Tag Archives: Brandmeister

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – August 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,

When it comes to digital communications, especially in the Ohio Section, efforts have been focused on DMR. Repeaters are pricier than other digital modes. An abundance of end-user devices available from a variety of vendors, at fairly inexpensive prices, is a winner for users. DMR, being a commercial standard, was adopted to ham radio. Those that have not spent time to understand how a codeplug works and how to modify them ‘are just a bunch of appliance operators’ is a common argument. To link the majority of Ohio’s DMR repeaters, a network had to be chosen. Ohio standardized on Brandmeister.

What is BrandMeister? “BrandMaster/BrandMeister is an operating software for Master servers participating in a worldwide infrastructure network of amateur radio digital voice systems.” Stating that amateurs can and do use it for D-STAR and Wires-X, its main focus and selling points are related to DMR linking.

In the early days of DMR in ham radio, networks were setup identical to their commercial system counterparts. Repeaters had certain talk groups on specific time slots. Limited to 16 talk groups because that’s how many channels were available on the radio’s selector knob. Owners had little to no options for customizing talkgroup offerings. For example, if you were in eastern Ohio, a repeater might have Indiana statewide whether you wanted it or not. There were no such things as hotspots, at least as hams know and understand them. Like most new things, early adaptors did this for fun and no one really knew if DMR would take off and be accepted by the masses.

Three things helped DMR take off in ham radio: cheap radios, hotspots, and Brandmeister. Brandmeister turned commercially implemented DMR networks on their heads. Made it more like ham radio. A repeater owner could put any talkgroup on any time slot. Any user could make private calls to other users on any timeslot. Even make up a talkgroup number, hit transmit, and if another user was on that same talkgroup number, communication happened automatically. Later, simultaneous data messages and APRS were implemented. Being able to use ham developed gear, like the DV4mini and OpenSpot devices, was a huge draw. Hams familiar with commercial implementations of DMR were questioning ‘how could Brandmeister pull this off without causing chaos in the ham radio streets?’ Especially the ‘pick your own talkgroup number.’

With the explosion in popularity came use and abuse. Brandmeister had to start making decisions and decided to follow the strictest definitions of standards. You can still make up your own talkgroup but it is generally frowned upon. DV4Mini sticks were banned due to poor software – this was reversed after G4KLX wrote compatible software. There was a hissy fit Brandmeister threw about using DMR IDs starting with 1. Everybody and their mother, brother, and daughter requested talkgroups. No more 5-digit talkgroup numbers are assigned. Bridging to other digital modes, networks, and analog systems is verboten, explicitly forbidden on world-wide, regionals, and statewide talkgroups. Brandmeister considers 3, 4, and 5-digit talkgroup IDs under their control, as defined by the MCC numbering standard. 6-digit repeater IDs or 7-digit user IDs, the assigned owner can do whatever they want as Brandmeister sees themselves as “guests” for those IDs. There are more do’s and don’ts in the BM USA wiki.

For a good long time, development and, I would argue, interest by the development team was stagnant. There were long standing issues with many parts of the system, including the online audio web portal, Hoseline. For years it would not work correctly, had long audio delays or no audio at all, or the URL would simply be unavailable. Around June 2021, a new and much improved Hoseline appeared. Featuring a new and modern interface with the ability to monitor multiple talkgroups at a time.

Improvements in the name of security were made later the same year. Each Brandmeister hotspot user needed to generate a “hotspot password” for each DMR ID. This change impacted every Brandmeister user. I was contacted well into 2022 about users whom were unaware of this change.

Not-so-well-known changes affected some misconfigured hotspots and users of DVSwitch and MMDVM bridging. Master servers started checking parameters such as RXFrequency and TXFrequency in MMDVM. If the device was a hotspot, Brandmeister logic said if those two fields are not the same value, the device it must not be a hotspot because hotspots are simplex. If a hotspot (or DVSwitch/MMDVM Bridge) had RX Frequency not equal to TX Frequency, the device would be blocked from transmitting because it was deemed misconfigured. In order to work, they both had to be the same. Also, if either parameter was 0 – as in no RF output, such as an Internet link – also no work-y.

It’s their network and I really want to like them. Their decisions are making it hard for sysadmins to continue using Brandmeister. Communication regarding nearly all back-end changes have been poor to nonexistent. Changes affecting all users are publicized, even though a good percentage hit me up months later saying ‘all of a sudden my hotspot doesn’t work anymore.’ Sure, some changes might only “affect a small number of users,” post something in the groups.io. Instead admins are left to figure out, on their own, why the Brandmeister link is not functioning without being aware of changes on their end. Something about not peeving off your users, which they seem to be doing a lot lately. I get that they’ve had to make hard decisions and many policies are a result of the users whom abuse the system. Brandmeister probably received pressure from other network and talkgroup owners who want to quash analog cross linking. When the Brandmeister network was originally a ‘do-anything network,’ it’s not easy when they start pulling-back on those abilities.

