Tag Archives: Digital Modes

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – September 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 Ohio 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 click the Login button.
  • Login
  • When logged in successfully, it will say “Hello <Name>” in place of the Login button where <Name> is your name.  Click your Name.  This will take you to the “My Account” page.
  • On the left hand side, under the “Communication” heading (second from the bottom), click Opt In/Out
  • To the right of the “Opt In/Out” heading, click Edit
  • Check the box next to “Division and Section News.”  If it is already checked, you are already receiving the Ohio Section Journal.
  • Click Save
  • There should now be a green check mark next to “Division and Section News.”  You’re all set!

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

Hey gang,

I was cleaning out my E-mail inbox, apparently no one else does this, and came across a request from a couple years ago. Mike – AB8MW contacted me wanting to know if it was possible to run multiple copies of Fldigi at one time. The scenario would be one copy for HF and one for VHF/UHF. For example: an EmComm event where they might want to monitor HF frequencies in addition to local VHF/UHF using a single PC.

Starting multiple copies of Fldigi & Flmsg will open multiple windows. Regardless of how many windows can be opened, all use the same user configuration directory to store settings. Mike wanted Fldigi to retain settings for each use. Settings such as soundcard inputs/outputs and rig control (if used). One radio might be using a SignaLink/RIGblaster/other soundcard interface and have no rig control. Another radio maybe using virtual audio cables (typical for SDR radios) and Hamlib for rig control. When multiple Fldigi & Flmsg windows use the same settings directory, last window closed wins. When the program is restarted, those settings are loaded. Additional Fldigi & Flmsg windows have to be configured all over again. Not convenient, especially with many uses on a single PC, in a pinch, or during a real operating event.

Why would someone want to run multiple copies (or instances) of Fldigi programs? Some operators use HF and VHF/UHF differently, including sound interfaces and rig controls. Instead of switching around configurations depending on band, have two instances configured, one for each radio. Other reasons could be a single all-band all-mode radio is used but have very different operating styles, personalities, or users – like in a club setting. Operating styles could be EmComm and contesting, or using different macros. Monitoring multiple repeaters or multiple HF frequencies during an EmComm exercise would be desired or any combination of these examples. Creating separate instances will allow each to have its own configuration settings.

Keeping separate settings is very doable, but it takes some work. There are additional issues when adding Flmsg (or other Fldigi programs) to the mix as one would use for NBEMS. Flmsg & Fldigi use a local IP port (often referred to as a “socket”) to facilitate communications between programs. The default IP and port for Flmsg to Fldigi is 127.0.0.1:7362. 127.0.0.1, also referred to as loopback or localhost, is a reserved IP address. This IP address is used by programs to communicate with other programs and services running on the same system. In Flmsg, when the operator hits AutoSend, it’s a crapshoot which Fldigi window will transmit the message when multiple windows are open. A message intended for VHF could go out over the HF radio. Not good, as that causes unnecessary confusion to other stations. Each pairing of Fldigi & Flmsg needs a unique set of IP ports.

According to the author of the Fldigi suite, Dave – W1HKJ, port/socket parameters for Fldigi, Flarq, Flmsg and Flamp are specified on the command line. Other TCP ports are configured in the Fldigi Configuration options under Misc -> TCP-IP sessions. There is some overlap between command line options and graphical interface options including KISS, ARQ, and XML settings.

When AB8MW originally contacted me, we worked out the configuration details over E-mail and he was going to get it working. I, of course, said ‘I am going to write this up’ and never did. That is until I came across those messages and finally sat down to document a procedure. My procedure outlines changes needed to run multiple instances in a NBEMS operational situation for both Fldigi and Flmsg. This might be useful for those participating in the upcoming October SET. This will also work for Fldigi instances without the use of Flmsg. The posting is on my site: Running multiple instances of Fldigi and Flmsg.

My write up labels one instance for “HF,” a second instance for “VHF/UHF.” There is no limit on how many instances can be created. I’ve heard stations using as many as six. The problem becomes manageability. When a setting is to be changed universally, it has to be done independently for each separate instance. When a new version is installed, shortcuts must be updated manually.

Multiple copies of Fldigi & Flmsg transmitting messages independently

My process creates separate directories for both Fldigi and Flmsg to save their settings. Copying of existing configuration settings is accomplished, if desired. Then creating and customizing shortcuts to use specific configuration directories. Finally, making unique configuration changes for each instance.

