Tag Archives: AREDN Mesh

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – July 2022 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 Tom – WB8LCD 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 Tom 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

Hey gang,

Seven operators activated Special Event Station W8B on July 16, 2022. Operating team consisted of: Technical Specialist Bob – K8MD – Bird employee and mastermind in planning the event, K8FH – Fred, K8TV – Ken, KC8NZJ – Mat, NF8O – Dave, KE8BKI – Stephanie, and K8JTK. This Special Event commemorated 80 years of Bird Electronic Corporation and 70 years of the Model 43 Wattmeter.

In 1940, J. Raymond Bird developed a way to quickly and accurately measure forward and reflected power in coax transmission lines. In April 1942, Bird Engineering Company was founded in Cleveland, Ohio. According to an old sign on their website, the original location was on E. 38th street. Later, the company renamed to Bird Electronics Corporation. After securing important contracts in the late 1950’s, they located to their current facility in Solon, Ohio. Bird was instrumental in the Mercury and Apollo space programs during the 1960’s, supplying radio-tracking equipment and loads for equipment testing. Today, Bird manufactures and packages test equipment, signal boosters, analyzers, and recording equipment.

70 years of the Bird 43 Wattmeter (Bird)

In 1953, the Bird 43 RF Wattmeter was introduced and quickly became the industry-standard tool for RF power measurement. A staple in many ham shacks, the Bird 43 is popular in commercial and broadcast industries as well. During the 1970’s, Bird provided critical and affordable test equipment to ham radio operators during emergencies which helped Bird become a household name. The 43 is popular because it can measure a wide range of frequencies, 450 kHz to 2.7 GHz between 100 mW to 10 kW, using plug-in elements. These elements are commonly referred to as “slugs.” The meter is an insertion-type, meaning placed in-line of the transmission line, measuring forward and reflected power.

Started out as a dreary, rainy morning. When I left my QTH, the sun was starting to make an appearance. Rain held off for us to operate 7 hours before another round was on its way. Three portable stations were operational. Two HF by K8MD and K8FH, and one VHF/UHF by K8TV. The HF antennas were portable turnstile dipoles with a fabricated or Spiderbeam center mast. These are quickly deployable and go up in about 20 minutes. The VHF/UHF was a commercial antenna on a fabricated mast that rose just above one of the unloading docks.

K8FH on CW and K8TV on VHF/UHF

Plan was to be on the air by 1000 local. Setup went quick and W8B was operational around 0900 testing the equipment with a few initial contacts. We operated from the outdoor employee patio of Bird. Operators were treated to a tour of the factory by K8MD. It was nothing short of impressive. In order to test manufactured products, there are high power broadcast transmitters for dummy load testing and plenty of test equipment that any ham would love to have in their shack. Most products, including the 43, are made, tested, and shipped from the Solon, Ohio location.

K8MD, Katie Wright, Dana Svilar, Terry Grant, and NF8O

After the tour, we met executives Katie Wright – Director of Strategic Development, Dana Svilar – Manager of Marketing Communications, and CEO Terry Grant. They were interested to see the setup and how the event was progressing. We explained and demonstrated the digital station. Sideband contacts were made and they heard from hams that own a Bird 43.

The bands weren’t the best to start out. On 40m, we’re logging contacts. Then, like a light-switch, there was nothing, including on FT8. Katie was trying to coordinate a contact with N1KSC, Kennedy Space Center Amateur Radio Club, with some close friends of hers. For a good while, they were hearing us 59 but we did not copy them at all. Right about noon, K8MD finally established contact. There was still plenty of QSB but he got them in the log. Katie even got on the radio to say a few words during the exchange!

K8TV operated the VHF/UHF station. He was making contacts on repeaters in Lorain (close to 40 miles at our 1100 ft elevation) and surrounding counties, including making simplex contacts. K8FH operated the CW station. NF8O made quite a number of sideband contacts in the afternoon despite the up-and-down band conditions. K8MD, KC8NZJ, and myself operated FT8 throughout the day.

Bird graciously bought us lunch from a local pizzeria and we received swag for coming out and playing radio. We operated until 1600, a little past that on the digital station, and started to strike the equipment. We were on the road home around 1700.

164 contacts were made: CW: 5, SSB: 37, FM: 26, FT8: 96. Thanks to K8MD who planned the event. Bird Electronic Corporation for allowing us to operate from their facility and their hospitality. If you made contact with W8B, you will receive a QSL card, designed by Dana, as a thank you.

Striking the last antenna for W8B: KC8NZJ, K8TV, KE8BKI, K8FH, and NF8O

One of the many things on my ham radio “do-more-with” list is AREDN mesh. I have a MikroTik RouterBOARD hAP ac lite node I setup some time ago. I haven’t done much with it due to not having any real way to get a high-profile node and no other nodes are around me. It’s been running in the shack with a tunnel to W8ERW & Sandusky ARES. I haven’t advanced much on “now what?” after the initial exercise of flashing a node with AREDN’s firmware.