August 19th, a major code upgrade was rolled out which implemented additional changes paving the way for better dashboard integrations, APIs, and hopefully more new features. If you setup your hotspots or applications with a Brandmeister API key prior to August 19, 2022, new keys are required. I was able to generate Brandmeister API v2 keys for Pi-Star: 4.1.6 / Dashboard: 20220819 and OpenSpot3 with firmware v62.

I was not able to save the API v2 key on an original OpenSpot (1) with the latest firmware available (0142). I was seeing the error message “Couldn’t save API key (Bad Request).” According to the support forums, they won’t be getting support for v2 either. New keys are supported on the 2, 3, and 4 OpenSpot models. If you had previously generated a v1 API key, it will continue to work for as long as Brandmeister allows.

I do not know if previous versions of Pi-STAR have been updated to support v2 API keys. To update a Pi-STAR to the latest revision, backup the existing configuration, download v4.1.4 on the Pi-Star site, flash to a new or the existing SD card. When configured, run update/upgrade and repeat, from the Configuration -> Expert option, until there are no more updates for both tasks. Pi-STAR cannot be upgraded version-to-version through the updater/upgrader.

Go to Configuration -> Expert -> under Full Edit, BM API. If you have an apikey entered these need to be updated, specifically apikeys that are 128-characters. It will look something like:

MWaztB3EcHWBEW@D$2gb89Y2kvvE4leSr.33Gey74d0IYVSKU58YGMSFmPHD.Q1fECUkIcj7E4leSr.33Getkjshdf987ywe2irligr908SFIdlsfkj08934sasdlveg

The 128-character API keys will continue to work for an undetermined amount of time. Follow the Brandmeister blog post to generate updated API keys. If you don’t have an apikey entered and don’t want one, you don’t need to do anything.

What alternatives are there to Brandmeister? Networks such as DMR+ and FreeDMR are popular in Europe/UK. HBLink reflectors are available but only offer a few select talkgroups. TGIF is a smaller DMR network implementation. They do not have many restrictions on device configuration. Though TGIF does have an “Ohio” talkgroup, it’s not the same everyone knows and loves on Brandmeister. As an admin, TGIF is much easier to work with. Running a linking system that has links to Brandmeister, TGIF, and HBLink, users don’t use alternative options, even though they complain about Brandmeister. Brandmeister is what they know and love. They won’t venture out to use other, more stable options, therefore remaining appliance operators.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – March 2021 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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Not quite one year after the OpenSPOT 2 was released, the OpenSPOT 3 made an appearance on the SharkRF website. I suspected the OS2 was not selling very well. A quick look at the Brandmeister Dashboard shows 7.4% are using the OS1 and 2.5% are using the OS2. These are number of hotspots connected to the Brandmeister network on the evening of March 24th and does not include other networks.

Maybe low usage is a result of the six-month lag since stopping production of the blue box OpenSPOT 1 and when the OpenSPOT 2 arrived on the market. Maybe it was making the announcement to discontinue the OS1 right after Dayton (two years ago) upsetting customers who just spent money at the show on a now obsolete device. By obsolete, I mean can’t purchase the device new (no longer in production) and there’s been maybe a single firmware update since it was discontinued. I get it, they’re a small company out of Estonia but their business and design decisions upset customers.

Not to mention vendors. The blue box could be obtained from many ham retailers. They too probably felt burned after the OpenSPOT 1 to the point where I don’t see any retailers carrying the 2 or 3. Purchasing from a retailer meant users could forego the international transaction fees and shipping, or they were just included in the price.

OpenSPOT 1

I love the OpenSPOT 1 and think it’s a solid device. It beat all other offerings at the time and one of the first devices to offer cross mode support (DMR <-> YSF). At the time, Pi-STAR wasn’t a thing. The DV4Mini was one of the first multimode offerings but it stank-on-ice (it became usable recently with an MMDVM application). The DVMega and other devices around the same time were solid hardware but getting a working image (software) was a challenge. The problem with the OpenSPOT 1, it was wired Ethernet, didn’t offer a Wi-Fi option, and required USB power. A wireless bridge such as the TP-Link N300 made it Wi-Fi capable, via a wireless bridge, allowing the device to be paired with a cell phone hot spot or other Wi-Fi link. I was able to make a similar setup work on my Linux laptop acting as a NAT (network access translation – same as home Internet connections). Had a script to setup the DHCP server on wired Ethernet (where the OpenSPOT 1 would be connected) and iptables rules allowing communication from the wired Ethernet to the wireless interface (where the cell phone or hotel Wi-Fi would be connected). USB power could be a portable USB battery pack or plugged into the laptop USB. These setups worked but most found it not great for portability and keeping track of multiple devices.

