Tag Archives: AllStar Link

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – March 2020 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

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

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

Pirates

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

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

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

KerberosSDR

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

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

Windows 10 Free Upgrade

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

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

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

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

When the upgrade to Windows 10 is complete:

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

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

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

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

K8JTK Hub Interlink System

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

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

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

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

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

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – January 2020 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

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

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

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

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

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

… It is Hamshack Hotline you’re looking for

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamshack Hotline phones in Ohio

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

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

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

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

2020 ARRL Great Lakes Convention

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

Oh, IRLP…

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 2019 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

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

Motorola CDM1250

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DMK URIx

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

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

Diagram of connections to my AllStar node

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 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://n8sy2.blogspot.com/2017/04/april-edition-of-ohio-section-journal.html

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Since the last couple months have been feature articles, this month will be odds-n-ends.

Maker Spaces & Faires

I got positive comments on last month’s article about Makerspaces and Maker Faires. I hope it gave clubs and groups ideas to get younger makers into our hobby. Not only did the January edition of QST have the article on Maker Faires but it was the focus of ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher – NY2RF’s note in April. I’m happy to say these types of things are on the radar of the League and they’re focusing efforts on this new generation of Ham Radio operators. According to Tom, the ARRL plans to be at the three national maker events this year.

AllStar

I learned the creator of AllStar Link, Jim Dixon – WB6NIL, passed away at the end of last year. Jim is the creator of “app_rpt” which allowed the open source PBX system, Asterisk, to function as a repeater controller. In doing so, created one of the most impressive and versatile solutions for VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) in ham radio. Having played around with AllStar on my own node, nodes can be linked together directly through the public Internet, private network, point-to-point network, or really any combination of methods. Hubs are systems with greater bandwidth allowing for multiple simultaneous connections – like “reflectors” on IRLP or “conferences” on Echolink. One of my buddies who spoke with Jim commented that he was the smartest, nicest guy you’d meet and [he] would be doing well if he retained even half of what they talked about. Jim will be missed but the AllStar project will live on. AllStar Link: https://allstarlink.org/, Raspberry Pi & BeagleBone image: https://hamvoip.org/

Fldigi & Flmsg

W1HKJ and the contributors to the Fldigi project have been busy (http://www.w1hkj.com/). A new major release of Fldigi was made available at the end of March. This brings both Fldigi & Flmsg up to version 4.0.1. Technical Specialist Bob – K8MD messaged me about the update. My response: ‘crap, I just updated the screen shots from the previous changes the weekend before’ (3.22.x). I was hoping there were no new changes. Of course there were! Now my newly updated instructions are dated again! Those instructions were getting stale because of significant program option changes since I made them available about two years ago. They are on my site (up to Fldigi v3.23.21 and Flmsg 4.0.1) at http://www.k8jtk.org/2015/04/16/getting-started-with-fldigi-including-flmsg-and-flwrap/. Written for the LEARA Digital Net, they do focus on NBEMS operation.

Check them out and do some practice nets. From experience, it’s best if ALL participating stations are using the same program versions. There are fewer issues with forms because newer forms are included in later Flmsg versions that were not in earlier ones and everyone can be on the same page when going through settings.

Over that same weekend, I wrote up tutorials and hacks you can do with Flmsg. We’ve all been there. You missed receiving part of an Flmsg message because of being off frequency (radio or waterfall), in the wrong mode, or not paying attention. The issue is quickly corrected and most of the message is still received. However, Fldigi doesn’t know what to do with the form because some of the headers are missing. When headers are missed, Fldigi can’t open the form because the message won’t checksum. The checksum is used to verify the entire message was received. I wrote up a tutorial how to recover a partially missed message: http://www.k8jtk.org/2017/03/25/recovering-a-partially-received-flmsg-message/.

The last is more of an Flmsg hack. When an Flmsg form is received, NBEMS standard is to have the ‘open in browser’ option enabled. As expected, this will open the received form in the default browser. Many don’t realize that any web programming code (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) sent as part of the form will be interpreted by the browser. This means you can send clickable links, link to an image, redirect to websites, and change background colors. Just about anything that can be done on a webpage can be sent as part of an Flmsg form and rendered when opened in the browser. Find out how at http://www.k8jtk.org/2017/03/25/flmsg-forms-rendered-as-web-pages/. Standard squid disclaimer for both: this is for fun and not NBEMS compliant.

OpenSpot

If you have an OpenSpot hotspot, there was a major firmware update for the device in February and subsequent update in March to bring the current version to 108. The changelong has – in the neighborhood of – 80 (yes, eighty) fixes and enhancements. Previously, I wasn’t using this device to run the Ham Nation D-STAR After Show net. However, since they added a nice web interface with call log and export feature, it’s now my device for running the net. If you’re looking for a ham radio digital mode hotspot, check out the SharkRF OpenSpot: https://www.sharkrf.com/products/openspot/

One of the SharkRF connector options is their own IP Connector Protocol Server (https://github.com/sharkrf/srf-ip-conn-srv). The Connector Server is used to create a network of OpenSpot devices and it can be implemented in other hardware/software as it is open source. Like AllStar, it can accept public internet connections, run on a private network, or mesh network. I haven’t tried but it may even compile and run on a Raspberry Pi.

The Connector Server repeats any digital transmission sent to it. All modes can even be simultaneously connected. D-STAR connected clients will only hear D-STAR transmissions because there is no transcoding of D-STAR data streams. DMR and Fusion streams can be transcoded. DMR streams are transmitted to modems set to DMR and converted by the OpenSpot to Fusion for Fusion modems. Similarly, a Fusion stream is transmitted to modems sent to Fusion and converted to DMR for DMR modems.

I’ve setup a Connector Server that is open and there to mess around with. In the OpenSpot configuration:

  • In Connectors: under Edit Connector, select “SharkRF IP Connector Client.”
  • Click “Switch to selected.”
  • Once changed, enter your TX/RX frequencies.
  • Server address: srf-ip-conn-srv.k8jtk.org
  • Port number is in ‘Advanced mode’ but is the default, 65100.
  • ID, use your CCS7 DMR ID.
  • No password.
  • Enter your Callsign.
  • Click “Save.”
  • In the Modem options, select the desired mode.

The dashboard is: http://srf-ip-conn-srv.k8jtk.org/. The server will remain online if it continues to see use. Otherwise, it could disappear at any time without use 🙂

Ham Nation 300 (#HamNation300)

Last but certainly not least, yours truly has been on the planning committee for the Ham Nation 300th special event. Ham Nation is an audio and video podcast recorded live and available at https://twit.tv/shows/ham-nation. The program records at 9:00 p.m. eastern time every Wednesday evening. Following each episode are the “after show nets” which are round tables discussing the show or ham radio. These nets include: 20m, 40m, D-STAR, DMR, and Echolink.

After each 100 episodes, a special event is planned to commemorate another 100 episodes. In the past, these have been geared around HF. The show is not only for the General/Extra class licensees and not everyone has the ability or desire to operate HF. This year’s festivities have something for everyone including the chance to make digital contacts for the special event and a summer long challenge.

Ham Nation 300th special event runs the week following Dayton, May 24-31, 2017. Full details can be found on any of the 1×1 special event callsigns on QRZ or at https://www.hamnationdstar.net/2017/04/05/ham-nation-300-special-event/. Please join in and help make this event successful. Follow it on social media: https://twitter.com/hashtag/hamnation300 and https://www.facebook.com/HNonTwit.

That’s about it for this month. Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK