Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – June 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Jun-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

The Wood County Amateur Radio Club (which I’m a member) has a Fusion digital net on Thursday nights. Longtime club member Phil – W8PSK, posed the question: can I operate a Wires-X node mobile from my RV?

A little background about Wires-X setups. Wires-X is part of Yaesu’s System Fusion and is a closed Internet linking system. Only Yaesu hardware is allowed. Other digital devices like the OpenSpot, DVMega, and Pi-Star are not permitted. The obvious answer, if it were a viable choice, would be to use a digital hotspot but Yaesu doesn’t allow them. Wires-X hardware requirements include: a Yaesu FTM-100D or FTM-400XD radio or Fusion repeater, Yaesu HRI-200 interface between the radio and PC, a Windows 7 or 10 PC (yes, it must be Windows machine), and an Internet connection with a global IP address. A common example of a global IP address is one provided to you by your DSL, Cable, or Fiber provider. This IP is accessible from anywhere on the Internet and (generally) unrestricted. Lastly, another radio is required to use the Wires-X node locally.

Having setup my own Wires-X node in addition to LEARA’s repeater node, my first assumption was Phil would be able to connect out from his node in the RV to any other Wires-X node, but no other node could connect to him. This theory was based on the need to open or “port forward” 7 ports from the Internet to the PC running the Wires-X software. Port forwarding is a computer networking method used to allow data to bypass a firewall which would normally block that communication. Those that run websites from their network or have access to IP cameras while away from home will have these port forwards configured in their router.

Phil planned on using his smartphone as the Internet connection to the PC. Modern Smartphones have the ability to use the cellular network to serve an Internet connection to other devices like a laptop or Raspberry Pi via Wi-Fi connection. This is labeled something like “Mobile Hotspot” or “Personal Hotspot” in the phone. Standard disclaimer: check with your provider first in case there is an extra charge for this service or bandwidth cap. Bandwidth is standard for a Voice over Internet system at about 60kpbs/connection or about 30 MB/hour/connection with constant TX/RX. Port forwarding is never allowed on consumer cell plans. The unknown was can the Wires-X software connect without the port forwarding outlined in the configuration.

I tested my theory to see if the Wires-X software functioned by modifying a known working Wires-X configuration. I closed (temporarily disabled) the forwarded ports on my network. This meant communication over those ports would now be blocked, similar to that of a cellular connection. Then restarted the Wires-X software and hoped for the best. Was my theory correct? Drumroll please… the answer was: no. Wah waaaah. Not having the required ports forwarded to the PC did not allow the software to receive data from the Wires-X network. That result almost killed any hope of Phil using Wires-X mobile in his RV.

Phil was determined and we looked further into different solutions. VPNs were an option because they can often bypass network restrictions. However, a small number of VPN providers allowed forwarding ports as part of their service. Reviews weren’t positive and VPNs tend to easily fail with unstable data connections as one might have while mobile. Not something to be messing around with while driving. It introduced another point-of-failure in this setup. Hilariously enough, there were applications that touted the ability to ‘open ports on your phone.’ These wouldn’t work because it might open ports on the phone, almost assuredly the provider was blocking any ports upstream to the phone. Verizon offers a business account which allows port forwards but there is a one-time setup cost of $500 plus the service. Yeah, no. I suggested asking in the Yahoo group. John – N9UPC, Fusion representative for Yaesu, reinforced the conclusion I came to: operating mobile wasn’t possible because wireless providers don’t provide a global IP. Though Phil posted his question in late April, oddly enough John did not give any indication to an announcement at Dayton. One solution that looked promising used AMPRNet which is block of Internet routable IP addresses for ham radio operators. It could give us the global IP address we needed. After finding out more, someone else’s data center was being used and we weren’t sure Phil would have permission to use it as well.

Sensing no way to get around the port forward restriction, an announcement came during the Fusion forum at Dayton that (we hope) will solve Phil’s problem. Yaesu is going to release an update in the coming months that will allow the FT2DR, FTM-100D, as well as the FTM-400XD to operate as a portable node. With additional cables, these radios would connect directly to a computer for Wires-X operation without the need of an HRI-200. This was created specifically for mobile setups and users who don’t have the ability to forward the necessary ports (like in a hotel). Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!

A couple caveats: purchase of an HRI-200 is still required. To use the portable node, you still need to register on the Wires-X system which requires a serial number from an HRI-200. The portable setup will not have ‘all of the features’ of the traditional setup such as hosting a Room (round table-type node) or messaging. Purchase of two cables is required to make the necessary connections: an SCU-19 USB and CT-44 audio cable. It wasn’t clear if both are needed for the 100/400 radios. There are no plans “at this time” to integrate any other Fusion radio other than the three listed above.

It would have been nice to have a heads-up about this new option before we spent time researching a solution. I think this will solve Phil’s problem and get him mobile with Wires-X. Announcement from the Fusion form, Dayton Hamvention 2018.

Speaking of digital hotspots, my favorite has been discontinued: the openSPOT. Saw it disappeared form dealer sites just after Dayton. June 8th it was removed from the SharkRF website with an announcement that a new product was going to be introduced soon. What could it be??! If you need a digital hotspot device today, I really like the ZUMSpot with the Pi-Star software. I picked up one with a case at Dayton. More info in future articles.

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 and get them 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. Winlink post about Field Day points.

With July around the corner, two of my favorite events will be kicking-off soon. The 13 Colonies Special Event is coming up July 1 – 7, along with the RAC Canada Day Contest on July 1st only.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – May 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-May-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Another Hamvention has come to a close. My dad (N8ETP) and I were able to make it again. We were joined by my mom (N8GTK) this year too. This was her second Hamvention. She got to experience one at Hara Arena and now one at the Greene County Fairgrounds. Last year my dad and I parked on site at the fairgrounds. We didn’t get stuck but took about 3 car washes to get the mud off. This year we decided to park off-site and were bussed in. I remember being able to fit in the isles and seats last time I was on a school bus – not so much this time. Off-site parking was the better decision. Our site at Young’s Dairy was not nearly as muddy as the fairgrounds parking lot was this year or last. Other off-site locations offer a paved lot if parking in a field is not your thing.

On Friday, the busses dropped off and picked up in a remote area away from the main entrance. Farm tractors transported Hamvention goers to the main entrance with hayride trailers. This lasted a day because rain combined with heavy machinery and grassy fields turned it into – you guessed it – a mud wrestling pit. Saturday, the busses dropped us off in one of the parking lots and then we rode golf carts to the main gate. Beats being stuck.

Being the second year at the new location, it’s still a work-in-progress. Improvements have been made over last year and there is still more in the pipeline. An addition to the flea market was crushed asphalt and gravel isles. This should have improved conditions in the flea market though I can’t say for sure. We started in the flea market on Friday but about an hour later it started raining buckets and we headed indoors unfortunately not to return. Rearranging the indoor facilities provided a much larger covered eating area. The tent used for outdoor vendors was much nicer. The ground might have gotten wet underneath but I don’t think occupants got the rain coming in through the sides as they did last year. Another building is expected to be constructed for next year.

Despite the wet weather, it still seemed like attendance was up. It’s kind of a bummer not being able to walk away with a new purchase at the hamfest. A couple purchases needed to be shipped because vendors didn’t have the room but it’s a good problem to have as Hamvention continues to bring in vendors from around the world. According to the conversations I had, next year will be dry and all the problems will be solved! Don’t hold me to the ‘being dry’ part.

VOA Bethany Relay Station (Wikipedia)

For a couple years, one thing I’ve wanted to do while in Dayton was visit the Voice of America (VOA) museum. This year, with the three of us, we made it a point and it was well worth a visit. I believe the first time I ever heard of Voice of America was in a college Telecommunications class. We had an assignment to listen to VOA over an evening and write our thoughts about what we heard in the broadcast. This was in the mid-2000’s and the VOA was available as an online stream. Grated many people have not heard of VOA which is understandable because its target audience isn’t U.S. citizens. The primary intent of VOA was broadcast programming to be consumed by foreign audiences to help influence public opinion abroad regarding the U.S. Propaganda, if you will.

My primary operating interests are digital modes and using computers but I have a healthy respect and am very interested in the history of radio. There’s a lot of radio history in our own backyard. Down in West Chester, Ohio are two very famous transmission facilities: WLW and the Voice of America Bethany Relay station. WLW is famous for being the highest power transmitter ever used in the U.S. on broadcast AM radio. Between 1934 and 1939 WLW operated at a power output of 500 kW. The transmitter they operated was serial number 1. In 1938, a congressional resolution was introduced which limited broadcast AM transmission to 50 kW, which is still the current maximum power output. The WLW tower is also rare featuring the unique “Blaw-Knox” diamond shape.