I skipped the OpenSPOT 2. Shortly after release came reports of both Wi-Fi and radio range issues. To improve on design, SharkRF internalized the 440 MHz antenna as well as adding Wi-Fi capability, also removed the wired Ethernet. Apparently, the device had to be very close to Wi-Fi access points and the digital radio couldn’t be very far away either. It would work great in small areas like a car but it wasn’t winning bonus points for range. Coming out with another successor in less than a year was likely an acknowledgment of these problems.

OpenSPOT 3 (sharkrf.com)

Picked up the OpenSPOT 3 on a Christmas special from SharkRF and had a few months to use it. The OpenSPOT 3 is probably the most advanced digital hotspot available for ham radio, and also the most expensive. Cost came to €243 EUR including shipping, $288 US. For what it is, it’s a great device. Comparing it to a device with an external antenna, you’ll be disappointed.

It comes with a built-in Lithium-ion battery, built in radio and Wi-Fi antenna, USB-C for fast charging (though battery life seemed short under heavy usage), it has the same solid web interface as the OS1 with some nicely added tweaks including the ability to play audio from the web interface. Overall, it is fast. The web interface doesn’t lag and time to connect from power off is under 10 seconds. In comparison, my Pi-STAR on a Raspberry Pi Zero-W takes a couple minutes to boot and nearly 50 seconds to save and change any settings. Setup was easy with any web browser, including mobile. It offers the ability to work all current digital modes: DMR, D-STAR, NXDN, P25, and YSF. Also offers POCSAG and APRS-IS forwarding.

For the ham-on-the-go, this is the best option for a digital hotspot. The OS3 features a built-in hardware AMBE chip for transcoding, including D-STAR to other network types. This is the first and only hotspot with D-STAR cross-mode functionality built in and was the most requested feature that I saw on the forums. That means a D-STAR radio can work on DMR, C4FM (YSF), and NXDN networks. Likewise, a DMR radio can access D-STAR, C4FM, and NXDN networks. This is the perfect option for a traveling ham that wants access to digital while on the road but doesn’t want to bring all the radios. Table below notes which radios will be able to work which networks.

Radio/transceiver Networks
Hardware cross mode support
DMR D-STAR, C4FM, NXDN
D-STAR DMR, C4FM, NXDN
C4FM DMR, D-STAR, NXDN
NXDN DMR, C4FM, D-STAR
Software cross mode support
C4FM P25
P25 C4FM

I don’t know how bad the antenna issues were on the OS2 but I can’t imagine them being much worse than with the 3. I have always run hotspots on the lowest power setting because the lowest gave more range than I ever needed, however they all used external antennas. Depending on interference from nearby computers, I had some trouble with the device falling out of radio and Wi-Fi range. On average it would cover the footprint of the house. I bumped the power up to 20% and still have reliability issues of it hearing me or me to hearing it from out in the shack – with an external antenna. I’m a little disappointed by that. Another issue, P25 sounds better on the Pi-STAR for some reason – even after doing a calibration on the OpenSPOT.

Someone wanting a feature packed device for traveling, this is currently the best option. If you want range, stick with a hotspot that has an external antenna.

KA6LMS QSL card

By the time the Section Journal goes to press, most of the event will be completed – but there’s still time! The Last Man Standing special event is well underway. It commemorates the last week of taping for the TV show Last Man Standing which is ending its 9-season run. The special event will cease operation 3/30/21 at 23:59 UTC, so you still have some time. This event is everywhere: SSB, CW, FT8, D-STAR, DMR, YSF, NXDN, P25, Hamshack Hotline, Echolink, Satellite, EME, AllStar, ATV and probably a few more I’ve forgotten. Everyone including Technicians can get on board. There are promo videos and an information site with details about call signs, log sheets, how to send QSL cards, and the certificate. Look for KA6LMS/1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 0 as well as K6L, K6M, K6S, W6L, W6M, and W6S bonus stations. My multi-link system will be part of the event that happened on the 27th. I should have stats and info on how that activation played out next month. After the 30th, Last Man Standing will be QRT.

Lastly, something I didn’t know existed. RFC 1149 defines an experimental standard to encapsulate IP traffic using avian carriers (IPoAC). That’s right, IP packets via carrier pidgins! It is really useful in Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs). Devices in your home are connected to a Local Area Network (LAN). These LANs would be connected to larger regional networks called MANs. “Avian carriers can provide high delay, low throughput, and low altitude service.” They also have collision avoidance systems increasing reliability. Unlike packet radio, these communications are not limited to line-of-sight. Format is very easy to understand and follow:

The IP datagram is printed, on a small scroll of paper, in hexadecimal, with each octet separated by whitestuff and blackstuff. The scroll of paper is wrapped around one leg of the avian carrier. A band of duct tape is used to secure the datagram’s edges. The bandwidth is limited to the leg length. The MTU is variable, and paradoxically, generally increases with increased carrier age. A typical MTU is 256 milligrams. Some datagram padding may be needed.