Running multiple instances of Fldigi programs is completely doable. It takes a little effort to configure the directories, IP ports, and settings. Once configured, clicking AutoSend in Flmsg will send that message to the paired Fldigi instance. I even show how to send messages received on HF to the VHF instance and vice-versa. No more guessing if it will go out over the correct radio!

If you were an early adopter of Hamshack Hotline and no longer have a green light for the HH extension, you probably need to make a configuration change. Another symptom, when the phone is rebooted, the phone gets stuck on “Checking DNS” and never moves past that screen.

Back when HH first started, the domain name wizworks.net was set by HH in the configuration file loaded onto everyone’s phones. The US server was hhus.wizworks.net. Since then, they transitioned to using the domain hamshackhotline.com, where the US server was changed to: hhus.hamshackhotline.com. The hhus.wizworks.net DNS record has been removed and is now invalid (NXDOMAIN). If a HH configured phone or device has stopped working around the end of August, check the registration domain.

  • In a web browser, go to:
    http://<IP Address of phone>/admin/advanced/
  • Click the “Ext 1” tab – or whichever extension Hamshack Hotline is configured
  • Under “Proxy and Registration” look for: (1) Proxy & (2) Outbound Proxy
  • If they show: hhus.wizworks.net, change both to:
    hhus.hamshackhotline.com
  • Click Submit All Changes
Cisco SPA phone configuration changes for Hamshack Hotline

The phone will reboot and be back online again after about 60 seconds. Verify the Hamshack Hotline extension is now green. Green means the phone was able to register successfully with the Hamshack Hotline server. If that doesn’t work, having trouble, or not sure, open a ticket with the Hamshack Hotline Help Desk.

I discovered this issue after powering down the shack due to storms. When I powered the phone back on, it stayed on the “Checking DNS” screen. I figured something fried during power off or the power supply was dying. There was no change after changing network cables and power sources.

I found the phone was getting an IP address by looking at my router/firewall and seeing an IP address handed out by DHCP. This meant it was accessing the network and I could do a packet capture. Packet captures capture network data for analysis and troubleshooting. These shed light on network problems such as DNS issues, firewall blocked traffic, packet size/MTU, retransmissions, etc. A capture won’t show problems with the application itself because it just looks like regular traffic/packets on the wire. Captures are often run on routers or firewalls as they are passing the traffic to and from the Internet or other networks. A switch with ‘port mirroring’ can send copies of data to a separate Ethernet port. A device connected to the mirror port, such as a PC with Wireshark, captures the traffic.

For my phone not finishing its boot, I identified the issue immediately in the capture. The phone was requesting the record for hhus.wizworks.net. The DNS server responded with “no such name.” That means the DNS record for hhus.wizworks.net, which ties the name to an IP address, does not exist. It was removed, as my phone worked previously.

Packet capture: first line is the DNS query for hhus.wizworks.net. Second line is the response “no such name”

Since my phone had an IP address, I could access its web-based configuration making the changes above. I probably could have guessed the new domain name. However, I was even luckier. I setup Hamshack Hotline on my softphone a couple of months earlier and their documentation had the new server name. Simply changing domains from “wizworks.net” to “hamshackhotline.com” was the only change I made.

A while back they told everyone to re-provision their devices. I thought I did. Thinking later, I probably didn’t because I configured additional extensions on my phone. Either way, making that change resolved my issue and my phone is operational once again.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Running multiple instances of Fldigi and Flmsg

There are situations where it would be easier for an operator to run multiple instances (copies) of Fldigi and Flmsg at one time.  These programs are often used for NBEMS handling over a repeater and the HF bands.

Why would anyone want to run multiple copies (or instances) of Fldigi programs? Some operators use HF and VHF/UHF differently including sound interfaces and rig controls. Instead of switching them around depending on which bands, have two instances configured differently for each radio. Other reasons could be using a single-all band-all mode radio but have different operating styles or personalities. Those could be Emcomm and contesting, or different macros and settings for each operating style. Monitoring multiple repeaters or HF frequencies during an Emcomm exercise. Or any combination of these examples. Creating separate instances will allow each to have separate settings, macros, and log books.

Fldigi and Flmsg with the default configurations are not setup to run multiple instances on a single computer.  While the programs can be started multiple times, all instances share the same configuration directory.  Setting different configuration directories allows one computer to run multiple instances all with different settings (rig control, audio devices, even Fldigi software versions).  All instances can transmit and receive independently of each other on any combination of radios, bands, frequencies that can be connected to a single PC.

I’m demonstrating using the popular combination of NBEMS programs: Fldigi and Flmsg. It appears possible to run multiple instances of the other Fldigi suite of applications, such as flrig, fllog, flamp. Configuration changes for each program and communication between the programs would be needed.  Additional programs are beyond the scope of this write up. Look at the program documentation for command line parameters, running multiple copies, I/O configuration page, and posts on groups.io support forums.

I will use the distinction of “HF” for an example instance connected to an HF radio, and “VHF” for an example instance connected to a VHF/UHF radio.  There can be any number of instances created for however many radios or bands or operating styles are desired.  The issue is manageability of settings, received files, and program updates.

This will work in Windows and Linux/Raspberry Pi.  Substitute C:\Users\<Username> (Windows) with  /home/<Username> (Linux) where <Username> is the logon for the user.

Program versions

Program versions used in this document.

Windows 7 – 64 bit

Fldigi 4.1.23

Flmsg 4.0.20

It appears Fldigi 4.0.18 and Flmsg 4.0.9 and greater support the command line options needed to run multiple instances.

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 Ohio 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 click the Login button.
  • Login
  • When logged in successfully, it will say “Hello <Name>” in place of the Login button where <Name> is your name.  Click your Name.  This will take you to the “My Account” page.
  • On the left hand side, under the “Communication” heading (second from the bottom), click Opt In/Out
  • To the right of the “Opt In/Out” heading, click Edit
  • Check the box next to “Division and Section News.”  If it is already checked, you are already receiving the Ohio Section Journal.
  • Click Save
  • There should now be a green check mark next to “Division and Section News.”  You’re all set!

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 – November 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,

Users of the DROID-Star application ran into a problem with an update earlier this month. After upgrading, then trying to connect to a DMR, D-STAR, NXDN, or System Fusion network, users were greeted with a “no vocoder found” message.

DROID-Star is known to users of digital modes. Namely used by Android or iOS users, it connects the user to ham radio digital networks. Later AllStar support was added through IAX, not using the AllStar Link network rather through the Inter-Asterisk eXchange protocol. AllStar is built on Asterisk and IAX requires separate accounts for access. DROID-Star supports MMDVM in hotspot or standalone transceiver configurations. MMDVM is written by G4KLX and the standard for ham radio digital linking via hotspots, interface boards, and applications.

Modes that can no longer be used out-of-the-box, after the November update, are all of the AMBE modes. AMBE is the voice encoder used in DMR, D-STAR, NXDN, and YSF. The no vocoder found message is seen when connecting to any of these modes. Unaffected modes are IAX, M17, and P25. IAX uses codes available to Asterisk. M17 uses the free and open source Codec 2. P25 (phase I, as used in ham radio) uses the IMBE codec. All three of those modes can be used without additional configuration.

First thought, there was a licensing issue or dispute. I found a forum post where the Pi-Star author recommended keeping packages separate in DROID-Star making them easier to maintain and packages can be built without including unnecessary extras. I believe this to be the reason the packaged codec in DROID-Star was removed.

No vocoder found. No hardware or software vocoder found for this mode. You can still connect, but you will not RX or TX any audio. See the project website (url on the About tab) for info on loading a sw vocoder, or use a USB AMBE dongle (and an OTG adapter on Android Devices)

As the message indicates, the user can connect to a reflector or talkgroup, but no audio will be heard. That’s about as useless as a glass hammer. I guess you can connect to make your presence known, but transmissions and reception is done through ESP? First thing I did was to visit the project URL to obtain information about finding a vocoder as suggested.

I have no information regarding aquiring a software vocoder.
There are no software vocoder plugins available in this repository, and I have no information on obtaining one. DONT ASK!

Super helpful. It does say there is an option of using a DV3000 and OTG cable. If you haven’t seen a DV3000, it’s about the size of a USB thumb drive. Do DROID-Star users need to have a hardware dongle hanging off their phones to make digital connections? Maybe. I was planning to test this method but realized I switched to a phone with USB-C connector and the OTG cables I had for previous devices were Micro USB. Make sure to obtain the correct cable for your phone or tablet.

USB OTG stands for On-The-Go. By default, phones/tables act as a peripheral. For example, plugging into a PC allows access to the phone’s storage. In order to set the phone in host mode, allowing it to accept input from other devices, a special cable containing an extra pin is required. This cable with an extra pin informs the device to enter host mode. OTG cables are readily available from a favorite online store or local computer shop. Search for ‘Micro USB OTG cable’ or ‘USB-C OTG cable’ depending on the device’s connector type. Description should make reference to being an ‘adapter for smartphone.’

Not seeing any other solutions early on, I rolled back the application to an earlier version. This is not for the faint of heart nor for someone worried about installing unofficial versions of applications, called “sideloading.” Not responsible for any damage or legal issues. This is for informational purposes only. Updates to the operating system may keep this app from working properly in the future. Any app updates/enhancements/features/bug fixes to DROID-Star will not be available without using a later version and running a vocoder. Downgrading is not possible through the Play Store. I downloaded DroidStar 1.0 (58) from the APKPure website. Hashes and additional info available on this page. I had to remove the newer DROID-Star version (which removes settings) from my phone and install the downloaded version manually. There is a “How to install APK / XAPK file” on the download link. It will explain sideloading an app and required settings to change.

After doing more digging, I was able to find a more appropriate and supported solution. The instructions to load the plugin on the project page are wrong. Saving to the Download directory did not work. To install the vocoder on an Android device:

1. Install the latest version of DROID-Star (Play Store, 3rd party store, official APK).
2. In the browser of the mobile device, visit this website: http://pizzanbeer.net/plugins/

3. Press and hold the filename for your device (arm, arm64). If you’re not sure which one to use, in DROID-Star hit About and look for Architecture.

4. Tap Copy link from the popup

5. In DroidStar, go to Settings
6. Scroll to the bottom (now located just above the MMDVM and level settings in later versions) and paste the URL in the Vocoder URL field (tap the Vocoder URL box. When the cursor is displayed, press and hold the same field. Click Paste).
7. Tap Download vocoder

8. A message saying “Updating, Check log tab for details” is displayed. Tap OK.

9. The Log tab should display “Downloaded vocoder_plugin.android.arch.”

You’re ready to go! If this is not seen, there was an error or the download couldn’t complete. Though these instructions are for Android, they are nearly the same for iPhones and iOS devices, except choose the “darwin” platform file instead of arm/64.

These steps might have to be repeated often. The release I used as of this writing (Nov 24) DROID-Star did not retain the vocoder settings. Now, I could have corrupted a database or borked permissions during testing and re-installing previous versions on my phone. Apparently other users are experiencing the same issue. Doug – AD8DP, the author of DROID-Star, seemingly doesn’t want to be bothered with issues. His repositories state the applications are offered “as is.” There is no E-mail on his QRZ and the GitHub repository has the “Issues” tab disabled. Normally, the issues option is used to report bugs with GitHub projects for developers or other community members address.

Other links about AMBE and contributing to the projects:

W9OB meeting. Photo courtesy of Dave – KB9VZU

Although not in our section, I do know they read our OSJ, quick shout out to the Henry County Amateur Radio Club in New Castle, IN – W9OB. I gave a presentation on AllStar Link and linking with digital modes. Been awhile since I’ve done a meeting over the air. Presentation was done using their local repeater via my local AllStar node. If your club would like a presentation on digital and VoIP modes or how my DVMIS works, get in contact with me.

Time off of work or wanting a break from the madness is a great time to get on the air and work special event stations. Some nets will even get children, grandchildren, and neighborhood kiddos in touch with Santa! The Santa Net is held every evening between Thanksgiving and Christmas on 3.916 MHz at 8:15PM eastern time. If HF is not available, the DoDropIn Echolink conference is hosting the Santa Watch Net on Christmas Eve! It begins at 6:00PM eastern on the 24th and runs about 4 hours. Third party traffic is always on the nice list.

On the ARRL Special Event Station calendar, W9WWI is hosting Christmas in Bethlehem on Dec 4. KC5OUR is hosting Bethlehem on the Air, Dec 18-24. N0T, N0R, N0A, N0I, and N0N make up the Christmas Train crew to Celebrate Christmas Time and Holiday Cheer through Ham Radio, Dec 23-26.

Let us not forget, the attacks on Perl Harbor that happened Dec 7, 1941. A number of stations including W2W, W9CAP, NE1PL, N7C, N7D, and N7N will be on the air to commemorate 80 years and the men and women who served.

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

Ham radio VoIP and K8JTK Hub DVMIS Presentations

Presentation on Ham radio VoIP (Voice over IP) modes and the K8JTK Hub Digital VoIP Multimode Interlink System which integrates many Ham radio modes, both analog and digital.

Framework

The framework I chose to use for the presentation slides is called reveal.js. It is an HTML framework meaning it will run in any HTML 5 capable browser. Looks a little better than a PowerPoint presentation.

Navigation

Useful navigation keys in the presentation. In addition to navigating with the keys below, you can swipe (tables/smartphones) or use the navigation arrows on screen in the lower right.

Toggle full screen: press [F11].

Advance to the next slide: press [n] or [SPACEBAR].

Go back to the previous slide: press [p] or press and hold the [SHIFT] key while pressing the [SPACEBAR].

Display presentation overview: [ESC] then use the arrow keys or mouse to select a slide. [ESC] again will exit overview mode.

Links

Clickable links are colored in brown text.

Presentations

Three variations are available: presentation version is viewable in a browser. Printable version for printing or saving in a different format (Chrome, Chromium, and variants compatible only). Finally a PDF version.

They may take some time to load because I left original images untouched and some were a couple MB in file size.

Slides

The presentation is around 60 minutes in length.

Version 1

Presentation version
Printable version
PDF version

This presentation was given at the following meetings:
Portage County Amateur Radio Service on 3/8/2021.

Version 2

Presentation version
Printable version
PDF version

This presentation was given at the following meetings:
West Chester Amateur Radio Association on 5/6/2021.

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – February 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,

I don’t know about anyone else, since most of us have been told to cower-in-place, my productivity has gone through the roof! Must be that 10-foot commute between the work desk and home desk, might get the sun in my eyes on my way over. Finally tacking items on the perpetual “when I have loads of free time” list.

First cleaned out my data hard drive that had become a general dumping ground for downloads, pictures, data files, abandoned projects, and all other forms of miscellaneous files. Kept telling myself ‘I’ll organize this later.’ I figure accumulation started around the time I graduated with my undergrad (2008) and really got involved with ham radio. Go figure. Downloads had grown to 2,900 files at 16 GB and the general dumping ground was around 73,000 files at 314 GB. Much of that got deleted but enough was kept for reference or sentimental reasons.

Synology NAS

After sorting, mutilating, and “organizing,” this led into another task to better utilize my NAS, or Network Attached Storage, functionality more than I currently was. NAS devices are a way to attach storage, like hard drives or SSDs, to the network for sharing data across devices on a local network or, in special cases, users on the Internet. NAS devices can be anything from a Raspberry Pi with USB hard drives attached, an old computer filled with spare hard drives running FreeNAS, to specifically designed devices from companies such as Synology, QNAP, or Asus. Many think “storage” when they think NAS because storage: it’s in the name. Consumer NAS devices offer packages that can be installed to add additional functionality commonly available through always-on devices. Functionality options such as a mail server, web server, git server, database server, docker virtualization, replication (mirroring, backup with another provider), network level authentication, VPN, IP camera DVR, chat, and document collaboration. I’m a loooong time Western Digital user. Their Red line of NAS drives are my choice, though they tried to pull some crap of quietly introducing sub-par drives (don’t use WD Red drives with “EFAX” in the model). Seagate is stepping up their game too with the IronWolf line, which is gaining popularity.

My strategy is to move files I’m not actively using on a regular basis to the NAS. These types of files would be: digital pictures, Office documents, document scans, emails, news articles, previous taxes, internet downloads, audio/video clips, newsletters, ham projects, school work and projects, old programs that aren’t updated but are still useful. Unbeknownst to me when I started, this didn’t leave a whole lot left over on my desktop data drive. Maybe in the future, I’ll move all data to the NAS.

For the remaining data left on my data drive, I still wanted to maintain a backup strategy in case something happened to those files. Anything from my own stupidity (accidental deletion, encrypted by a malware strain) to hardware failure. Previously, I used a cloud provider for remote backup but they decided to exit the consumer market. With their change in business strategy, I was using my own scripts to keep things synced from the desktop to the NAS, whenever I remembered to run them. Not great because if I deleted something with a bunch of recent changes and the last backup I had was a week or two ago, that sucks. This syncing strategy also didn’t have file versioning.

