Tag Archives: IRLP

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:

Jeff Kopcak – TC

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:


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!


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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 2019 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…

Read the full edition at:

Jeff Kopcak – TC

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

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

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

Motorola CDM1250

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Diagram of connections to my AllStar node

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Dongle Bits: Projects

This article appeared in the The Lake Erie Amateur Radio Association newsletter The Spirit of ’76 and ’88 June 2014 edition and The Wood County Amateur Radio Club newsletter CQ Chatter July 2014 edition.

Read the rest of the series in the Dongle Bits articles category.

We’re going to take a look at projects others have done with micro-computers and controllers. Many of these will be Amateur Radio related but I will highlight some getting started projects that show setup or basic programming. Since many Hams are into computers and programming, I will highlight some networking and server related uses. Finally, some of the more some crazy and unique setups I’ve come across.

First thing to note: if you receive this newsletter in printed form, you’ll want to go to the club’s website or get it in electronic form to view these links. Links will be to videos or instructions posted online. Any YouTube videos will start at the beginning of the segment.

Getting started tutorials

Ham Radio

I was informed the University of Akron Amateur Radio Club (W8UPD) was planning on using the Raspberry Pi for their second High Altitude Balloon launch on April 8, 2014. Though no reason was given, it was scrapped for the Beaglebone Black board. They configured it to send back Slow-scan TV images overlaid with telemetry information. Unfortunately, the launch was a failure due to high winds and “poorly placed trees.” Upon launch, the payload got snagged and caught in a tree.

I heard from John – N8MDP who setup his Raspberry Pi as a D-STAR hotspot as well. His setup works with the “X-Reflector” system. There are multiple D-STAR reflector systems that co-exist together on the network. His instructions are detailed and the setup is different than mine because different software is needed to access these alternative reflector systems. John installed a webserver on his Pi to control it from the Internet.

Raspberry Pi


Networking and server

One of the first projects I saw was how to use the Raspberry Pi as a Home theater PC. This allows you to watch videos, listen to audio, or display photos accessible via the network on a TV.

A Pi can be turned into a home or portable access device used in conferences, competitions, demonstrations, or school project. Some examples are a router, network attached storage (NAS) device, web server, or secure virtual private network (VPN) server. The VPN server uses OpenVPN, an excellent encryption package that offers trust no one (TNO) encryption since you generate the encryption keys.

A useful project is the Raspberry Pi IP address IDer which speaks the IP address if you are operating headless and need to connect to it.

Cool and unique

Want to relive the 8-bit gaming days of the Commodore 64? There is a project called Commodore Pi to create a native Commodore 64 emulator and operating system for the Raspberry Pi.

Build a coffee table gaming rig.

Turn a Raspberry Pi into an FM transmitter.

If you like cheap phones, for $160 you can create your own Raspberry Pi smartphone.

Want to give your dog a treat via email? The Judd Treat Machine will do just that! Send an email to the dog’s email address, it dispenses the treat, snaps a picture, and replies with the picture attached.

The University of Southampton in England created the Raspberry Pi Supercomputer using 64 Raspberry Pi computers. They use a “message passing” system to distribute processing across all 64 devices. His son also helped out by building the rack to hold them out of… Legos!

Raspberry Pi and Lego Supercomputer

Other places for projects and news

Raspberry Pi forums.
Arduino forums.
Slashdot: (Pi) (Arduino).
Lifehacker: (Pi) (Arduino).
Reddit: (Pi) (Arduino).
Search the Internet!

Next time, we’re going to move on to another type of dongle: the $20 software-defined radio.