. We have all done it. Whether its forgot a “;” at the end of a line of code and it took a half-hour or half-day to debug because the compiler though the error was somewhere else, looked at a wrong date, didn’t realize the time was in UTC, let the smoke out, knocked over a propane torch… whatever the reason, it will make you appear human. Your project will stick with your reader and they’ll be able to relate to problems from their own experiences. Not to mention you’ll learn from your mistakes too.

Operation

What did you accomplish with your newfangled project? Did you track down that noise on 40, work moon-bounce to an exotic location, snag that DX you were hoping to get, published in a magazine because someone used your project as part of theirs, or start an industry because it was so fascinating? Final thoughts about the project. Was it worth it, would you do anything different, did it make things easier or harder?

Now that your article is written, revise, revise, and revise for spelling, grammar, and continuity. Have others proof read and provide constructive criticism. It’s hard sometimes when it’s your work but they’re trying to make it even better. Having peers review will help convey your message clearly and avoid making stupid mistakes. If you’re still looking for examples, grab any issue of QST and follow the format of a similar article to your project. With a little work, you can become a published author and help your club out in the process!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – October 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,

I received a question last month from Andy – KD8SCV on setting up a digital hotspot transmit frequency compliant with “Line A.” I’ll address these as two separate issues. If the hotspot or simplex node is within the correct ranges of the band plan, Line A doesn’t matter. You’re going to need your copy of Part 97.

What is Line A? It is an approximate border between the U.S. and Canada that varies in exact location but is most often 75 miles (about 121 km) from the border. According to Part 97.3(a):

(30) Line A. Begins at Aberdeen, WA, running by great circle arc to the intersection of 48° N, 120° W, thence along parallel 48° N, to the intersection of 95° W, thence by great circle arc through the southernmost point of Duluth, MN, thence by great circle arc to 45° N, 85° W, thence southward along meridian 85° W, to its intersection with parallel 41° N, thence along parallel 41° N, to its intersection with meridian 82° W, thence by great circle arc through the southernmost point of Bangor, ME, thence by great circle arc through the southernmost point of Searsport, ME, at which point it terminates.

This is the same wording as Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Section 90.7. Doesn’t tell you much, like why does it exist? This information is a little sparse. Possibly to protect land mobile stations in Canada. Land Mobile Service (or LMS) is defined by the ITU as communications between base stations and mobile stations or between mobile stations. Think public service agencies and even private companies to coordinate people, resources, safety, or security. Amateur Radio is allocated secondary status on most U.S. allocations above 1.25m or the 220 MHz band. 420-450 MHz is shared with federal agencies and military for radar applications such as PARCS located in North Dakota near the Canadian border. As it pertains to the Amateur Radio service:

(1) No amateur station shall transmit from north of Line A in the 420-430 MHz segment. See §97.3(a) for the definition of Line A (Part 97.303(m)).
Line A (maroon) overlay. (FCC)

For stations in the western part of the state north of 41° N, no transmissions between 420-430 MHz can be made. This includes the cities of Ottawa, Findlay, Tiffin, Willard, New London, and Lodi. Close to the intersection of State Route 83 and Interstate 71, near the cities of Lodi in Medina county and Burbank in Wayne county, is where 41° N and 82° W intersect. From that location, Line A takes a northeast trajectory to Bangor, ME. North of Line A constitutes Medina, much of the Cuyahoga Valley, Hudson, bisects Streetsboro and Mantua, Hiram, West Farmington, North Bloomfield, and Andover.

For those wondering, there is a Line B, Line C, and Line D. In Canada, Line B is opposite to Line A while Line C and D divide the Alaskan border with Canada. There is no mention of Line C in Part 97. Land mobile stations licensed north of Line A or east of Line C requires additional coordination with Canadian authorities.

PARCS Radar station (Wikipedia)

The FCC has provided a couple resources that depict Line A and check Line A coordinates. The checking site won’t accept Google Maps coordinate format. It requires NAD83. I found a converter that worked well. On a Google Map, left-click until a small gray marker appears on the map. Coordinates will appear in a pop-up in the lower-center of the map. 41.460459, -81.911875 for example. Copy them. Go to the West Virginia coordinate conversion website. Paste them under “Input Coordinates.” “Lat/Lon WGS 1984” should already be selected. Under “Output Coordinates,” select “Lat/Lon NAD83.” Click Covert. Copy the output coordinates (removing the negative symbol and spaces) into the FCC Line A check site. Example Lat: 412737.6, Lon: 815442.7. The site will return “North of Line A” or “South of Line A” for the relative location.

As a general rule, don’t transmit 420-430 MHz within 80 miles from the Canadian border and you’ll be golden.

For everyone, the following applies in Part 97.303(m):

(2) Amateur stations transmitting in the 420-430 MHz segment must not cause harmful interference to, and must accept interference from, stations authorized by the FCC in the land mobile service within 80.5 km of Buffalo, Cleveland, and Detroit. See §2.106, footnote US230 for specific frequencies and coordinates.