Adjacent to the WLW tower is the VOA facility known as the Bethany Relay Station. In 1944, the facility began transmitting American programming on shortwave frequencies primarily into Europe during World War II. They could broadcast into Africa and South America as well. The site had 6 transmitters built by the same company that operated the WLW transmitter, Crosley Radio. Four stations were 200 kW and two were 50 kW. Originally the facility sat on a 625-acre site built inland so it couldn’t be easily attacked like other VOA sites close to the ocean might be. Due to a shift to satellite technology, the station was decommissioned in 1994. Much of the property was turned over to the Metroparks and is now a recreational park. The transmission towers and antennas have all been demolished. The transmission building and antenna switching facility is all that remains which is now home to a museum and ham radio club.

WLW Engineering Azimuthal Projection Map

The National VOA Museum of Broadcasting and the West Chester Amateur Radio Association, WC8VOA, preserve and care for the Bethany Relay Station. The museum chronicles the history of VOA and how it played key roles in forming public opinion of the U.S. during wartime. It featured a fitting tribute to the last known surviving engineer for WLW and VOA, Clyde Haehnle, who passed away last month. An azimuthal projection map, which Clyde drew, is featured in many places. This map shows the distance and angle from Cincinnati to any point on the globe which was used to direct VOA antennas to any part of the world. Another room features the history of the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation with tubes on display used in the WLW 500 kW transmitter and types of radios consumers would have used in their homes. A radio timeline shows the history of radio from the spark gap to the iPad. Opposite those displays are the broadcaster’s museum which featured a couple pieces of history from the Cleveland area, which I was surprised to see.

Of the old VOA facility, there is still a shortwave transmitter on display complete with control panel, the newer of the two control rooms where operators could select programming broadcast over each transmitter, and the antenna switching matrix. If all that isn’t enough, you can operate the WC8VOA club station in the old control room of the VOA.

We could have easily spent a half-day there because there was so much to look at, watch, and listen. This was an amazing facility with a lot of history between WLW and VOA. The VOA Museum of Broadcasting and West Chester Amateur Radio Association where such gracious hosts. They were around to answer questions and pass along the history of this station. If you’re in the area or if not, make plans for Hamvention next year to spend [more than] a couple hours at the VOA facility. It’s open every Saturday and Sunday 1 – 4pm with extended hours during Hamvention.

More information and videos on the VOA:
West Chester Amateur Radio Association (WC8VOA): http://wc8voa.org/
National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting: http://www.voamuseum.org/
Voice of America Museum Special (AmateurLogic.TV): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3w_ZXRJol_4

Clyde Haehnle, Remembering WLW & VOA (AmateurLogic.TV): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnw-STvoj20

1992-04-24 Voice of America Bethany (Mason) Ohio Relay Station [in operation]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiGmEjH4dKE

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Apr-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

In all the ragging (er, discussion?) on Windows 10 last month, Bill – K8RWH had some good points and questions about Linux that I decided to write a follow up this month. There is a lot to parse, especially different terminology. The most useful website for Linux information is called DistroWatch, short for Distribution Watch. Most of the information here will come from that site. Let’s get to it.

History

Linux came out of the Unix operating system implemented by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie (both of AT&T Bell Laboratories) in 1969. “Linux began in 1991 with the commencement of a personal project by Finnish student Linus Torvalds to create a new free operating system kernel. Since then, the resulting Linux kernel has been marked by constant growth throughout its history. Since the initial release of its source code in 1991, it has grown from a small number of C (programming language) files under a license prohibiting commercial distribution to the 4.15 version in 2018 with more than 23.3 million lines of [code] … ” (Wikipedia).

Tux

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the official Linux mascot. “Torvalds announced in 1996 that there would be a mascot for Linux, a penguin. This was due to the fact when they were about to select the mascot, Torvalds mentioned he was bitten by a little penguin on a visit to the National Zoo & Aquarium in Canberra, Australia. Larry Ewing provided the original draft of today’s well known mascot based on this description. The name Tux was suggested by James Hughes as derivative of Torvalds’ UniX, along with being short for tuxedo, a type of suit with color similar to that of a penguin” (Wikipedia).

Crash course in Linux terminology

GNU/GPL – software licensing methodologies frequently used by Linux and Unix variants.

Open Source – anyone can see the building blocks of a project known as the source code. This is beneficial because anyone with skills can fix and improve upon an open source program.

Kernel – is the core to any operating system (not only Linux). It interacts with and controls the computer’s hardware (mouse, keyboard, monitor/graphics, hard drive, USB devices, network). It is the lowest level of the operating system.

Operating System – collection of kernel and software that make a computing device work. Most operating systems include drivers, text editor, file manager, and a method for installing & removing applications (known as a “Package Manager” in Linux).

Architecture – type of processor an operating system can run. 64-bit, 32-bit processors, Raspberry Pi and mobile devices are examples.

Live CD/Medium – the operating system can be run from a CD or USB drive without installing to a hard drive. This is useful in testing different operating systems or to aid in recovering an inaccessible system.

Dual-boot – in contrast to “live CD,” installation of one or more operating systems on the same computer. My experience: install Windows first, then Linux. The Linux boot-loader plays nice with Windows but not the other way around. Reinstalling Windows will also break the Linux boot-loader. It can be repaired but will stress your Google and command line-fu skills.

Distribution – similar to “Operating System” but often targeted for a specific purpose or category: servers, desktops, beginners, education, gaming, multimedia, security, utilities, telephony, etc.

Checksum or Hash – applies an algorithm to data. It is used to track errors introduced in transmitting data or storing data. Checksum programs are standard in Linux operating systems. A third-party program like HashTab or QuickHash GUI are needed to verify a checksum in Windows.

Desktop environment – how a user interacts with multiple applications at once. This is a matter of personal preference. Popular desktop environments are: Cinnamon, GNOME, KDE, MATE, and Xfce.

Popular Linux Distributions

DistroWatch has just short of 900 Linux distributions in their database. Over 300 are considered active (updated in the last 2 years). Only about a handful are useful to average users. For a complete guide see “A Guide to Choosing a Distribution.”

Linux Mint

Linux Mint – launched in 2006 to address many of the drawbacks associated with a more technical operating system such as Linux. Using the Ubuntu distribution as a base, many beginner enhancements were created for usability. I had read about security concerns with Mint and began to steer users away from it. However, DistroWatch published a “Myths and Misunderstandings” debunking many of those points. If you’re a noobie and want to dive into Linux as an alternative operating system, start with Mint.

Ubuntu – Launched a few years earlier in 2004, this project took off faster than any other distribution and was touted as the way to get average people to use Linux. Learning from the mistakes of other projects and taking a professional approach to its users made it a popular choice. Excellent web-based documentation and an easy to use bug reporting facility was created. Though frequent major changes and the Unity interface – more suited for mobile devices – have driven users away.

Elementary OS – This one is for Mac users. It emulates MacOS and puts a lot of focus into ascetics.

Debian – base for the above and 120 other Linux distributions. Debian is remarkably stable due to its high level of quality control. It has support for many software packages and processor types making it a great choice for older systems. Due to that level of processor support it lacks newer technologies.

In the 300 other active Linux distributions, specialized versions serve an intended purpose:

Windows Compatibility

Users who’ve switched to Linux or Linux users that need to run a Windows app might ask: can I run Windows applications on Linux? Yes, there are a couple ways to accomplish this.

Run a virtual machine program like VirtualBox. A virtual machine emulates hardware and the functionality of a physical computer. Similar to dual-booting it requires a full installation of the desired (guest) operating system. Emulation is resource intensive for the physical (host) operating system hardware. It doesn’t make much sense to have a multi-gigabyte Windows virtual install to run a small application.

WINE running Media Player Classic and SumatraPDF (Wikipedia)

This is where WINE comes into play. Wine stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator. It’s not a virtual machine but rather a compatibility layer to translate Windows system calls into Linux system calls. WINE takes a considerable amount of configuring but programs like PlayOnLinux and Winetricks make life much easier. Neither solution is perfect and won’t succeeded in cases of complex applications or ones requiring specialized hardware.

In terms of ham radio, Windows was the overwhelming platform of choice for Morse Code and digital mode applications because everyone was using it. Older Windows only applications (MMSSTV, DigiPan) are going to run well on that platform. The good news is programs like Fldigi and QSSTV are viable replacements on Linux and, in many cases, better than their dedicated Windows counterpart. In addition, the Ubuntu package manager has an entire category dedicated to Amateur Radio applications. If you’re someone whose fed up with the badness and frustrations of Windows 10, give Linux a try.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – March 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Mar-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Windows 10: two years later. Last time I talked about Windows 10, Microsoft was giving the operating system away as a free upgrade. It represented a drastic shift in Microsoft’s business model. I’ll cover some of the decisions surrounding Windows 10 and my experiences with this new model of delivering and updating Windows. Beware, a lot of complaining lies ahead. You have been warned 🙂

Microsoft is transforming Windows 10 to “software as a service” (often written as SaaS) over previous versions. The software is licensed to the user. Microsoft takes full responsibility for maintaining, updating, and adding new features. Though this means users have little chance to stop major updates from applying and no chance to stop additional applications from being installed or removed. They are applying the phone model of updating to Windows 10 across all platforms. Microsoft wants to handle all updates and wants apps to be downloaded from the Microsoft Store (like the Google Play Store or Apple App Store).