When a file is changed, the backup system preserves a new copy of the file but keeps previous versions in case you wanted to go back in time to an earlier version. Real-world example: a computer becomes infected with a malware strain that encrypts all pictures and documents. A backup solution will still make a backup copy of the newly encrypted file, because it doesn’t know its user or user on the network did something stupid. Saving previous versions means you can recover the unencrypted version without paying Mr. Bad Guy’s ransom.

Syncthing web interface (wikipedia.org)

I tried solutions like rsnapshot but had serious issues getting systemd timers (supposed to replace cron, yeah, we’ll see) to work with persistence and waiting until the NAS was mounted before taking a snapshot. That was abandoned after a few months. I heard about Syncthing on a podcast. It met my requirements and more! It’s quite an amazing piece of free and open-source technology. I could run an instance on my NAS (or any computer), attach devices, those devices send file changes in real time, and the software takes care of preserving previous versions. “More” came in the form of Syncthing being available on every platform I use. Supported are: source code for manual compiling, Linux (many distributions and processor architectures), Windows, macOS, *BSD, and Solaris. There is an Android client allowing me to backup my phone to my NAS. Syncthing is exactly what I needed since I have some Windows machines (like the shack PC).

A couple warnings about Syncthing. Getting started will seem overwhelming with options and what they mean. Look at good tutorials and in the forums where there are lot of users willing to help. Even more important: Syncthing IS NOT a backup tool. Wait, you said you are using it as a backup tool! I’m syncing file changes to my NAS. Backup comes in the form of making images of the NAS drive and storing those off-site. Also acceptable is using a cloud backup service to backup the NAS off-site. Both are acceptable uses of Syncthing as a “backup” solution.

Another thing on the “to do when I have tons of free time” was digitize VHS tapes. In December & beginning of January, I was on a mission to digitize my high school and college video tapes as well as family home videos. Close to 100 tapes in total. Those that are not familiar with my broadcast television past, I was involved with WHBS-TV in high school, a local cable access station. Schools from across the county came to visit us because we were doing 7 camera shoots with replay for all football games, 5 camera shoots for basketball, and competing in college level categories for regional Emmy awards. Worked at WBGU-TV in college. Did a ton of cool stuff including weekly productions for Fox Sports Ohio, a program that was distributed internationally, and lots of remote shoots in different parts of the state, to name a few. This was all before over-the-air digital was a thing. I recorded a lot of stuff on VHS tapes over those years and, of course, wanted to preserve them.

Most say “put it on DVD.” Like it or not, we’re being pushed to a streaming society so companies can control when and how you view content. Not only is physical media dead, but you now have to take care of, and store, a bunch of DVDs. There are services allowing you to roll-your-own streaming service, where you to make your own content library. There would be a server on your network containing your music, videos, TV shows, home movies, etc. making it accessible to smart TVs, streaming devices like Roku or Fire Stick, smart phones, tablets, or any modern web browser.

Plex media center (plex.tx)

I used a Hauppauge USB capture device to digitize VHS tapes played from a VCR. VideoReDo to fix errors in the data stream (some players have issues playing video streams with data errors) and cut recordings into smaller files. HandBrake to encode the video and Plex Media Server to make the video available to devices. Plex server runs on, you guessed it, the NAS! I’m glossing over how to use Plex, organize files, and produce files optimal for streaming as there are many support articles and forum posts covering these topics on the Plex or any other similar service’s site.

Reading up on recommended practices to digitize VHS tapes, VCRs with newer Time-Based Correctors (TBC) were recommended. Looking online, those were $400 or more. Since it’s likely these videos will be watched a handful of times, I decided to forgo more expensive VCR options. TBC can correct timing issues, making 1 second = 1 second, not longer due to tape stretching. It aims to correct visual image jitter and “wiggling.” I did see those artifacts and re-recorded if the video was bad enough. The Hauppauge device captures video at about 13 mbps (2 hr is about 13 GB). “Lossless” 25 mpbs capture devices were recommended. Do you remember the quality of a VHS tape? Lossless is not going to lose much VHS quality! All tapes digitized weighed in at about 1 TB of storage. Sounds like a lot. Though, 4 TB drives are under $140.

Watching college videos from 2004 as they were being digitized, I came across one of the shows and said ‘that guy looks familiar.’ It was two shows on school funding in the state of Ohio. Our previous section SGL Nick Pittner – K8NAP was one of the guests. I happen to be working camera in the WBGU studio for that show and Nick was in Columbus coming in via satellite. Emailed Nick some screen grabs. He remembered the show, hosts, other guest, and said they are still fighting the same fight after the better part of two decades later. Sometimes you never know who you’re working with!