Upon receipt, the duct tape is removed and the paper copy of the datagram is optically scanned into a electronically transmittable form.

Wonder if I have to install a landing pad or birdhouse to have these messages delivered?

 

April fools! Emile – KE5QKR was talking about this after taping one of the Amateur Logic shows and I had to look it up. It really does exist but once I saw the April 1, 1990 date – I knew it was an April Fools’ prank. There’s your early April Fools’ joke for later this week!That’s about it for this month.Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 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,

One of the things I’ve been working on during my time at home is the Digital VoIP Multimode Interlink System (DVMIS), also called the K8JTK Hub. About a year-and-a-half ago, I came up with this bright idea to setup a system that would interlink many different ham radio VoIP (Voice over IP) modes for interoperability and experimentation. Through trials and tribulations, it’s experiencing some success, caught the interest of some nets, and a podcast.

Many digital modes sit on their own island and are restricted from crossing over to the analog world or to other digital networks. Some may say this is for quality-of-service but does nothing for interoperability or the ability to link and communicate across different systems. Original D-STAR DPLUS reflectors banned analog connections. My Hub supports ham radio experimentation by allowing hams to discover ways of utilizing a system that can link different modes. Utilization of ham radio spectrum is a priority through the use of hot spots and repeaters. Connections without RF are not a priority. Hamshack Hotline was provisioned because of use in Emergency Operation Centers. Many times, I’ve been asked about stations that don’t have access to RF hotspots or radios. They still have options including the Echolink app on Android and iOS devices, Hamshack Hotline phone which can be purchased for $30 (I’ve heard deals as low as $5 for a compatible phone), or the DudeStar app. The servers are hosted in a Chicago data center to provide resiliency against hardware, power, weather, and Internet outages, but still be fairly inexpensive.

All this is possible through integration of open-sourced packages including: AllStarLink which is a world wide network of Amateur Radio repeaters, remote base stations and hot spots accessible to each other via the Internet and/or private IP networks. Built on an open-sourced PBX system called Asterisk, Jim Dixon – WB6NIL (SK) built the apt_rpt module emulating functionality of a repeater controller. Jonathan – G4KLX authored programs that support D-Star, DMR, System Fusion, P25, and NXDN which are utilized in MMDVM devices like most hotspots. DVSwitch is a suite of applications for provisioning and operating Amateur Radio digital voice networks maintained by Steve – N4IRS and Mike – N4IRR. The DVSwitch Mobile app was designed to operate analog and digital modes utilizing an Android phone in conjunction with server applications running on a Linux server or Raspberry Pi. The ASL to DMR documentation (groups.io account required) got me started experimenting with these applications and ultimately lead to the build out of the system. XLXD is a multiprotocol reflector server for D-STAR by Jean-Luc – LX3JL & Luc – LX1IQ. Skip – WB6YMH & others maintain thebridge, an Echolink compatible conference bridge.

Originally, hosted on 2 servers, after troubleshooting some issues, it was more reliable to host everything across 3 VPSes (Virtual Private Servers) running Debian Linux. Parts of the system can go down and individual parts will continue to function. Aside from the VPSes, a Raspberry Pi with a Northwest Digital Radio DV3000 provides D-STAR audio transcoding to the system. Wires-X is available through the use of additional remote hardware. Wires-X is proprietary to Yaesu radios and repeaters. Wires-X is not available through open-source implementations such as YSFReflector or MMDVM without additional devices. I’d like to get the DV3000s in a reliable data center but doing so is prohibitively expensive. AllStar Link is the “Hub” that provides connectivity and linking control between all networks.

Putting all of this together provides a system with access to ten different networks and eight different modes! Any user on one network can communicate with users on other networks. Access is available through these nodes and connections:

  • AllStar Link: 50394
  • DMR: Brandmeister Talk Group 3172783
  • DMR: TGIF TG 31983
  • D-STAR: XLX983A (A = Analog Bridge. Pi-STAR = DCS983A, OpenSpot = XLX983A)
  • Echolink: *DVMIS* conference 600008
  • Hamshack Hotline: 94026 (*99 – TX, # – RX)
  • NXDN: TG 31983
  • P25: TG 31983
  • YSF: K8JTK-Hub 31983
  • Wires-X: K8JTK-ROOM 40680 (available upon request)

Dashboards:

Amateur Logic episode 149

Building this system has not been without problems. Luckily, I’m able to work around known issues. In order from least frustrating to most frustrating: all programs use IP addresses and ports to communicate, keeping all of that straight was a challenge initially. Using IPs allows for great flexibility utilizing network links such as private networks and VPNs. Dependency hell as a result of additions and changes to programs made a constant deployment from one day to the next an issue. XLXD changed its implementation to include YSF which then conflicted with the port used for the YSFReflector. Changing the YSFReflector port required propagation to Pi-STAR host files and OpenSpot DNS. DVSwitch has been rewritten two times since I’ve implemented it and they’ve released another round of changes. Data center provider choices resulted in issues with packet loss. Moving the servers to another provider yielded much better results. The previous provider finally acknowledged and supposedly resolved the issue a year after it was reported, and after I moved.