In principal, this seems like a good idea because users don’t have to do anything. They will always be updated with the latest and greatest operating system and apps. This model fits almost no users of Windows 10. Average users get frustrated with having to apply updates weekly. According to Paul Thurrott, journalist and blogger who follows Microsoft, he stated that ‘65% of Microsoft’s revenue comes from enterprise users who don’t want to update but every 5-10 years. Instead of adapting to that service model, they force users to conform to [Microsoft’s] business model.’

This shift includes realizing that most Windows users think: when I buy a new computer, I get Windows. These are not power-users like me.

For Windows to be available on every type of device (PC, tablet, mobile, Xbox, IoT, Hololens) Microsoft created this platform for developers called UWP. Universal Windows Platform apps are meant to be designed once, put in the Microsoft Store, and run on all device types. Ultimate goal was to replace all desktop apps with a UWP app. The Microsoft Store would take care of installing the latest version when updates were available. When tied to a Microsoft Account, apps would be installed on any devices signed in using that account. No one is using this platform. Microsoft created apps in UWP for Windows 10 but they’re proof-of-concept apps at best, toy apps at worst. The Photos app is unusable. If they wanted developers to be drawn to this platform, Microsoft should have created some really awesome looking and functioning apps to show off the abilities of UWP. Instead they created apps that no one wants to use largely because the platform is not mature.

Windows Media Center

Microsoft does come up with really good ideas. Then they get rid of them. In the XP days, who wasn’t using Windows Movie Maker? It made some really good-looking edited videos like home movies, class projects, or to promote a brand on a website. Gone. Windows Media Center was loved by many because it turned an ordinary PC into a media powerhouse with the ability to record TV programs, watch DVDs, play music, show photos, and stream movies from Netflix. Gone. Paint was on the chopping block for the Fall Creators update. It got so much push back from diehards they decided to keep it and added a 3D ribbon so that it can do 3D modeling. Eh.

I think Windows 7 is the best version of Windows despite the severe lack of hardware and driver support. For example, SSDs (solid-state-device, aka non-spinning hard drive) needed deep internal settings need to be adjusted in Windows 7 so it would not wear out the SSD faster than expected. Windows 10 knows what to do with an SSD out-of-the-box, even in a RAID configuration.

I love that Windows 10 is stable. Running it on fairly modern hardware, it just works. My main machine runs 10 and was installed from scratch at the end of May 2016. This is unheard of for me. Every couple of months I was restoring a backup of Windows 7, likely due to a failed driver update. In the two years since installation I went through a motherboard failure. When it died, I built a new system. I did a drive-to-drive copy of my Windows installation and data onto new hard drives. Previous versions of Windows never handled drastic hardware changes very well. It would get stuck in the startup process and reboot over and over again. Windows 10 detected my new hardware, installed some drivers, after maybe a reboot or two I was up and (still am) running on that initial install.

That’s where my love for Windows 10 ends.

I don’t like the two-control panel-like settings areas called “Control Panel” and “Settings.” It’s too scattered, if you can find the setting at all. I swear there are changes just to make changes. In one update an option is over here, the next update it is someplace else. This constant changing makes finding solutions online a real bear. Settings, and in particular privacy settings, are often defaulted when a major update is applied.

I hate the forced upgrades and reboots. Users complain, and Microsoft admits, they were forced into Windows upgrades when the user specified to delay the update. There were complaints of updates rebooting during ‘active hours’ and the solution was to modify the Windows Registry. The Registry stores low-level settings of the operating system and installed applications. Making an error editing the registry can cause irreversible damage. “Active hours” is another dumb idea. ‘Hey tell us when you think you’re going to be using your PC and we won’t apply updates.’ Except that didn’t happen. Windows 10 would reboot causing many hours of lost productivity. Have a task or job running overnight? It’s not more important than a Windows update! Granted many of these issues come and go but they are major annoyances. They leave users feeling like they don’t have control because a decision they made was not honored.

Microsoft is thinking like a developer. Developers will tell you “this is progress.” This happens a lot. It’s a real problem. Progress is not removing options for users. Their idea of progress may not align with the majority of users either. Paul Thurrott believes that Microsoft is intentionally making Windows 10 bad. “I actually think they’re doing this on purpose to sabotage this business from within … so they can move on to the thing they want to do which is cloud computing … It’s almost that bad.” (What The Tech, ep 363).

Classic Shell

I’m really getting tired of replacing bad implementations with functional addons. To my chagrin, Classic Shell is no longer in development which was my preferred Start Menu replacement. These reasons should sound familiar: “Windows 10 is being updated way too frequently (twice a year) and each new version changes something that breaks Classic Shell. And … Each new version of Windows moves further away from the classic Win32 programming model, which allowed room for a lot of tinkering. The new ways things are done make it very difficult to achieve the same customizations.” Luckily the source code was released making it easy for someone or a group to pick up where that project left off. Check alternativeTo other Start Menu replacement options.

I would love to move my Windows 10 desktop to Linux. There are apps that don’t run well in a virtual machine or hardware apps that can’t run under a compatibility layer like Wine. Windows it is for now. I have moved my laptops over to Linux and have been loving it. Linux has its own issues but if one distribution doesn’t work, try another. I do have Windows virtual machines installed for software defined radio apps and Office mostly. My preferred Linux distro is Fedora because it had the least amount of problems running specialized apps in a VM. It’s not for the faint of heart either as it’s considered a ‘bleeding edge’ operating system. Problems often make to the stable update channel but seem to be fixed relatively quickly.

This is the dividing line. Are you willing to change or is this too much?

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – February 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Feb-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Have a bunch of odds and ends for everyone this month.

Ham Cram Sessions

I received a piece of feedback worth sharing from December’s article on the “ham cram” type training sessions. One group in the section is working on a cram session for new licensees. That will be followed up with a “now what” session. The follow up session would have mentors and elmers available to help get new hams on the air. Depending on the success, this may be followed up with a General class too.

I think it’s a great idea to follow up with the “now what” session in a more relaxed environment for learning and getting them comfortable being on the air.

Digital Communications in Amateur Radio

Operating PSK31

I’ve been working on my Digital Communications in Amateur Radio series for the Wood County Amateur Radio Club. The series started with an overview of Ham radio digital modes and how to get your station setup with different interface options. From there I’ve been taking an introductory look into specific modes, though mostly ones used on HF. My articles are available in the club’s newsletter, CQ Chatter, found on the Wood County Amateur Radio Club Website (past years are on the CQ Chatter Archives page) or available on my site as well. Check them out to get an introductory look at digital modes.

Latest additions:

  • Conversational Digital Modes like PSK, RTTY, MFSK, Olivia (February 2017)
  • Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System or NBEMS (August 2017)
  • Winlink (February 2018)

Yaesu Fusion Announcements

After the New Year, Yaesu released an announcement with regard to their Fusion C4FM offerings.

  • The DR-2X purchase program will continue through June 30, 2018.
    • A trade-in program is available for current DR-1X repeater owners (they will not accept the beta version) towards the purchase of a DR-2X. $300 if you are trading in a DR-1X and only want the DR-2X repeater. If you wish to include the IMRS IP linking option in the DR-2X, the price will be $500.
    • Buying the DR-2X outright is $900. $1100 to include IMRS.
  • New Firmware will be released for DG-ID and DP-ID functionality in the DR-1X repeaters. Much like the Wires-X upgrade, it is very likely the repeater will need to be sent back to Yaesu for this firmware upgrade.
  • They are releasing the DR-1X FR. The DR-1X FR is a “factory refurbished” DR-1X for $400. It will have the DG-ID and DP-ID firmware already installed. The DR-1X FR cannot be used for the trade in program towards a DR-2X.

The discounted prices listed for the DR-2X and DR-1X FR require an application available from Yaesu. Firmware upgrade details or applications can be obtained by contacting John Kruk – N9UPC (Sales Manager for Yaesu USA) at j.kruk@yaesu.com or through the Yaesu Service department.

Yeesh. Lost yet? I won’t rehash my thoughts on Fusion (see August & September 2017 editions of the OSJ) but I think this announcement only further fragments their offering.

Tom Gallagher – NY2RF to Retire

Tom Gallagher – NY2RF is going to retire after 2 short years as CEO of the ARRL. For me the cliché is true: it only seems like yesterday. I appreciated Tom’s articles in QST and his behind the scenes look at the ARRL. As an MBA, I loved his explanation into some of the financials and reasons for the league raising membership dues in 2016 (July 2017 QST, Mythbusting: ARRL Not “A Big Radio Club”). The League may have $14.7 million in assets but that doesn’t mean that is money lying around. It goes toward programs and services to benefit members and non-members alike. Despite the non-profit status our government affords the organization, they need to pay competitive wages to employees and authors – otherwise they will go elsewhere. I also had the privilege to correspond with Tom on, I think, an excellent direction to get Makers into the ham radio hobby.

I wish Tom well in his retirement. Announcement: http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-ceo-tom-gallagher-ny2rf-to-retire

Tinkercad

Speaking of Makers, I saw a video on the Amateur Logic podcast that demonstrated TinkerCAD electronics. If you’ve done anything with 3D printing, you’ve probably used Tinkercad. Tinkercad is a product of Autodesk, makers of software for architecture, engineering, and construction manufacturing. As Tommy demonstrates in the video, Tinkercad has an electronics section to simulate building electronic circuits and projects. This can be used as a great introduction into electronic circuit building for students and kids. The simulator has many types of electronic components: switches, capacitors, Arduinos, diodes, power supplies, oscilloscopes, potentiometers, resistors, ICs, breadboards, motors, servos, sensors, and of course – wires!

Tommy duplicates a simple blinking LED project he built in a previous episode using the simulator – even using the exact same Arduino code. I wondered if there was a product available to simulate circuit building and was quite impressed how well the simulator worked. Check it out in Amateur Logic episode 113. To sign up and start “tinkering,” go to: https://www.tinkercad.com/. 6 years or so ago, they were charging for the service. It appears when Autodesk took it over, it’s been free to use.

Scanner Anti-encryption Bill

Lastly for this month, I’m a scanner listener and I’m intrigued by the State of Ohio’s MARCS-IP public service safety system (Multi-Agency Radio Communications over IP). In short, it’s a state wide P25 digital communications system that allows users to be anywhere in the state and communicate with their agency. Once of the selling points for any commercial digital system is the ability to encrypt. Only those authorized can “unscramble” the transmission, meaning scanner listeners are locked out of listening to that particular group, or system in a few cases. Agencies love it and scanner listeners hate it.

Robert Wareham – N0ESQ

Our friends in the Colorado section made headlines last month when State Government Liaison and Section EC Robert Wareham – N0ESQ participated in drafting what is being called the “anti-encryption Bill.” With the backing of Colorado State Representative Kevin van Winkle (R), the bill outlaws blanket encryption by state and local governments striking a balance between transparency and the public’s right to monitor public agencies. Legitimate needs of confidential investigations and tactical operations are not protected under the bill. There are criminal penalties for those who monitor these communications to further a criminal enterprise, avoid arrest, detection, or escape capture.

While this bill only applies to Colorado, it could set a path for other states to draft something similar. Encryption for public radio systems is always a hot topic with completely valid points on both sides. There is a 51 page thread on the topic in the Radio Reference forums debating reasons both ways.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Digital Communications in Amateur Radio: Winlink

This article appeared in the The Wood County Amateur Radio Club newsletter CQ Chatter February 2018 edition.

Read the rest of the series in the Digital Communications in Amateur Radio articles category.


Hurricane season wasn’t particularly fun in 2017. We had both extremes. Houston got hit with Hurricane Harvey which required little response from the ham community. Infrastructure stayed online. Disruption to communication systems and Internet was minimal. This left many hams wondering, ‘are we at the point where our infrastructure is stable enough to survive a category 4 hurricane?’ ‘Are hams still relevant since we were not needed for this type of event?’ We got the answer to those questions over the next month with two category 5 hurricanes. Irma impacted the state of Florida and Maria devastated the relatively poor U.S. possession of Puerto Rico. We went from wondering if ham radio was still relevant in emergency situations to rethinking training for extended deployment scenarios, all within a matter of weeks.

Ham radio news sources pointed out many communication techniques were utilized getting traffic in and out of affected areas. An ARRL press release indicated “Maxim Memorial Station W1AW at ARRL Headquarters is monitoring the HWN, 60-meter interoperability channel 2, and Winlink for any traffic.” Winlink gained prevalence in ham news media due to these disasters, gained popularity in emergency communications circles, and became an operating requirement for hams that assisted in Puerto Rico. Winlink is a very powerful and flexible system for exchanging all types of messages.

“Winlink (also known as Winlink 2000) is a worldwide radio messaging system that uses amateur-band radio frequencies to provide radio interconnection services that include email with attachments, position reporting, weather bulletins, emergency relief communications, and message relay” (Wikipedia). In other words, Winlink is a global email system via radio. The backbone uses the Internet for communication but users do not need an Internet connection. This makes the system popular in Emcomm when the Internet is not available. Winlink was first used recreationally by mariners, RV campers, and missionaries. The entire system is run by volunteers and a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. Though similar in name, the “WIN System” is a popular IRLP repeater system based in California and entirely different.

https://www.winlink.org/content/getting_started_winlink_and_winmor

The Winlink system consists of multiple Common Message Servers (CMS) on multiple continents thought the world. The CMS servers form a “star” network configuration to coordinate traffic and provide services like email, webmail, telnet, bulletins, and reporting. Each CMS is a mirror image of the others for redundancy, failover, and outage situations. The Internet, by design, can work around outages. To date, there has been no global outage of the Internet – only regional. Having multiple servers, with redundant copies of the same data, means one or more could be affected by an outage and the system still functions. As of November 1, 2017, the CMS servers have been moved into the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud for greater redundancy.

Remote Message Servers (RMS) are scattered throughout the world and are the RF connection into the Winlink system. RMS gateways access the resources of the CMS servers via the Internet. These nodes are provided by hams familiar with the system and are setup on many ham bands (HF, VHF, UHF). On VHF/UHF, connectivity is limited to local clients. HF gateways serve a wider area but depend heavily on band conditions.

Finally, your computer runs the client software which interacts with services provided by the CMS, most often through an RMS gateway. The client software sends and receives messages. Size is limited to 120KB maximum, including attachments. Winlink uses a “store and forward” approach to messaging meaning clients are not constantly connected to an RMS or CMS gateway.

There are currently 6 client software applications available for Winlink. A feature comparison is available at: https://www.winlink.org/ClientSoftware. Winlink Express (formally RMS Express) is the preferred client because it’s developed by the system administrators and supports all features of the system. The software is well supported and frequently updated. The application looks and operates much like a stripped-down email client. Using a familiar email interface makes the application easy-to-use. Though free to download and use, Winlink Express is nagware. It will frequently prompt to purchase a key supporting development of the system. Registration of $24 is encouraged but not a requirement to use Winlink.

Winlink Express interacts with a wide selection of transceivers, provides different operating modes (PACTOR, Packet, Telnet, WINMOR Virtual TNC), and offers different connection methods (relay over mesh and D-STAR networks). It can be operated in any of four general methods:

  • Winlink: access messages on the CMS via an RF connection to an RMS gateway using the Internet.
  • Peer-to-Peer (P2P): messages exchanged directly with other users over RF, Internet, or mesh without the use of a RMS or CMS.
  • Radio-only: messages transferred between HF RMS gateways – without use of the Internet.
  • Telnet Post Office: connects to the CMS directly over the Internet.

A growing library of forms is available for ARES, RACES, SHARES, or MARS organizations including ICS, ARRL, and form types used in Ohio. The advantage of Winlink versus NBEMS is the ability to exchange messages over the public Internet. A form could be emailed directly to a government official instead of relayed via another ham. Winlink Express makes it easy to fill out or reply to forms by utilizing the local web browser. When composing a message, these forms are found under “Select Template.”

A “Query Catalog” accesses services provided by the CMS such as weather and marine forecasts, news, and propagation reports. Location coordinates can be reported through Winlink as well.

Winlink Express will work on a modern computer or Windows tablet running Windows Vista or later. The WINMOR Virtual TNC requires a 700 MHz or greater processor and 512 MB RAM or more due to the Digital Signal Processing (DSP) needed. An Apple or Linux version of Winlink Express is not available but it can be run using a virtual machine or dual-boot configuration. A Linux client is available but does not support all features.

This series primarily focuses on soundcard modes over HF and I will be discussing the WINMOR Virtual TNC. WINMOR is a low-cost interface utilizing the SignaLink USB for $120 as opposed to a PACTOR 3 dedicated hardware modem which can run $1,100 – $1,600. Low-cost hardware means tradeoffs. WINMOR is not anywhere near as fast or reliable as a PACTOR 3 modem, but it does a very good job.