On a commute a little longer than 10 feet, I’m planning to be in person at the Portage County Amateur Radio Service (PCARS) meeting coming up March 8th. Meeting topic will be VoIP modes (Voice over IP), both analog and digital, and the DVMIS. Hope to see everyone. There should be a Zoom link posted on their site if you would like to attend virtually.

Mike Baxter, KA0XTT, played by Tim Allen (arrl.org)

Speaking of the DVMIS, the Last Man Standing Amateur Radio Club – KA6LMS is sponsoring a special event starting at 00:00 UTC on March 24, 2021 and end at 23:59 UTC on March 30, 2021. This coincides with the last day of shooting for the show which is concluding its long, successful run. This event is going to be a multi-band, multi-mode, special event celebrating the show for its portrayal of amateur radio. AmateurLogic.TV is planning a net for March 27 from about 7 pm – 1 am eastern and the net will be carried on my system! I’m honored to be part of this event as Last Man Standing is one of my favorite shows. Mark your calendars and check the KA6LMS QRZ page for details!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – January 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,

For some time, the ARRL and myself have recognized the importance of makers as a way to breathe new life into the hobby. In one of my last in person appearances, our State Government Liaison, Bob – W2THU, posed the question to me: ‘how do we get younger people into the hobby?’ Some time ago my answer would have been “digital” but, in recent years, has shifted to makers – not only as a way to get younger people but a way to get like-minded people into the hobby.

What are makers? Adam Savage of MythBusters: “Humans do two things that make us unique from all other animals; we use tools and we tell stories. And when you make something, you’re doing both at once.” There is no single definition. Responses are broad and varied. A broad definition includes someone who creates something, usually in relation to creating, inventing, and learning. Frequently associated with makers are makerspaces, also called hackerspaces or fablabs. These offer shared resources by way of amenities such as machine shop, wood shop, welding shop, electronics lab, 3D printer, laser engraver, art supplies, blacksmithing, molding and casting, robotics lab, CAD software, glass blowing, space for experiments, and even entrepreneurship classes. These are things you might like to have, own, but are too expensive, unreasonable to own, or would be only utilized for a project or two.

Amateur Radio licensing class in a makerspace

A blog post by Rob – KJ7NZL makes very strong arguments why the ham radio community needs to embrace hackers now more than ever. Hackers are usually promoted as something “bad” when it is hackers that figure out how something works and then explore possibilities. Sure, license numbers are on the rise in the hobby but no one is pushing the limits of RF technologies. I’ve always been proud of the fact hams were using receiver voting systems and ways to detect a weakening signal at one receiver while, at the same time, increasing at another receiver. This, well before cell phone carriers built their networks on the same technology. However, instead of hams leading the way, we’re now lagging behind by adopting developed technologies and making them work for our own purposes. Prime examples being DMR, P25, and NXDN. There are no call signs in these radios. Radios identify themselves with a 5- or 7-digit ID. Other issues aside, D-STAR was at least developed by hams and implemented by manufactures.

Rob makes a number of compelling points to attract hackers. “Stop Primarily Promoting Emergency Communications.” I’ve always seen Amateur Radio having two distinct draws to the hobby: emcomm and experimentation. While I agree with his point personally, I’m also pretty biased. Under “Basis and purpose” at the beginning of Part 97 is the following:

The rules and regulations in this part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles:

(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.

Bold added to highlight. While promoting is not providing, it’s still the first reason of purpose. There are significant amounts of time and effort by our leadership and everyone involved with aspects of emcomm, including myself, to build and maintain relationships with governmental entities, keep up with regulation, political and policy changes, and training – to name a few. Lessen their efforts is likely throwing the baby out with the bath water. At the same time, I’m not talking about preppers and anyone with a Tech license and a Baofeng who really thinks they’re going to save the world. If the SHTF, I’m going to be more worried about my family and getting my behind to safety. Grabbing an HT might be on the list but it won’t be top of mind.

As Rob points out in his post, the hacker community isn’t going to care about sending messages during thunderstorms. When you mention Amateur Radio to those not in the community, most go to the prepper or underground bunker imagery because that’s what they know ham radio to be. Not those making, creating, and hacking things to improve, not only the hobby but maybe the portable life-chronicling device everyone carries around called a phone. Not promoting this important hacker aspect of the hobby has brought us to where we are today. The technical side is seen as less important.

In the same vein as preppers and Baofeng users, hackers need to be responsible. Your ham license does NOT give you any right to illegally access or manipulate private property without permission or accessing other radio systems over-the-air. Don’t think so? Ask a judge if you have any right to be on the statewide or regional public safety systems as a ham or regular citizen. No, no you absolutely do not.

“Start Promoting Software Defined Radio.” There is a lot of potential in SDR devices and I feel hams aren’t utilizing these devices to their maximum potential. SDR might usher in talent. If we, hams, keep downplaying technologists by saying ‘ooooohhh, it needs a COMPUTER, it’s not ham radio!’ this hobby is already dead. Thanks, thanks a lot.

Luckily, SDR devices are readily available from $20 for an RTL-SDR RTL2832U to thousands for a FlexRadio, and everywhere in-between. You can do a lot with the inexpensive RTL-SDR, much of it using ham modes and bands. I’m happy to say one of the people I’ve learned the most about radio signals is a licensed ham, Mike Ossmann – AE3H of Great Scott Gadgets, the company behind the HackRF One.

Technical regulation, I believe, is also hampering these efforts. Why are we still limited to baud rates of 300 on some bands? Why are we not at the point of reasonable bandwidth requirements? I have no friggin’ idea. Let’s really find out what we can do within 2.8 kHz. Baud rate and the encryption/privacy debate are two topics I think we need to figure out – three weeks ago. Privacy debate includes the self-doxing requirement of having our own personally identifiable information (PII) available to the public. Many people, in particular women, do not want their address available on the Internet.

Antenna building class (castlemakers.org)

“Provide Communities That Foster Technical Discussion and Exploration.” I didn’t realize this was as big of an issue. Likely in reaction to the blog post, I’ve had stations appear on the K8JTK Hub saying they were looking for places to have technical discussions. A younger ham stated something to the effect, ‘I’m looking for places that have technical discussions. I’m not looking to make a quick QSO and talk about the weather.’ I could think of a couple technical nets but not dedicated reflectors or talkgroups for in-depth technical discussions. I informed him that while my system is open, there wasn’t only technical discussions taking place but he was welcome to use it if he encountered or wanted to hold such discussion. Then we had an hour long (or more) QSO on everything from cryptocurrency to Internet routers and Wi-Fi access points. It’s not going to be for everyone but it was nice to have in-depth technical discussions.

Rob created a YSFReflector to facilitate technical discussion: #33360 – Radio Hackers. Dashboard: http://hackers.ysf.kj7nzl.net. Immediately saw comments ‘ooohhh, it’s using YAESU radios and WIRES-X.’ I love it. Not really. Everyone conflates the YSF/YSFReflector system, which is an open source Fusion reflector system, with WIRES-X, which is closed-source and proprietary to Yaesu and Yaesu equipment. Yaesu System Fusion as a standard, the technology in the radio and repeaters, is also closed-sourced. YSFReflectors are easy to setup and likely the reason Rob went there first.

Hackerspaces are excellent communities to promote the technical nature of ham radio. If your club is not involved with a hacker or makerspace, support a club that is involved. Or start talking with one near you. You’ll probably find they are waiting for a club or someone to partner with on radio, circuits, or electronics.

What are you doing to promote the technical side of the hobby?

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

K8JTK Hub DVMIS Presentations

Presentation on the K8JTK Hub Digital VoIP Multimode Interlink System which integrates many Ham radio modes, both analog and digital.

Framework

The framework I chose to use for the presentation slides is called reveal.js. It is an HTML framework meaning it will run in any HTML 5 capable browser. Looks a little better than a PowerPoint presentation.

Navigation

Useful navigation keys in the presentation. In addition to navigating with the keys below, you can swipe (tables/smartphones) or use the navigation arrows on screen in the lower right.

Toggle full screen: press [F11].

Advance to the next slide: press [n] or [SPACEBAR].

Go back to the previous slide: press [p] or press and hold the [SHIFT] key while pressing the [SPACEBAR].

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Presentations

Three variations are available: presentation version is viewable in a browser. Printable version for printing or saving in a different format (Chrome, Chromium, and variants compatible only). Finally a PDF version.

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Slides

The presentation is about 10 minutes in length which aired on the AmateurLogic.TV podcast on 11/13/2020 for episode 149.  It includes additional slides referenced in the video segment.

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Segment:

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