Use of physical hardware for D-STAR. OP25 software codec can transcode D-STAR but “you won’t be happy” to quote a post in the forums. D-STAR looooves IP addresses. DNS is great for switching IP addresses easily (like when moving data centers or spinning up different servers). However, D-STAR relies only on IP addresses. As a result, reflector IP changes take about a day to propagate to online hotspots/repeaters. Using AMBEServer with the DV3000 on a remote device resulted in very choppy audio. After some time, had the idea to move Audio Bridge to the same device as the DV3000 then use IP routing to send audio to and from AB. Worked great.

In order to compile AllStar Link from source takes a lot of time to get right and includes A LOT of dependencies. Finally, one that drove me crazy was the chan_echolink module for AllStar which provides Echolink connectivity natively to AllStar. When load testing with many connections, something was making stations sound as though they were transmitting underwater. After observing patterns, determined it was audio originating on the Hub being sent out to Echolink connections. Incoming audio from Echolink stations was OK and audio sent to all other nodes was also good. The problem seemed intermittent until I consulted groups.io and further determined chan_echolink has audio quality problems when more than three EL stations are connected simultaneously. Not ideal for a hub. Best workaround was to implement an Echolink Conference server. Then only allow chan_echolink connection to that conference server. Echolink users would then connect to the same conference server. This issue took a lot of time and a lot of hair pulling but implemented a workable solution that offers a quality system. Root cause is still unknown as an AllStar developer hadn’t chimed-in with any suggestions or possible reasons.

K8JTK Hub/DVMIS connections

The DVMIS hub hosts a couple nets. Tuesday nights at 9pm eastern, since about the first-time stay-at-home orders were put in place, is the Amateur Logic Sound Check net. The net encourages checkins to utilize as many modes as possible during the net to test equipment. If you haven’t seen the Amateur Logic podcast, it has been going for over 15 years and they release two shows monthly. The regular podcast has segments about technology and Ham Radio. “Ham College” is an educational show for those wanting to get licensed or upgrade. The guys asked me to put together a segment for the show. My segment can be found in episode 149. A huge thanks goes out to the ALTV crew and everyone checking into the net which helped me identify and resolve system issues. They’ve also been great in keeping up with all the changes over the last 9 months. At the end of December, I’ve been testing with the West Chester Amateur Radio Association – WC8VOA to add digital modes to their net on Monday evenings at 8pm.

Around the time my segment was airing on ALTV, Brandmeister did not approve of the linking method and linking to other networks. Brandmeister uses the MCC standard and they manage talkgroup IDs consisting of 3, 4, or 5 digits. 6- or 7-digit IDs are repeater IDs and user IDs respectively, and can be used however the assigned owner would like. The BM TG in the ALTV episode is now 3172783 and is correct in the listing above.

The Hub is open for all to use in testing equipment, software, or linking up with friends. I keep status updates listed on the page linked at the beginning of this article. For this and any linked system, please remember a couple practices. When keying your radio, pause a second or two to allow all links to rise, otherwise the first couple words maybe lost. Pause a minimum 3-5 seconds between transmissions to give time for links to reset and other stations to break in. Do not “tailgate.” Enjoy and join the nets to get a feel for the Interlink System’s capabilities.

Slow Scan TV has become big over the last couple years due to ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) events. One of the longer events will have begun before OSJ publication: starting December 24 at 16:40 UTC and continue through December 31 ending at 18:15 UTC. Dates are subject to change due to ISS operational adjustments. Images will be downlinked at 145.800 MHz +/- 3 KHz for Doppler shift and the expected SSTV mode of operation is PD 120. Radio enthusiasts participating in the event can post images they receive at the ARISS SSTV Gallery at https://www.spaceflightsoftware.com/ARISS_SSTV/. After your image is posted at the gallery, you can acquire a special award by linking to https://ariss.pzk.org.pl/sstv/ and follow directions for submitting a digital copy of your received image. Even an HT can receive images from the space station. If you would like to receive images using MMSSTV on Windows, head over to my tutorial.

Congratulations to Scott Yonally – N8SY who won his election as Great Lakes Division Vice Director! Since he cannot hold more than one elected position at a time, he will be stepping down from his current Section Manager position when he assumes the Vice Director position on Jan 1. I wish him nothing but the best in his new role as he has done a lot for the Ohio Section during his tenure. We will then welcome Tom Sly – WB8LCD who will be appointed the new Section Manager for Ohio!