(3) Amateur stations transmitting in the 420-430 MHz segment or the 440-450 MHz segment must not cause harmful interference to, and must accept interference from, stations authorized by other nations in the fixed and mobile except aeronautical mobile services.

80.5 km is a little more than 50 mi. Check the FCC or Radio Reference sites for issued licenses between 420 and 430 MHz in Ohio. Many licenses are assigned in the Cleveland and Toledo areas.

My OSJ article last year, though pertaining to hotspots and satellites, addressed the hotspot frequency question nicely. I’ll reiterate because this is important. Under Part 97, hotspot devices are considered an auxiliary station. 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. Where should you operate a digital hotspot or digital simplex node? I do like the ARRL’s Band Plan because it spells out many details not included in graphical representations. Note: this advice only applies to the U.S. band plan. 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
Raspberry Pi Zero ZUMspot

“Usable” indicates the lower and upper frequency limits that can be used and programmed into 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. Notice none of these allowances include frequency restrictions imposed by Line A.

Every hotspot user and repeater owner reading this needs to verify your operating frequencies and take corrective action, if required. 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 near edges where deviation would fall into an unauthorized band segment, operating “out-of-band” (ie: weak-signal, satellite), or operating 420-430 MHz and located “North of Line A”, you need to take corrective action now! Your cooperation is greatly appreciated!

Yahoo! Groups is going away! Since 2001, the service allowed users to “build relationships, stay in touch, share ideas, and discuss interests through the convenience of popular e-mail and Web-based tools.” Many ham radio groups over the years have used or are using Yahoo! Groups to coordinate and collaborate.

An SSTV Net in Cleveland used Yahoo! Groups to share received pictures and offer support for stations having trouble with their setup. It was the first time I used the service. Special interest groups formed on a wide variety of topics including scanner information, D-STAR, DMR, and System Fusion.

A note sent to users laid out the time line of the impending shutdown:

Beginning October 28 you won't be able to upload any more content to the site, and as of December 14 all previously posted content on the site will be permanently removed. You'll have until that date to save anything you've uploaded.

Moving or saving data needs to happen relatively quickly should you or group members want to keep the information. Read this knowledge base article to understand the changes and information on how to save content from your groups. Steps don’t seem quick or easy.

An ARS Technica article provides more details on the shutdown. Citing a successful service with 110 million users in 2010, Yahoo failed to adequately compete in other areas after being acquired by Verizon. Verizon responded by cutting budgets and staff.

I mentioned Groups.io in July as a service I joined earlier this year to keep updated on different ham radio projects. Feedback has been positive and many are recommending it as a place to transition before the shutdown. Groups.io doesn’t serve ads, track users, and has a better reputation than Facebook, which I neither use nor trust. Featuring a modern platform for communities to connect through messaging, calendar, chat, polls, databases, photos, wiki, and integration with a list of other platforms. Great place for projects to post documentation and offer support or as a platform to keep in-touch with club members. Some indicated greater engagement with club members and more attendance.

A wiki article posted contains instructions for moving content to Groups.io. It indicates transfers need to be initiated before December 1, 2019 to guarantee the transfer of content from Yahoo! Groups to Groups.io – though Yahoo was having issues with Photos.

Last month, I was invited to give a presentation at the meeting of the Lake County Amateur Radio Association (LCARA). The presentation was about, well, me. I talk about my biography including schooling, how I got involved with groups, jobs, and other presentations I’ve put together. Most importantly, talk about the duties and responsibilities of the Ohio Section Technical Coordinator and technical resources available to hams in the Ohio Section. I had a great time as I don’t get out to Lake county often and it was a fantastic day for a drive. The club was very welcoming. LCARA has many members passionate about different aspects of the hobby and they report on each during their meeting. A good time was had by all.

If you would like to know more about the TC position within the Ohio Section or want to know more about the technical resources available in our section, contact myself or a Technical Specialist.

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 – July 2019 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

The latest addition to the Pi family is here – Raspberry Pi 4. Boasting impressive upgrades, this latest version of the device is becoming a suitable replacement desktop PC or multimedia device. Pi 4 keeps the same form factor and still remains competitive at the $35 starting price.
Device highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FT4?

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

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

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

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

Groups.io

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

IC-7300 Clock Sync Video

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

SDR Concepts

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

Apollo 11 50th Anniversary

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

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – June 2019 edition

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

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

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

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. 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 – May 2019 edition

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

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

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

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. 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,

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

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

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

Winterfest hamfest, Annandale, VA

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

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

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

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

K3RTV station at The National Capital Radio & Television Museum

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

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

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

Portable ARDEN mesh setup, Winterfest hamfest, Annandale, VA

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

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

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

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

Yaesu FT3DR

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

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 2019 edition

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

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

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

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. 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).
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Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
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Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

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

Motorola CDM1250

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DMK URIx

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

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

Diagram of connections to my AllStar node

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ham radio and tech.