If you have an AREDN node and haven’t updated in the last few months, start planning an upgrade. AREDN implemented many projects which have made considerable improvements to the firmware. The original Broadband-Hamnet was written in Perl and AREDN continued to build on and maintain Perl code. A conversion from Perl to the Lua programming language has been completed. This conversion recovered a lot of memory by removing large Perl libraries. Nodes will now run code optimized for embedded devices. Memory saved by the conversion means the tunnel package and iperf3 (speed testing) are now bundled with the base firmware. Previously, both had to be installed manually after each upgrade.

Upgrades and selecting the correct firmware should be much easier too. Nightly builds are available for testing new features or tweaks in the firmware. Though, “nightlies” as they are called, are pre-alpha releases. According to the project, theirs are pretty stable. This doesn’t mean they should be installed on production nodes in hard-to-reach places in case something goes sideways.

Link Quality Management has been added to help optimize networks and drop links that cause network problems. Nodes with poor SNR, too far away, or prone to many retransmissions can be dropped automatically. These cause poor performance for nodes without those issues. An example: a high-profile node has to account for all connected nodes. If a node 40 miles away from its location its connected, it must wait for acknowledgments from all connected nodes. Should that node 40 miles away not be able to receive messages or messages can’t be delivered back to the high-profile node, this degrades speed and performance significantly. The high-profile node must wait for responses and possibly keep retransmitting the same message to that node until a response is received. LQM will drop nodes that do not meet quality criteria. This feature is turned off by default, unless it was configured previously.

These updates, network design basics, and demo of the next generation user interface are covered in a recent LAXNORTHEAST meeting. That meeting is available on YouTube featuring AREDN representative Orv – W6BI. He deployed the mesh backbone in Ventura and western Los Angeles Counties. His presentation isn’t introductory but is beneficial for those who have setup and maintain a node.

A radio that covers ALL ham radio voice digital modes? Reality or vaporware? Projects, like the DV4 Mobile, have been vaporware. Taking a swing at the market this time is the Connect Systems CS800D PLUS. It claims: to store 520,000 contacts and 64,000 channels, have the ability to do DMR, FUSION, DSTAR, P25 and NXDN, make its own code plug on the fly, and many more features yet to come. Consider me intrigued. OK, it doesn’t do most of this out-of-the-box. Essentially the CS800D PLUS is the CS800D today, a DMR and analog dual-band mobile radio. Features will be added ‘without the manufacture’s cooperation’ and ‘firmware will be done by the Amateur community.’ Not really sure how that is going to work since the existing firmware isn’t open sourced, documented, or have documented hooks/APIs. Additionally, the “all digital modes” comes via a “co-processor or your laptop to allow you to add digital modes not currently in the radio.”

I have the CS800D but purchased one of these anyway to see if this actually comes to fruition, especially the ‘all the digital modes’ part. If not, it or my 800D will appear on the used market! I envision this radio will utilize a NW Digital Radio DV3000 or DVMEGA DVstick on a Raspberry Pi or computer using a serial connection between the radio and computing device. This would provide off-radio encoding/decoding of digital modulation and analog frames. No working proof of concepts or documented working setups have been posted as of this writing. Posted documents mostly show how to convert codeplugs between the CS800D and CS800D PLUS. Firmware for the CS800D PLUS is not backwards comparable with a CS800D, according to Connect Systems. The CPS will work with both radios but the firmware is not compatible due to CPU and memory differences.

openSPOT 4 (openSpot)

Flying under my radar was the release of the SharkRF openSPOT 4. After reading up, it’s another incremental release. What’s new in the 4? Improved battery life (up to 30 hours), multi-core CPU, new WiFi module, and split into two offerings: openSPOT 4 and openSPOT 4 Pro. That’s it, near as I can tell. It’s probably due to chip shortages, but the openSPOT 4 is available now where as the openSPOT 4 Pro is due to ship again August 20th.

What’s the difference between the 4 and 4 Pro? Hardware cross mode capability and price. The openSPOT 4 rings in a € 249.00 ($254.14 USD) and the 4 PRO at € 319.00 ($325.59 USD, both conversions as of this writing). First introduced in the openSPOT 3, SharkRF hotspots are the only ones with the ability to cross mode D-STAR with DMR, C4FM, and NXDN networks. The 4 does not have the capability to cross mode D-STAR with other networks, the 4 Pro does have this capability. As with other openSPOT releases, the release of the OS4 end-of-life’s the previous model. The openSPOT 3 will probably get some firmware updates here-and-there but don’t expect many more based on past experience. I liked the openSPOT 3 for what it was. The 4’s are another pass for me because this release that doesn’t offer much more features than my openSPOT 3.

Nearly as soon as the OSJ went to publish last month, the wording about DroidStar no longer being available for iOS was removed. It appears the issues of concern were resolved. DroidStar is back in TestFlight and I heard from iOS users that it was working for them again.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2019 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

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

HamNET Mesh (Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

3 GHz AREDN mesh nodes (AREDN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Wikipedia)

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

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

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