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

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 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,

Stay at home: day 42. Continuing to work from home. Haven’t seen co-workers or friends in a month and a half. Regular lunch outings and after work happenings have long since terminated. Virtual meetings and conferences have replaced in person interaction. Participation in Ham Radio activities is on the rise! Nets are seeing higher check-in counts than they’ve ever seen. The curve is rising for digital modes and logged contacts.

Are we all having fun yet during Corona Fest 2020?

As people are forced to work from home due to closures, companies are utilizing videoconferencing services to keep in touch with employees and teams. These are now methods for coordinating efforts and relaying the latest to employees about the status of their company. A videoconferencing solution was likely available for employees to interact with remote team members or vendors world-wide. Now, those services are utilized all-day, every day. My company decided to begin the transition from WebEx to Microsoft Teams for meetings. I liked WebEx and it generally worked. MS Teams, well it’s part of Office 365 and that’s probably down again. Corona Fest is forcing usage of these collaboration solutions, not only companies but social organizations that previously met in person. These include popular names like Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom.

Those who value open sourced solutions should use Jitsi or Jitsi Meet to hold meetings. The service is completely free and open-source where anyone can look at the source code of the project. The difference between Jitsi and Jitsi Meet: Jitsi is a roll-your-own solution meaning you can download server packages or code and deploy an instance however you want. Jitsi Meet Online is an extremely easy-to-use alternative solution for holding meetings – with no installation required.

Settings up a meeting is easy as visiting the Jitsi Meet Online link, create a name for the meeting, click Go, set a meeting password, then send out the meeting URL or phone numbers to participants. A meeting can be created in a matter of seconds! Yes, POTS phone service is available as part of the meeting for free. Note, plain old telephone service audio options will not be encrypted due to the nature of the technology. There is nothing to download for desktop PCs with a web browser and most smart devices. Smart phone apps are available for iOS and Android including the F-Droid store. Functionally, Jitsi Meet offers the same features as the others: video, audio, chat, and shared desktop.

If I had to pick one thing that I don’t like about Jitsi it is the use of WebRTC. Web Real-Time Communication is also a free and open-source project that provides web browsers and mobile applications with real-time communication (RTC). WebRTC is included in all modern browsers and enabled by default in most. This technology allows audio and video communication to happen without the need

Jitsi Meet options menu

to install additional plugins or apps. Makes it very easy. There are a couple problems with WebRTC in highly privacy focused implementations. One problem is the communication is direct, peer-to-peer. This makes it possible for a skilled individual to learn real Internet Protocol (IP) addresses even while the other is utilizing a VPN. Use of a VPN can allow a user to appear as though their traffic is coming from a different IP and aids in masking actual location. Corporations use VPNs to establish secure communications from their network to their endpoint devices over networks with unknown integrity. Another problem is that end-to-end encryption is not possible with WebRTC. Jitsi addresses this issue in their security document. End-to-end encryption (also abbreviated “E2EE”) is a method where only the communicating users can read messages exchanged, preventing eavesdroppers anywhere along the communication path.

I wish people used better tools such as Jitsi. That’s why there’s choice. I would use this for any meetings I hosted. It seems like a really good open-source alternative to the other solutions.

Zoom became very popular very quickly, almost overnight. It was even recommended right here in last month’s OSJ. Attacks and threats emerge as a result of that popularity and pose risks for users and clubs who are using these services to host meetings. Cyber criminals are crafting email messages to steal logon credentials and packaging malware to look like a Zoom meeting installer.

For most of us, club meetings are not doing anything that’s overly sensitive with Zoom. Some organizations (companies, agencies) banned the use of Zoom citing flaws in the encryption implementation making it easy to exploit and three Chinese companies develop the applications. These should be taken into consideration but there has been no evidence of influence resulting from these issues. Zoom should be commended, though, due to their responsiveness in correcting vulnerabilities and privacy issues that have been discovered in recent weeks.

Free for accounts, everything is managed by the Zoom cloud, including encryption keys. Data is encrypted between the clients and Zoom servers. However, audio is not encrypted if a paid account is using the POTS phone line options.

Shortly after its popularity exploded, so did the number of unwanted participants in meetings leading to the term “Zoombombing.” Having someone crash a meeting is obnoxious and an unwanted disruption. Examples of this have made the rounds where Zoom sessions were hijacked by individuals saying or showing things that are lewd, obscene, racist, or antisemitic in nature where everyone in the session can see or hear. Students themselves conspired to have pranksters harass teachers in their online classes. Others utilized ‘Wardialing’ tools to discover unsecured Zoom sessions. Wardialing is an early hacking term where every number in an area code was dialed to find computers, bulletin board systems, servers, and fax machines. The resulting list would be used to guess login credentials and gain unauthorized access to those systems. One person I know had her yoga session crashed by an individual cursing and displaying symbols associated with the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. I have not heard about any disruption to ham radio club meetings.