To get started, first go to: ftp://autoupdate.winlink.org/User%20Programs/. Download two programs from the list of files: latest itshfbc program and Winlink_Express_install. ITS HF Propagation is prediction software to provide a rough estimate of the signal path quality between your QTH and remote RMS. Install both applications, order doesn’t matter. Click “next” through both installs, accepting defaults.

An Internet connection is required on the computer for initial setup. After starting Winlink Express, a “Winlink Express Properties” configuration will be seen. If not, click Settings, Winlink Express Setup. At a minimum the following fields must be completed: callsign, choose a password, enter a non-Winlink password recovery email, and grid square. Under Service Code, if you plan on using EMCOMM channels, make the code read: PUBLIC EMCOMM

I recommend checking Display list of pending incoming messages prior to download. This will display incoming message details prior to download allowing the user to select or reject messages based on size or sender. Click Update. An account will be setup on the Winlink system. The Winlink email address won’t become active until a message is sent through the CMS gateway. Click Remind Me Later on any Winlink Express Registration screens.

To create a message activating the Winlink email address, click the New message icon or click Message, New Message.

In the To field, enter your real email address. In the Subject field, enter something like “My first Winlink message.” In the message body, enter something like “This is my first Winlink message, whoo hoo!”

The message is ready to send, but wait! There is no “send” option. What gives?!? Since this system is store-and-forward, messages are Post to Outbox and appear in the “Outbox” System Folder. Messages in outbox can still be edited but will be sent when connected to a CMS.

Next to “Open Session,” in the drop-down select Winmor Winlink. Click Open Session.

Two more boxes will appear: “WINMOR WL2K Session” and “WINMOR Setup.” The WINMOR WL2K Session box is where an RMS gateway is selected and it displays the connection status.

You will be prompted to select the Capture and Playback soundcard devices in the WINMOR Setup box. For the SignaLink, select USB Audio CODEC. Leave all other settings at their defaults. Click Update. A third “WINMOR Sound Card TNC” box will appear. This window shows a waterfall along with transmit and receive state of the virtual TNC. Ignore this box for now.

On the SignaLink, begin with the TX and RX volume knobs set to the 12 o’clock position. Set delay (DLY) to the 2nd tick-mark (8 o’clock position).

If you have a way to control your radio through CI-V commands or equivalent, click Settings, Radio Setup, and configure the settings for the radio. Radio control makes it much easier when selecting different RMS gateway stations. Selecting a different station will automatically change the radio’s frequency and mode. With a VOX device like the SignaLink, for “PTT Port” select External. Click Update.

Back in the WINMOR Winlink Session box, click Channel Selection. An “HF Channel Selector” window will open. A message will ask to ‘update the channel list and recompute the propagation estimates now?’ Click Yes. If not asked, click Update Table Via Internet. This table will update with the current list of Winlink RMS gateway channels on HF. The list can be updated over radio in the future if desired.

Once updated, the presence of color in the “Path Reliability Estimate” and “Path Quality Estimate” columns mean the ITS HF Propagation predictor program is installed and working. Calculations are based on your grid square and solar flux index. Update the current grid square in Winlink Express setup and this table often when traveling. “Mode” is the bandwidth of the RMS node. A higher number means faster transfers are possible. “Hours” means the hours each day the node is online. “00-23” is all day, “02-13” is 02:00 – 13:00. The rest is self-explanatory.

To select a particular RMS gateway, double-click that row in the table. Gateways in green are good choices but ones at the top of the list may not always provide the best connection. Reliable gateways are found by trial and error and can be added to the “Favorites” list. If Rig Control is enabled, the radio should tune to the dial frequency of the RMS gateway and enter USB mode. If not, tune the radio’s display frequency to the “Dial Freq” (VERY important!) shown in WINMOR. Warm up the Tuner if it needs it. Remember to use no more than 30% power. Click Start.

If WINMOR thinks the channel is busy, it will prompt to verify you still want to connect because your transmissions maybe interfering with another station. Your radio will start pinging the remote RMS gateway station. In the WINMOR Sound Card TNC, above the receive indicator will be the “Measured T>R Latency” value. This measures the transmit/receive turnaround time. This should be less than 250ms and adjustable in part by the SignaLink DLY knob. Higher values will cause problems receiving from the RMS gateway. While receiving transmissions from the gateway, adjust the RX knob to a level that falls within the green portion of “Rcv Level.”

With any luck, your client will connect and your first Winlink message will be sent! There will be A LOT of back-and-forth (TX/RX switching) between your radio and remote RMS gateway. These are handshaking and acknowledgments or sending/receiving messages. When all messages are exchanged, the client will automatically disconnect from the RMS gateway. Clicking “Stop” will gracefully disconnect and ID at any time during a session. “Abort” should only be used when something is very wrong because communication is terminated immediately (without ID). Attempts will be made by the RMS to reestablish communication with the client before eventually timing-out.

Once the test message is received in your actual email, your new callsign@winlink.org email address is now active! Send a reply to the test message through your real email. To call a different RMS gateway, click Channel Selection and select a different station. Wait 5 minutes or so for the reply email to reach the Winlink CMS. Click Start in the WINMOR Winlink session box. You will see your reply downloaded to the inbox! When replying to lengthy messages, I will keep a few sentences (paragraph at most) of the original message. This keeps the transmission time down. The original sender can look at the full message in their client sent folder.

Before going crazy telling people to send messages, there is one crucial piece to this system. Winlink uses a “whitelist” (approved senders list) approach for external email addresses. This keeps abuse and spam to a minimum. As a Winlink user, you are free to send messages using your Winlink address to other Winlink users. Other Winlink users can do the same, freely contacting you.

External email addresses are handled very different. An external email is any mail system other than Winlink (Gmail, Outlook, DACOR, Buckeye Cable, BGSU, etc.). If you first send a Winlink message to someone@someprovider.com, that email address is automatically added to your Winlink whitelist. That means email from someone@someprovider.com will be delivered to your Winlink inbox.

For an external email address to send you a message unsolicited to Winlink, there are two options: add that email to your whitelist ahead of time or the sender must put “//WL2K” in the subject line. Example: “//WL2K Holiday Meeting.” Anything with //WL2K in the subject is considered a deliverable message and will not be flagged as unauthorized. By default, all outgoing messages have this inserted automatically by Winlink Express. When some individual replies to your message, which would have //WL2K in the subject, it will be accepted. Any non-whitelisted (blacklisted) addresses or messages without //WL2K in the subject, the sender will receive a bounced error message saying “Sender not authorized for any recipient.”

Whitelists can be managed by logging on to the Winlink My Account page and click My Whitelist. That page will provide details how to update the whitelist using client commands, if desired.

Another important detail to remember, there is no expectation of privacy with the Winlink system. RMS gateway owners and Winlink administrators can read messages exchanged through the system. They are looking for Part 97 violations and inappropriate usage of the system. Violators will be blocked. I’m sure they would find details of your camping trip fascinating, but they really don’t care.

Email messages through this system are considered 3rd party traffic under Part 97. The email message resides on the CMS until you (a ham) make a connection to another ham’s station (RMS) to retrieve your messages. This is similar in nature to passing messages over the National Traffic System (NTS).

The list of services available through the Winlink system is extensive. Winlink is quite flexible allowing many different ways to access the system over RF, APRS, or Internet. Feel free to send a message to my Winlink email address, K8JTK—at—winlink.org. Replace “—at—” with the appropriate email symbol. Don’t forget to include //WL2K in the subject!

Find out more information:

Winlink website: https://winlink.org/

Introduction presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTx9pY1Akl8

Resource for beginners: https://www.winlink.org/content/getting_started_winlink_and_winmor

System tutorials, documents, and FAQs: https://www.winlink.org/content/winlink_book_knowledge

Terminology of the system: https://www.winlink.org/glossary

Winlink over APRS: https://www.winlink.org/APRSLink

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – January 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Jan-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

So nothing really tech news related happened this month. Eh, not so much. The New Year brought two major flaws in nearly every modern microprocessor: Meltdown and Spectre.

In the past, major security issues were able to be corrected through software or firmware updates. This is because almost everything is now run by small amounts of software and can be easily updated. Design issues are harder to fix because the problem is fundamental to the design of a device.

Description from Meltdownattack.com:

Meltdown and Spectre exploit critical vulnerabilities in modern processors. These hardware vulnerabilities allow programs to steal data which is currently processed on the computer. While programs are typically not permitted to read data from other programs, a malicious program can exploit Meltdown and Spectre to get hold of secrets stored in the memory of other running programs. This might include your passwords stored in a password manager or browser, your personal photos, emails, instant messages and even business-critical documents.

Meltdown and Spectre work on personal computers, mobile devices, and in the cloud. Depending on the cloud provider’s infrastructure, it might be possible to steal data from other customers.

Meltdown affects nearly all Intel microprocessors manufactured since 1995. In modern computing, an operating system “kernel” handles all interactions between applications (web browser, word processing, spreadsheets) and hardware (CPU, memory, network, USB devices). By its nature, the kernel must know everything about system interactions.

CPUs have different operating modes. Two modes apply to Meltdown: unprotected (called kernel mode) and user mode. Kernel mode has access to everything while instructions executed in user mode should not have access to the same memory as the kernel.

Meltdown is the demonstration of an unauthorized user mode process accessing kernel mode memory. This means a user process can access information to which it doesn’t have permission. Think of systems that share data among many users like an online cloud service. Isolation techniques are one of the major selling points of the cloud. Multiple users can be using the same physical hardware and not impact or know anything about other users also using the same hardware. A malicious process could use meltdown to access the data of other people’s applications running on the same device.

Spectre affects nearly all microprocessor implementations of speculations and predictions. In an effort to make systems run faster, a huge amount of speculative processing is engineered into processors. Speculation is the processors answer to the question: what is most likely to happen with this instruction set? Being able to “guess” the right answer provides a massive performance boost and we all want fast systems. To explain one part of this vulnerability, consider two math equations are given to a microprocessor:

a + b = c
d + e = f

The processor will recognize calculation of the second equation does not depend on anything from the first equation. This means the processor will execute these equations simultaneously until it reaches a common dependency. That dependency would be something like:

a + b = c
(d + e) * c = g

The answer c is used as an input into the computation of the second equation. Running this set through the processor would be slower because they couldn’t be calculated simultaneously. An input into the second equation is dependent on the answer to the first.

Using the same equations, let’s assume for everyone in the Ohio section, the answer to c = 5. A programmer could write an instruction set following that calculation to say: if c = 5 then take fork #1, otherwise take fork #2. How do humans know which fork to take? Calculate the value of c. However, processors try to use “speculative execution” to perform the work of both forks before it knows the answer to c.

Let’s add super-secret data to fork #1: “the Ohio Section IS the best section.” We don’t want fork #2 to know anything about that data because it might be someone from another section trying to break-in. A processor would execute both fork instruction sets speculating on the outcome. This speculation could allow someone from another section to see our secret in fork #1 when they should only see something else in fork #2. Consider a malicious smartphone application taking advantage of this to access text messages, instant messages, mobile baking data, or critical documents.

The lengthy process of dealing with these issues has begun. The only way to truly “fix” these problems is to design new CPUs architectures and replace existing ones. Yeah, sure. Remember, these issues are fundamental to processor design. If these flaws are ever corrected, it will be over a period of time – not tomorrow, next week, or even next year. In the meantime, operating systems are implementing methods to prevent attacks.

In the rush to get these fixes out, as one might expect, more problems are being caused. Microsoft has reported issues with anti-virus applications not playing nice and claiming AMD’s documentation was incomplete. Ubuntu 16.04 users had issues forcing them to roll back the kernel. In addition to all this, processor performance is impacted. Testing done on operating system patches shows slowdowns of 2% – 30%.A forum post on Epic Games included the above graph showing CPU usage of 3 cloud servers. After their cloud provider patched one server at about 23:00, CPU utilization of that server increased nearly 2.5x over the other two. Though the CPU wasn’t maxed out, it was enough to cause service disruption. Gamers really don’t like it when their services don’t work.

For most users, stay current with system patches and updates. In particular, Microsoft is requiring anti-virus programs to set a registry key before Windows will apply system updates. As of this writing, if you do not run, have an out-of-date, or have a non-compliant anti-virus application, your system will NOT receive any future Windows updates including the patches for Meltdown and Spectre. Current versions of Windows can run the free Windows Security Essentials available for Windows 7 or Windows Defender is included in Windows 8, 8,1, and 10.

Bruce Schneier, a well-known cryptographer and security researcher states: “… more are coming, and they’ll be worse. 2018 will be the year of microprocessor vulnerabilities, and it’s going to be a wild ride.” Link to his blog post.

More information:

https://meltdownattack.com/ – research papers, technical information, FAQ, videos in action, and info from companies affected.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meltdown_(security_vulnerability)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectre_(security_vulnerability)

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2017 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/OSJ-December-17.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

I’m touching on a third-rail topic of ham radio this month, licensing and education. I’ve heard any number of hams state something like this about new hams: ‘ham’s today only study the answers to pass the test.’ ‘I don’t like so-and-so’s teaching method because their students don’t know anything.’ They don’t approve of the “boot-camp” style training sessions for many of the same reasons. Certainly their thinking is one school of thought: learn the question pools, know the reasons, learn the theories and be able to provide reasonable explanations before taking the test.

I saw a presentation by Dan Romanchik – KB6NU on the Ham Radio 2.0 podcast (http://www.livefromthehamshack.tv/2017/05/25/episode-97-teach-1-day-technician-class-kb6nu-dayton-hamvention/). His presentation caught my attention because he publishes the “No Nonsense Study Guides” (http://www.kb6nu.com/study-guides/) which is a text-book approach to learning the question pools. Dan is sold on and teaches one-day Technician training classes (also called “Ham Crams” or boot-camps). He teaches the answers to the questions and teaches to the test. At the end of the class, follows up with the Technician exam. Why? To get people into the hobby. As a Volunteer Examiner, I can appreciate that. Getting people into the ranks is always important. Dan claims students will learn something from his class and retain at least enough information to pass the exam. This means students don’t have to make multi-week commitments to attend class. How often does something come up in real life during a 6-week training class? More often than you’d think. Our school systems have been teaching to standardized tests and college entrance exams for decades. Iowa Tests, SATs, and ACTs anyone? The reason for Dan’s teaching methodology is because the real learning happens on the radio.

After watching his presentation, I realized this is exactly how I learned things in ham radio. When I was studying, my dad mentored me with electronic theory because that is his area of education and he worked in the industry. Electronic theory wasn’t necessarily something I cared a whole lot about as a freshman in high school. I knew the Part 97 FCC rules from seeing him operate or explaining them to me and from generally being around the hobby. His interests didn’t cover the HF bands. Even by the time I took my General and Extra, I probably couldn’t hit 40 meters with a shotgun. When the opportunity came and I found myself interested in HF, that changed. Being around mentors and absorbing everything I could, I think, made learning the material on the General exam easier. That learning happened over the better part of a decade after taking my Novice & Technician exams and when I decided to upgrade to General & Extra.

Ham Radio isn’t the only hobby where you receive a license to learn. A roommate in college had his pilot’s license. He was always taking aviation classes and getting flight hours in between his other classes. You have to get a pilot’s license even before you can begin learning to fly an aircraft. The State of Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles requires an applicant for learners permit to pass a knowledge test about regulations and traffic signs. Then the real learning begins – hours of driving and education. Ham radio isn’t necessarily different. Sure, many students will get their license and may not ever become a pilot or ever get on the air, but that’s up to them. I believe the ARRL was trying to accomplish something similar by exploring an introductory license: http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-board-explores-entry-level-license-options-ways-to-face-future-challenges

Hams will argue about skills. Skills needed to build a radio or operate CW are the usual examples. These are seen as relevant to ‘separate men from the boys.’ Yeah, OK. At this point, neither of those ‘skills’ are my interests. Can those same operators write a program from scratch or write an article on take-your-pick of an HF digital mode? Maybe yes, maybe no, but I can. Does that make anyone less of a ham because of different skill sets or interests? I don’t think so. The hobby is incredibly diverse with people from different backgrounds, levels of experience, and interests not even necessary related to being on the air. Such examples would be scholarships, enforcement, advocacy, public relations, regulations, laws, education, spectrum defense, and publications.

On the other hand, the ham community needs to help those hams who want to learn. I think many new hams give up because they don’t get the mentoring they are seeking. They may contact a club or two asking for help and get no response. It’s not fun when you have to constantly beg for help or get talked down to. We are all volunteers, have families, and other commitments too.

Club meetings may spark some interest on a topic but aren’t typically good places for extensive hands-on training. Many clubs focus on similar (related) topics for their meetings. Holding regularly scheduled classes and training is usually an issue due to time commitments, availability, or lack of regular interest. Other places for training might be evening classes at a local university or look at offerings of a local makerspace. Partnering with makerspaces could facilitate a place for demonstrations and training as well as bringing those with radio building skills into the hobby. Work ham radio into topics such as WiFi and Bluetooth transmitters. Don’t focus exclusively on operating demonstrations. Working with other clubs to form special interest groups, utilize subject matter “experts” to share their experiences for an extended hands-on session, or a “program your HT” evening are some other ideas. I would like to hear ideas that have been met with success welcoming newcomers into the hobby.

Retired ARRL CEO Dave Sumner – K1ZZ was on the QSO Today podcast. Dave talked about his 44 years with the League. He started as an intern in the 1970’s. The podcast starts out talking about how he got into ham radio, his antenna farm, and operating interests. Dave covered experiences with the IARU and other radio conferences during his tenure at the ARRL. He talked about programs and history of the ARRL including the Spectrum Defense fund and IARU intruder watch program. Check out QSO Today episode 172: https://www.qsotoday.com/podcasts/k1zz

In some unfortunate news, one of the largest electronics distributors headquartered in Ohio for 40 years and frequent vendor at Hamvention, MCM Electronics, is partnering with Newark element 14. Two plants will close and more than 90 workers will be laid off before end-of-year. MCM sold all kinds of tools, 3D printers, parts, wires, speakers, Arduino and Raspberry Pi computers. As of September 1, their website redirects to the Newark website. I knew the name element 14 from the Raspberry Pi computers I’ve purchased over the years. I had the opportunity to visit the MCM facility during a recent trip to Hamvention. The store was quite small compared to the massive warehouse. I couldn’t believe the size. Hopefully they’ll keep the warehouse open for parts distribution. ARRL News story: http://www.arrl.org/news/mcm-electronics-shutters-two-plants-announces-merger-with-newark-element-14

Finally, don’t forget the HF Santa Net running through Christmas Eve. Starts daily at 8:30 pm Eastern and can be found on 3916 kHz for the little ones to have a chance to talk with Santa! http://www.3916nets.com/santa-net.html. The Santa Watch Net will kick off at 6:00 pm Eastern on Christmas Eve as Santa delivers his presents. The Watch Net can be found on the *DoDropIn* Echolink conference node #355800.

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

73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – November 2017 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/OSJ-November-17.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,
I’ve been playing around with a couple new radios. With the holidays approaching, these will make great gift ideas.

Cheap radios for new or young hams are hard to come by. Many opted for the under $30 Baeofung (or Pofung) UV-5R and for good reason. They’re cheap. Perfect options for new hams, young hams, or public service events were radios are prone to damage and misuse. Destroy it and its $30 vs a couple hundred, or 7, to replace. Cheap radios could replace older radios that maybe didn’t have PL, were lower power, or single band. You got what you paid for though. Inconsistencies in firmware versions lead to differing sets of features, programming software wasn’t easy to use, neither was installing the programming cable, complaints about the lack of support, and lack of a usable manual. I stopped using these radios because of the many tests proving they were good about transmitting everywhere at once (across the entire band). As hams we are given plenty of leeway in how we use our frequencies. It’s up to each of us to make sure our radios comply with Part 97 and do not interfere with other licensed radio services. The ARRL published their findings in a November 2015 QST article. Ohio Section Technical Specialist Dave – KD8TWG demonstrated this with a couple of radios he had purchased: https://kd8twg.net/2015/10/17/a-quick-and-unscientific-spectral-analysis-of-two-baofeng-radios/.

Ok, so don’t use these radios. What radio, that meets Part 97 requirements, is available for the price? This was a problem. There was no real option. About the cheapest dual-band radio was $150. DMR radios competed on price and features but, until recently, were only single band. I finally found a better option. Unfortunately, the company has “Baofeng” in the name which makes things even more confusing. A company called “Baofeng Tech” or BTech, is a US based company offering a similar radio called the UV-5X3 for under $60.

The radio looks and acts like a UV-5R. Baofeng Tech updates the firmware, modifies the radio installing better filtering on the transmitter, and includes an easy-to-read nicely printed 85 page manual. The UV-5X3 comes with all the same accessories including belt clip, antennas, charger, and ear piece. All original Baofeng accessories work too. To my surprise, they even squeezed in the 220 MHz (1.25m) band! Baofeng Tech assured me their radios meet spectral requirements for Part 97. I had mine tested at the Cleveland Hamfest by KD8TWG. On VHF the 3rd harmonic was a little higher than 40db down, UHF was spot-on. The CHRIP free programming software is the only programmer that currently works with this radio. RT Systems UV-5R programmer for the original Baofeng radios does not work with the UV-5X3.

Now there’s no excuse to get a very reasonably priced radio compliant with Part 97 spectral requirements. It even comes with free shipping if bought through Amazon. For someone looking to play around with 220, this is a great tri-bander radio. Check out this radio as an option, from a US company, for new or young hams: https://baofengtech.com/uv-5×3. Product images from Baofeng Tech.

I’ve wanted to install a dual-band DMR mobile radio in the shack. Yeah, all the DMR repeaters in the area are UHF. I like to have the flexibility of a dual-band. Connect Systems was one for the first, if not the first, to release a dual-band DMR mobile radio earlier this year. Talking with Jerry at Dayton (President of Connect Systems), they had just shipped the first batch of CS800D radios and were expecting to get another batch ‘in a couple months.’ I heard very good things from hams that have purchased from Jerry’s company previously. Connect Systems is accessible via email and social media for support, they worked to fully resolve product issues, fixed issues with firmware quickly, and let customers try out their new equipment while seeking feedback. I didn’t hesitate to get on the waiting list.

I finally got the radio at the beginning of August and I like it a lot. The radio itself looks like a Motorola CM300D or nearly identical in layout, including microphone, to the Kenwood TM-281A. Radio covers VHF: 136-174 @ 50W, UHF: 400-470 @ 45W. The head and microphone are removable and extendable with a cat5 Ethernet cable. It will hold 4,000 channels and 130,000 contacts with firmware updates – more contacts than the ENTIRE DMR-MARC user database! It’s got a couple quarks which I’m told are to be fixed in future firmware releases. Biggest annoyance being the display doesn’t always update after a button is pressed. The programming software is straight forward if you’ve ever programmed a DMR radio before. The Ohio Section website has a pre-built codeplug: http://arrl-ohio.org/digital/digital.html. N0GSG makes a great codeplug editor and codeplug converter that I found useful: http://n0gsg.com/contact-manager/. His editor now supports the CS800D, TYT MD2017 & MD9600.

The Connect Systems CS800D was a little pricey when I bought it ($399 + $15 for the programming cable) but has since dropped in price to $299. I feel this radio could have been more popular if the radio was not released in batches. Jerry was great about communicating and explaining the situation. Like any distributor, they were beholden to the timetables from their manufacturer. Nothing they could do about it. I think that allowed other options to enter the market sooner and resulted in lost potential sales. It’s a great radio and recommended for someone looking for a dual-band DMR mobile radio from a US based company. CS800D product page: http://www.connectsystems.com/products/top/radios%20CS800D.htm.

If you’ve picked up a CS800D, check the Software page for recent firmware updates: http://www.connectsystems.com/software/software%20CS800D.htm. Product image from Connect Systems.

Technical Specialist reports

Dave – KD8TWG has been busy as usual. In addition to testing radios at the Cleveland Hamfest, he tackled the issue of “operational security.” This has been a topic of discussion in the area as of late and on social media. He was seeing arguments that operational frequencies needed to be obscured for the purposes of “securing” an operation. Without encryption, there is no such thing. As Dave points out, any modern scanner can scan VHF and UHF bands within seconds. It’s even easier with SDR receivers that allow you to look at the entire band scope at once. Check out his post about Hiding Frequencies for “Operational Security”: https://kd8twg.net/2017/08/14/opsec/.

In October, another Section Technical Specialist, Jason – WG8B, gave a presentation to the Dayton Amateur Radio Association about his area of expertise: bike mobile operations. Jason provided feedback on his program:

The briefing focused on using bike mobile capabilities to support public service events and covered topics such as

  • Suitable antennas. Bikes are not good ground planes, and dual band antennas are important when supporting public service events from a bike since carrying extra antennas and swapping them out is not easy.
  • Speakers and microphones that work while bicycling while allowing you to safely operate a bike.
  • Properly mounting equipment to not only protect the equipment but also protect the bicycle and rider.
  • APRS operations from a bicycle

Most of the questions revolved around antennas. I won’t repeat specific questions to protect the innocent so to speak, so I’ll just clarify what I think good antenna requirements are for VHF/UHF bicycle mobile operations. First and especially when supporting public service events, omnidrectional antennas are absolutely required. On a bike, there is no practical way to steer antennas with directional patterns whether they be gain antennas or magnetic loops. You will be changing direction quite frequently, and you need to hit repeaters from any aspect. Second, high-Q antennas such as magnetic loops require precise tuning, something that’s not possible while on a bicycle. Stick to an antenna that does not require tuning. Your radio should be working for you while on a bike during public service events not the other way around. There’s already enough going on, and safety is first. Third, any antenna bigger or longer than a bicycle flag is not likely safe. There are balance issues with weight above the bike’s center-of-gravity, and just about the worst shape aerodynamically is an antenna. So how hard do you want to pedal? Also, I’ve had problems with low hanging branches with just a bicycle flag. Anything taller is going to be problematic. My recommendation is still to use a dual band J pole like Ed Fong’s DBJ-2 taped to a bike flag or a single band half wave dipole like Larson’s NMO 150B HW. While not the absolutely best antennas performance-wise, they will still hit every repeater in my local area and then some with a 5W HT. And these are very simple and small form factor antennas that just work and won’t get in the way when on a bike.

Finally, if you would like to see the briefing, I’ve made it accessible here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2Yn-_hki2v0blFnNVVRbW9kc3c

Jason’s presentation has lots of tips and pictures for making a bicycle mobile installation a success. If you would like to have Jason at your meeting, drop him a note!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – October 2017 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/OSJ-October-17.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. I either made your eyes roll because security can be complicated or piqued your interest because of the TWO Equifax breaches. I can certainly get into the weeds with data and cybersecurity because it’s an interest of mine – as a user and programmer. Realizing that most readers won’t have a background in programming or system administration, I’ll set aside the technical details. I’ll briefly cover some cybersecurity issues and give tips anyone reading this article can use.

The whole concept of computing is built on trust. The list of things we trust is infinitely long: trust programmers of the operating system and program developers are following good practices. Trust the company stands behind their product, fixing problems and issues. Trust “Information Security Officers” of a company actually have a background in information security. Trust audits are taking place to uncover problems. Trust customer data is being stored in accordance with good security practices. Trust the website you’re browsing to is really CompanyWebsite.com. Trust “[insert name of company here] Free Wi-Fi” is really that company’s free Wi-Fi. Trust that devices in your home aren’t spying on you. You start to get the idea.

Security is a tradeoff between safety and convenience. Computing could be made very secure but those systems would be completely unusable due to the layers of security. There is no such thing as a “completely secure” system or device – it just means the mistakes, problems, and bugs haven’t been found yet. “Shellshock” is considered to be a very severe security bug. Disclosure came in September of 2014. This bug affected millions of servers connected to the internet. It was determined the bug, in some form, had existed in the UNIX (and Linux) command-line interface since 1989.
Humans program computers. Humans use computers. Humans make mistakes.

Hackers leverage these mistakes and use them to their advantage, often to gain unauthorized access. The word “hacker” has two meanings. “White-hat hackers” are the ones who experiment with and modify devices and software to make it work better. Hams are examples of these because we take commercial gear and make repeaters or use off-the-shelf routers for things like Mesh networking. “Black-hat hackers” are the bad guys and the ones we hear about on the news stealing credit card data from Target and personal data from Equifax. These are the ones I will be referring to.

Hollywood gives us the perception that hackers are in some 3rd-world country or in a dark basement, no lights, and only the glow of their computer screens. Hackers come from all parts of the world and sometimes are acting on a government’s behalf. In fact, legitimate companies exist solely to sell their black-hat hacking tools. They have buildings, employees, call centers, and help desks – as does any legitimate company.

What’s the motivation behind hacking?

Money. It’s hard not to tie everything back to money. The first reference to malicious hacking was “phreaking” (pronounced freaking. AKA: phone hacking) where one of the goals was to manipulate the public phone system and use it to make long-distance calls when it was very expensive to call around the world. More recent financial examples include everything from disrupting nation-states (economic), blackmail, and ransom payments for access to data. Ransomware encrypts all documents and pictures. It demands payment before it will (hopefully) decrypt your files allowing you to use those files again. Ransomware utilizes the same technology, strong encryption, which you use to securely transact with your bank online.

My social media, computer, or online account has no value [to me] / I only check email / I don’t store anything on my computer / why would anyone want access to my email or computer?

I hear these alot. Many of us don’t realize all the things a bad guy can do with computer access or an email account. Brian Krebs is a blogger who covers computing security and cybercrime on his website Krebs on Security. He is known for infiltrating underground cybercrime rings and writes about his experiences. His site is highly recommended reading for anyone with an interest in cybersecurity.

Brian posted two articles titled “The Value of a Hacked Email Account” and “The Scrap Value of a Hacked PC…” When signing up for any online service, an email address is almost always required. In 2013, according to Brian’s article, hackers who have access to email accounts can subsequently gain access to other services such as iTunes and sell that access for $8 each. FedEx, Continental, United accounts go for $6. Groupon, $5. Hosting and service accounts like GoDaddy, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile, $4 apiece. Facebook and Twitter accounts were $2.50/ea.

Aside from the monetary value, bad guys have access to family pictures, work documents, chat history, can change billing and deposit addresses on banking accounts, drain financials like 401K, bank or stock accounts, and target other individuals like family members. In 2012, a hacker went after Wired journalist Mat Honan locking him out of his digital life. The attacker used flaws in Amazon and Apple’s services, which helped them gain access to Mat’s Gmail and ultimately his Twitter account.

Access to a personal computer can be gained through a number of schemes including: fake ‘you have an out-of-date plugin/flash version’ on a webpage, receive an email about a past due invoice, notification of a problem with some shipment, or by innocently installing a program thought to be legitimate. A recent example of a compromised program was the widely popular PC maintenance program, CCleaner. Untold millions of people unknowingly downloaded a malicious version of the program from the vendor’s site.

A hacked PC can be used for: generating email spam, harvesting other accounts (see above), gain access to a work network, steal online game keys and characters, be part of a Denial of Service attack, infect other devices on the network (like DVRs), create fake eBay auctions, host child porn, capture images from web-cams or network cameras and use them for extortion purposes.

What can I do to protect myself?

Unfortunately in situations of compromise like Target and Equifax, there was nothing you could do – other than not use a credit card at Target or not apply for any kind of credit reported to Equifax. Unlikely for many. You can only react after-the-fact by closing accounts with fraudulent charges and place credit warnings or freezes on your credit.

The SANS Institute, which specializes in information security and cybersecurity training, offers a “monthly security awareness newsletter for everyone” called “Ouch!” Their October 2017 newsletter outlines five steps to help anyone overcome fears and securely use today’s technology. Check the newsletter for more information on these points.

  1. Social Engineering: is an old technique which creates a sense of urgency to tick people into giving up information they shouldn’t: someone needs money quickly, boss needs a password, the IRS is filing suit against you, Microsoft Tech Support calls you about a “virus” on your computer, etc. Never give a password, any personal information, or remote access to any solicitor.
  2. Passwords: Create unique, strong passwords for all online devices and online accounts. Use a password manager which will assist in creating strong passwords. LastPass utilizes a web interface and cloud storage, KeePass is an application and stores the database locally on your computer. Both are excellent solutions for a password manager.
    If you’re uncomfortable with a password manager, use pass-phrases which are passwords made up of multiple words. Passphrases can be written down, but store these in a secure location. Use two-step verification, often called two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a combination of something you know (your password) and something you have (a smartphone). A list of services offering 2FA with instructions can be found at: twofactorauth.org. Note: text messages are NOT a secure two-factor method because the cellphone network is not secure and attackers have been able to re-route text messages.
  3. Patches: Put all devices connected to the Internet behind a firewall (router) and keep all systems connected to the internet up-to-date. This includes home routers, computers, smartphones, tablets, streaming media devices, thermometers, Raspberry PIs, lights, automation systems, speakers, and video cameras. If devices are not being updated by the vendor, potentially dangerous mistakes are not being fixed. It’s time to consider better devices.
  4. Anti-virus: can protect you when you accidentally click on the thing you shouldn’t have and infected your system. It won’t protect against every form of infection. Windows Defender, available for all current Windows operating systems, is sufficient.
  5. Backups: I cannot stress this enough, backup, backup, backup! Many times I’m asked something similar to: ‘how can I recover my daughter’s wedding pictures from my computer’s crashed drive?’ Maybe you can, but often not. ‘I lost my phone, didn’t have cloud backup enabled, and had vacation pictures on there.’ Yea, they’re really gone. Backups serve as a way to recover from your own mistakes like accidentally deleted files and ransomware cyberattacks. A “3-2-1 backup strategy” includes 3 copies of your data, 2 on different media, 1 off-site. For most of us, this means: the original data is the 1st copy, an external hard drive (disconnected when not copying data) or network storage drive houses the 2nd copy, and a copy on a USB flash drive stored at work or backed up using a cloud backup solution – is the off-site 3rd copy.

A layered approach to security is considered best practice. As an example, creating strong passwords AND using two-factor authentication. The more layers the better, but more layers means less convenience. Brian Krebs also offers his “Tools for a Safer PC” which includes switching to OpenDNS in your home router. DNS is the service that turns human-readable URLs into IP address. OpenDNS blocks communication with known malware sites.

Hopefully this information has grabbed your attention and guided you to take steps to become safer online. Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Imgs: Krebs on Security, Ars Technica.

Ham radio and tech.