There are steps the organizer can take or have someone else follow the directions in the Zoom support articles to prevent these issues. Not all of these configuration recommendations are needed for every meeting, follow ones applicable to that meeting. For example, you may not want to lock a club meeting from participants but instead use a waiting room approach.

Latest version: ensure participants are using the most recent client version. In April alone, there have been three updates to the Windows client.

Meeting password: posting a meeting link to social media will draw attention. Send the event password to known users through a direct message or other means where your participants are known.

Waiting room: virtual staging area for guests and participants until you’re ready for them to join.

Zoom War Dialer (krebsonsecurity.com)

Manage participants: remove any participants that should not be in the meeting and set who can share their screen.

Disable video, file transfer, annotations, and private chat: cut down on distractions, unsolicited content, or messages as needed.

Accidental removal of a participant: a booted user cannot rejoin a session using the same email address unless a few settings are changed.

Put participants on hold during breaks: attendees audio and video can be disabled during lunch, bio breaks, or private moments.

Video recordings: exercise discretion when recording content and know where that content is stored. Paid customers have the option to record a meeting to the cloud.

Following these tips can lead to a successful, uninterrupted meeting.

I saw a posting by the developer of the MMDVM software, Jonathan – G4KLX. Digital hotspot and repeater owners should follow these guidelines.

This message contains important information that I want disseminated far and wide please.

I have been approached by the people who run aprs.fi and REF001/REF030 (not the same people) about problems being caused by hotspots. This is down to usage and I hope that people will act on this information:

1. APRS, it is important that when configuring your hotspot, that you ensure that the suffix used for accessing aprs.fi is unique. For example if you use more than one hotspot, then ensure that for every mode and for every hotspot, the aprs.fi access callsign is unique. This is usually done by specifying a unique suffix to the callsign used by the hotspot. If more than one hotspot attempts to access aprs.fi with the same callsign+suffix combination, the first one is thrown off, and the new one connects. In the meantime the original one tries to connect and throw the new one off. This can happen multiple times per second, and is causing problems for them. Please, please, please, look at your configurations and if you have a duplicate, change one of them.

2. REF001/REF030, apparently the network load on these D-Star reflectors is now very high due to the number of hotspots connecting and staying connected. Could you please consider changing your gateway configuration so that you disconnect after a certain period of inactivity (this means local RF activity) so that they aren't overloaded. I know we like to listen out for activity, but we must also realise that D-Star popular reflectors const money to run, and that includes network and processor usage. A quick look at their dashboards will reveal the problem, they're huge.

Jonathan G4KLX

Set unique SSIDs for APRS on different modes and on different hotspots. Finding where APRS information originates isn’t always easy with hotspots. The OpenSPOT 1 has a location information box in settings but it is not transmitted directly by that device, rather Brandmeister pushes that information to the APRS network. Disabling APRS data on the Pi-STAR requires editing the config files and setting priority messages in Brandmeister. The priority message solution should work for OpenSPOT devices too.

ZUMSpot on Raspberry Pi Zero compared to a quarter

Unlink from reflectors, talkgroups, and systems when you’re not using them, especially ones with large numbers of connected users. Users are apparently leaving their devices connected to popular reflectors ting up bandwidth and resources unnecessarily.

To put this into perspective, when I looked at REF001 there were 850 remote/hotspot users connected, about the same on REF030. A mere 12 had transmitted since they were connected. A 5 second transmission is about 9KB worth of Internet traffic. Multiply that by 850 connected devices, that’s 7.6MB of traffic in 5 seconds to connected hotspots, many of which are not being used. That’s an estimated 80 gigabytes or so for an hour-long net. There are ping/heartbeat packets to all connected devices even when the reflector does not have an active radio transmission taking place.

Please check your hotspot APRS configurations and disconnect when not in use.

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 and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

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 – October 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


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

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

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

Hotspots can utilize the many available modes & networks:

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

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

Hotspots and satellites

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

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

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

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

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

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

OpenSPOT2

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

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

ZUMspot review

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

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

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

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

Technical Specialists report

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

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

WB8APD, SK

Cleveland Hamfest – 1999, hac.org

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

HamNet BBS before closing

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – September 2016 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/2016/09/september-edition-of-ohio-section.html

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey Gang,
I don’t have to complain to you about the hot and extremely humid weather we’ve had because all of you are living it too. Storm season arrived later in Northern Ohio. I wrote last month how my city got hammered by some storms. It continued with a tornado outbreak in Indiana on August 24th. Friend and regular checkin to the Ham Nation D-STAR net luckily sustained no damage. However, his neighbors a quarter-mile to the north and south had their homes destroyed. The line of storms that moved through Indiana spawning many tornados prompted the National Weather Service in Cleveland to staff the Skywarn desk. I was one of the operators at NWS that night. Though the storms significantly weakened by the time they reached the Toledo area, there was one confirmed EF0 tornado in Pemberville (Wood County – my old stomping grounds). It touched down along route 6 and dissipated quickly but not before removing sheet metal roofing from nearby buildings. No injuries or fatalities.

Public service season is quickly wrapping up for most of the section. Technical Specialist David KD8TWG ran much of the five-day public service event at the Great Geauga County Fair. Being from Cuyahoga county (and the far west end at that), I was a little skeptical. ‘OK the GREAT Geauga Fair.’ But it really was a great fair. It’s the biggest one I’ve attended. There’s a ton of people, displays, awards, animals, events and acts, and yes people really do stand in line 45 minutes for a milkshake. This was confirmed in a casual conversation between fair-goers. As far as ham radio there is a great mixture of technologies including Ohio MARCS, 800 MHz, APRS, Mesh, VOIP, and a portable repeater for their communication needs. It was quite the elaborate setup and really is a great example of utilizing technology to suit communication needs.

The public service season concluded in Cleveland on the 11th with a half-marathon called “River Run.” It was great weather and there wasn’t a single ambulance call. A lot of the ham radio event coordinators have to beg, twist arms, and make many phone calls to get people to come out and help. Please volunteer and help out with these events. You’re there to make sure everyone has a good, safe time during the event. Your presence also gets ham radio out in front of the public and builds relationships with event organizers and county officials. If you’re active in helping out with public service events, you’re more likely to be called in the case of an actual situation.

Ham Nation episode 264 (https://twit.tv/shows/ham-nation/episodes/264) was an episode that featured an all YL cast. Everyone on the show that night was a young lady. The episode highlighted female participation in the hobby and pointed out that ham radio is not made up entirely of OMs. Additionally, Dr. Skov (who is not licensed … yet) gave a detailed tutorial on ionospheric conditions and how space weather effects propagation on the HF bands. She talks about the atmospheric layers, electron density, how those layers change during the day vs night vs gray line, the layers which reflect signals, Kp and X-Ray Flux indices. Her tutorial would have really helped me on those licensing test questions! It starts about 44 minutes into the episode – with some interesting analogies. I will leave it at that!

I’ve been spending a ton of time learning more about the DV4Mini dv4miniand DMR in particular. The DV4Mini is a USB hotspot device about the size of a large USB memory stick. It has the ability to “speak” several different digital modes: D-STAR, DMR, Fusion, P25, and dPMR/NXDN/IDAS. A hotspot is a device that provides connectivity. In this case, to different digital networks from your home PC or Raspberry Pi with a low powered transmitter (usually under 10mW). A misconception I hear a lot and have been asked about: yes you do need a radio for each digital mode you want to operate. To connect to D-STAR reflectors you’ll need the hotspot device and a D-STAR capable radio. Similarly, for DMR talk groups, you’ll need the hotspot and a DMR capable radio. I’ve been hanging out a lot on the Ohio Statewide talk group (3139) and USA Nationwide (3100), I even ran into our own Section Manager on the network!

The more time I spend with the DV4Mini the more issues I find with it. It’s a great concept to have one device to work 5 different modes. The DV4M has a lot of issues that I hope the developers correct related to its performance. I actually bricked mine updating it to the latest firmware. Had to crack the case and put into bootloader mode to re-flash the firmware. The update took the second time. This happened to another user too. Comparing audio quality to repeaters on the network and listening to BrandMeister Hoseline, the audio from the device sounds bad most times and terrible the rest. The direct calling feature doesn’t seem to work. A buddy of mine found the developer for the BrandMeister extended routing feature (DV4MF2) completely ceased development as of September 9th. It will be interesting to see why that happened and if that means anything for the future of the device. There are other hotspot devices out there and I hope to find out more about them soon.

David KD8TWG and his presentation on APRS at the Lake Erie Amateur Radio Association (LEARA) meeting was fantastic. We had a lot of fun with APRS on our smartphones and radios sending messages back and forth.

Thanks to the Cuyahoga Amateur Radio Society (CARS) for having me at their meeting on September 13th. I presented my introduction to the Raspberry Pi computer. Good discussion ensued in both cases on new technology hams can utilize.

Coming up, I will be at the Cleveland Hamfest on the 25th. Two days later I’m giving a presentation at the LEARA meeting on Slow Scan TV. If you’re in the Cleveland area and want to see SSTV in action, stop by the meeting on the 27th. More details will be available at leara.org as the meeting date approaches.

Congratulations to Scott N8SY on being reelected as Section Manager for the Ohio Section. Give him a pat on the back or buy him a beer when you see him for all his hard work!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK