Tag Archives: Linux

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – August 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,

PSA: make copies of old computing media now before that data is lost for good. Those of us that are old enough to know or remember what floppy disks are – and no, it’s not the 3D printed version of the save icon! This is my adventure in preserving legacy media.

Floppy disks, simply “floppy” or “disk”, was a data device based on usage of a flexible magnetic storage medium. Systems dating back to the Commodore utilized floppies and other formats such as cassette tapes. PCs first used 8-inch floppy disks, then 5 1/4 or “five-and-a-quarter-inch disk,” finally 3 1/2 or “three-and-a-half-inch disk.” Most who are my age remember the 3.5″ floppy because it was a very common storage medium for transporting research, papers, and data between home and school. Never had any 8″ floppies. I’ve been around computers longer than most my age and have a couple 5.25″ disks.

Later in high school and college (through about 2005), advances in storage technologies allowed for lager capacities at roughly the same size. The Zip disk was still considered a floppy but had rigid housing to protect the medium at about the same size as a 3.5″ floppy, though twice as think. Zip disks could store 100 MB versus the 1.44 MB of the 3.5″ floppy. Writable CDs became affordable as anyone could now “burn” an optical disk with a storage capacity of 650-700 MB. DVDs for videos and large capacity 4.7 GB storage were standard mid-to-late 2000’s. Those have since been superseded by multi-gigabyte USB solid-state and “cloud storage.”

If you’re like me and hung on to those floppies because they still have old games, maybe using them for document or picture storage – for some reason, or old programs you would like to use again. I started this project as I was sorting through old computer equipment and it was probably past time to preserve the data. That is, if they could still be read. Since I was going through this work of preserving data on floppies, I decided it was probably time to save CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs as well. In theory, medium, especially optical, should last a good long while. However, all medium will degrade over time. It’s also a factor of how the disks were stored, the quality of the drive that wrote the disk, cleanness of the head, quality of the diskette, reading drive aligns with written tracks, to name a few.

Being anywhere from 15-25 years old or more, another reason for doing this is because new computer systems (desktops/laptops) are not coming with devices to read legacy media. The new laptop I received from work doesn’t even have standard USB (A) or HDMI ports! Most keyboards, mice, USB drives, image scanners, SDR dongles, etc. still use that type of port. This machine only comes with USB-C and I need an assortment of dongles to connect standard keyboards, mice, and monitors to the new laptop. They took a cue from Apple MacBook.

While I still have 5.25″ disks, it was a much small number. Probably under 15. 3.5″ disks, I probably have 150 – 200 laying around. Whether I got lucky, the drive/medium are of better quality, or better error correction/recovery, I had no problem reading the 5.25″ disks. I thought: older medium, more problems. That was not true in my case.

Standard disclaimers: copying of some software (though the company may be long gone out-of-business), is still considered piracy – though highly unlikely really anyone cares. You are free to do with this information as you wish.

Locating drives and media

First, locate legacy media (floppies, Zip disks, CD/DVD-ROMs) to be preserved. If labeled correctly, you might be able to tell right away which ones are worth saving. Things you or your kids did when they were younger might be worth saving, but that old accounting program, probably not. Emulation and virtualization technologies have come a long way and is quite possible to get those old programs running again with a little effort. That’s another article.

Next – locate a device to read that media. Throughout the years, I’ve hung on to a handful of old floppies, Zip, and, CD/DVD drives. Before throwing in the towel this early, consider that it might be easier than you think to locate a drive – should one not be readily available. A floppy disk drive, floppy cable, and old motherboard with a floppy controller is all you really need.

8-inch, 5¼-inch, and 3½-inch floppy disks (Wikipedia)

To find 8″ drives, you’re probably going to eBay, computer surplus shops, or even a hamfest. They’re “vintage” on eBay, therefore asking prices are $100 and up for a drive. These old drives have been successfully connected to modern PCs with the help of an external controller or adapter. My 5.25″ floppy drive connected and worked just fine on a motherboard (late 2000’s era) I had laying around with a floppy controller. If a motherboard is not available, a floppy controller with USB capabilities from KryoFlux or GoTek would do the job. 3.5″ floppy drives are readily available, have USB connections and cost about $20. Consider 5.25″ and 3.5″ combination drives if both formats are needed.

Early Zip drives came as an external device with a parallel port connection. They were god-awful slow. With more than a few Zip disks to copy, look for a drive with an ATAPI (IDE) connection if you have a motherboard with an IDE controller. Otherwise, opt for the USB drive version. ATAPI isn’t breaking any speed records either. They are quicker and you don’t have to find a motherboard with a parallel port and locate Zip drive drivers. The Zip 250 and 750 drives can read lower capacity disks. The Zip disk format has been long dead and the Iomega company was bought and sold a few times, eventually being completely discontinued. All of these drives will be surplus/eBay/hamfest finds.

Operating system support still exists, at least on the PC side. A Windows 7 64-bit operating system handled all the formats I threw at it: 5.25″ floppy, 3.5″ floppy, Iomega Zip 100 ATAPI, and obviously CD/DVD. The Zip ATAPI/IDE interface showed up as a standard removable disk drive. An older PC with an older operating system increases your chances of a working combination.

Parallel port Zip drive and disk (How-to Geek)

Zip disks, in particular, had a proprietary software method of preventing accidental writing to the disk or requiring a password to read the disk. In the case where any of these protections were used, or any other proprietary method of encrypting media, those conditions under which the media was “locked” will likely need to be recreated in order to read or decrypt the data. The same legacy drive connected to a PC, same legacy operating system with drivers/applications used to write-protect or encrypt the disk – if you still have copies of all those programs. Not to mention, remembering the password.

CDs and DVDs were no problem as those formats are somewhat current and operating systems include native support for those drives. Fedora 33 worked with all, though it doesn’t automatically load the floppy driver by default. I had to:

sudo modprobe floppy

I did not test a copy of Windows 10. A Win10 rescue disk worked just fine with all formats so I suspect Windows 10 will be fine as well. Copying the data can be as easy as opening the drive in the desktop, selecting the contents, and copying files to a directory on your hard drive.

ISO files are a single file that contains the entire CD/DVD/Blu-Ray disc structure to precisely duplicate a disc. These are often used when downloading Linux/Unix distributions. Windows 10 can be downloaded as an ISO as well. Many utility and recovery tools available as ISO downloads are meant to be burned to disc or written to a bootable USB drive. Nearly all CD/DVD/Blu-ray authoring programs have the option of creating or burning ISO files.

IMG (sometimes referred to as IMA, standing for “image”) files are similar to ISOs but for floppy disks. IMG files are a single file, raw sector dump, of a medium. I have no scientific data to indicate drag-and-drop copying is just as-good-as creating an image file. If I had to guess reasons an image would be a better option: maybe a form of copy protection looks at a specific sector for a known value or possibly date & time stamps. If something wasn’t as expected, it might fail believing a copy was made. I came across one instance where straight copying files caused special characters to be converted. A “~” was converted to “_”. This is more likely to cause an issue for an installer program because a filename doesn’t match. To me, it just seems better to make a raw copy of the disk. Once again, the more complicated method is my preferred method.

My goal was to have an image made directly from the disk. In reading up, examples showed creating a ‘blank floppy image’ file, reading disk contents, and writing to the blank image. I did not want that as total disk size could be different. Disks containing my documents or picture files, I copied those to a folder on a hard drive. Disks containing programs or installation media, images of the disk were made.

A raw sector dump of a floppy disk occupying the same amount of space as if the disk was completely full. 1.44 MB disks will take up 1.44 MB, even if only 300K is written to the disk. 720K disks take up 720K. CD/DVD/Blu-ray ISO and BIN files will be the same size as the total amount of data written on the disc (333 MB disc = 333 MB ISO). For multi-gigabyte and terabyte hard drives, these sizes are nothing.

Next time, my adventures continue into creating, using, and storing image files.

The Section is sponsoring learning and exploring sessions. Technical Specialist Jason – N8EI will be presenting one of those sessions on August 31st. Details have been published in recent PostScrips and later in this edition. His topic is “Beyond the Baofeng: Thoughts on Equipment Choices for New Hams.” You received your license. Picked up a $20 Baofeng. Tried to reach some repeaters with it. Now what? Now comes a real station. He touches on prioritizing equipment purchases and gives recommendations on radios. It will be a good one not only for newly licensed hams but hams looking to improve their station.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – July 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,

Coming soon: Windows 11. Wait, wasn’t Windows 10 the “last version of Windows?” Yes. Now, no. People interpret that statement to mean once you’ve upgrade to Windows 10, there would be free upgrades forever and you would never have to pay for another version of Windows. Microsoft: we kind of meant that but not really, it’s only “reflective” of delivery in an ongoing manner. On June 24th, Microsoft announced its next major version of the Windows operating system expected for release later in 2021.

As of this writing, no official release date has been set. Though a retirement date for Windows 10 in 2025 has been published. Retiring (or end-of-life) means after 10/14/2015, no mainstream support will be available for security updates, fixes, and enhancements. Businesses, or those paying for extended support. will likely have updates available for some time longer. The 2025 date puts Windows 10 in at over 10 years of service life, just a few months short of Windows 7’s service life. Has Windows 10 been out that long??

Microsoft is nothing, if not clear, in their statements and announcements. In Microsoft fashion, there is plenty of confusion around system requirements. Microsoft states that more than half, as much as 60%, of the PCs running Windows 10 today could not run Windows 11. I figure many systems upgraded from Win 7 to 10 will not meet the minimum requirements. Those who’ve bought a packaged PC since July 2016 should be good to upgrade and can upgrade for free. The reason for July of 2016 is when Microsoft required system integrators to include the TPM in new systems shipped after that date. TPM is used to generate cryptographic keys ensuring system integrity and security at system boot. DIY motherboards had this built in since about 2015. New PCs will see Windows 11 included as part of the entire purchase price. System builders will likely see the same prices as Windows 10, about $100 for Home and a little more for the Pro edition.

Home version of Windows 11 will require an Internet connection and a Microsoft account to complete first-time setup. If you have an account for Hotmail, Outlook, OneDrive, Office, or Xbox – you’re all set. If not, one can be created for free. Though nothing says you can’t unlink the account after setup. This connection between Windows and a Microsoft account has been used to store license information and retrieve a license should, when, a reinstall is needed. It also enables “cloud” features allowing some settings and preferences to be synced across all devices logged in with the same account. Pro versions can opt to use a Microsoft account or create a local account.

What else is new in Windows 11? “Sweeping” redesign of the user interface – to make it look more like a Mac – starting with a center aligned taskbar. A design choice aimed at touch users (tablets, Microsoft Surface devices). To be fair, GNOME has long adopted the center aligned taskbar as well as the Mac. Another start menu redesign “powered by the cloud” – which allows internet searches directly and synced documents across devices running Office 365. Microsoft Teams is directly integrated. Teams is the messaging and collaboration platform that started out as MSN Messenger and later absorbed Skype. To gain traction for the Windows Store (which no one ever went into), Windows will now be able to run Android apps natively.

Before the Microsoft announcement, a leaked build of Windows 11 appeared on the Interwebs. It appeared to be locked down to virtual machines only. Those that obtained the leaked version had significant issues installing it on bare metal. Not even an issue installing it on a virtual machine. The build might have been locked down to virtual machines for testing and demonstration purposes.

Windows 11 desktop (Wikipedia)

Since the announcement, a downloadable ISO image is still not available. There are guides how to download all the necessary files and build one yourself if you so choose to test out the preview on a real machine with a clean install. The official way is to enroll in the Insider program and do an in-place upgrade on a Windows 10 machine. This is done by signing into a Microsoft account in Windows 10, register for the Insider program online, enroll the device in the settings pane, then change Insider settings to the “Dev Channel.”

Though reviews have been initially positive about the new release, it seems very much like Windows 10 under the hood with the user interface redesign and improvements. Videos I saw had very good experiences gaming on the preview build leading more credence to it being Windows 10 underneath. If you’re like me and didn’t enjoy the user experience of having things buried, needing to do more clicks to accomplish the same/simple tasks, and ultimately moving to Linux as a result of Windows 10, this is going to be a ‘meh’ release for you as well.

On the subject of Windows. While I run Linux primarily and rag on current versions of Windows, if you are still running Windows 7 (which I am) or even XP on your machines, this is another friendly reminder to remediate, remove, or update unsupported versions of Windows. Removing would be replacing the machine or upgrade to a supported version of Windows if available. Remediate would be to remove Internet access to that device and remove its ability to access other devices on the Local Area Network by properly segmenting the device. Use of a hardware firewall appliance to block and monitor device communications is preferred. Should those options be unavailable, look to invest in a reputable service that provides patches for legacy operating systems such as 0patch (pronounced “zero patch”). 0patch Pro for Windows 7 end-of-support patching is available for 22.95 EUR +tax/computer (agent)/year, about $27 USD.

Vulnerabilities, such as PrintNightmare, will continue to be discovered. In situations such as this, emergency patches will be graciously released by Microsoft for unsupported operating systems but don’t expect this to continue. Vulnerabilities like this have always existed in affected operating systems but were only recently disclosed. PrintNightmare is a vulnerability in the Windows print driver, of all things. It allows a bad guy that has or can gain low level access to any affected Windows machine to take control of the local machine or domain controller gaining control of the entire domain. That second part regarding domains is not applicable to average users, only power users and corporations. Not to be out done by the exploit Microsoft botched the initial patch leaving systems still vulnerable. You would think a company worth $2 trillion would have the resources to fix the issue in its entirety.

Linux is not getting out unscathed this month too. I’ve talked about how I moved to Fedora and their very aggressive end-of-life cycle. Fedora 34 was released at the end of April. Typically, I’ll wait two months or so to let the bugs get sorted out in this community supported operating system. Realizing it had been three months since release, I took the dive and upgraded all my Fedora systems at once. Bad decision. I had two initial problems. My RAID array is showing individual disks in file explorer. This is a problem because it should never show individual disks. More to the point, if I accidentally write to an individual disk instead of the array because all elements are labeled the same (only the icon is different), the disk becomes out of sync with the rest of the array which would almost certainly result in data loss. The second is Redshift (shifts the screen color to red as it becomes later in the day to reduce eye strain) which keeps throwing an error at logon that all of a sudden manifested itself… from 2016. What? It’s been about an issue per day I’m discovering. Applications disappearing from the task bar is another very annoying issue. A downgrade attempt failed on the laptop which means wiping the operating system partition and re-installing Fedora 33. /home is on a separate partition meaning my files and most settings would be OK. Then praying 35 is not such a dud.

The Section is sponsoring learning and exploring sessions. Technical Specialist Jason – N8EI will be presenting one of those sessions on August 31st. Look for details in this edition or in forthcoming communications from our Section Manager. His topic is “Beyond the Baofeng: Thoughts on Equipment Choices for New Hams.” You received your license. Picked up a $20 Baofeng. Tried to reach some repeaters with it. Now what? Now comes a real station. He touches on prioritizing equipment purchases and gives recommendations on radios. It will be a good one not only for newly licensed hams but hams looking to improve their station.

Van Wert Hamfest

I’m jiddy that Hamfests are returning. I made both NOARSFest in Elyria and the Van Wert Hamfest last weekend. NOARSFest seemed like a few more were in attendance over previous years. That was the last hamfest I attended before we were sequestered to our homes so it was fitting being the first one to return. Van Wert had a perfect day for holding a hamfest – though it was quire foggy on the ride out, maybe due to the wildfires out west. Even though I attended school in the area and traveled often for work, never made it to Van Wert. Their ‘fest was one I’ve been wanting to attend for some time. Figured I would take in all that I can and support hamfests as much as I can this year seeing as all were canceled leaving clubs without that income over the last year.

Thanks for reading and 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 – 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].

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 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.

Presentation version
Printable version
PDF version

Segment:

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – May 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,

Well, this stay at home thing seems to have run its course – beginning week 11 soon. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know by now Dayton Hamvention was canceled this year. First time ever in its history. Weekend events that had the resources were virtualized such as Contest University. Some vendors and manufactures ran Dayton specials regardless of the lack of a physical showing. Technical Specialist Bob – K8MD pointed out that one of the retailers ran a special on D-STAR repeater components for $299 apiece. That meant a full stack (controller, 2m voice, 440 voice, 1.2G voice, and 1.2G data) could be purchased for about $1,500. Wow. Just ONE of those items cost about that much retail. Is ICOM feeling the pressure from the Yaesu repeater giveaway, DMR, or is D-STAR II around the corner? Hmmm…

Unfortunately, I’m starting to see on-the-air happenings return to previous levels. I guess that means people are returning to work, going out more, and returning to their normal. For me, I knew early on I wanted to utilize the hunker-in-place order to knock out some long-standing projects and “to-dos” of mine. Others had the same idea.

Among my list of annoying issues was a problem with one of my Fedora systems. As I’ve written about in the past, I made the switch to Fedora Linux as the primary operating system on my desktop and laptop. Fedora is a cutting-edge operating system and employs a very aggressive release and end-of-life schedule. The project releases a new version twice a year in April and October. When a new version drops, they mark the version two behind it as end-of-life. Fedora 30 released in April of 2019 means Fedora 28 went end-of-life one month after that date, May 2019. No bug fixes, no package updates, no security enhancements. And everyone complains about Microsoft ending life of a 10-year-old OS. Well, I knew what I was getting into.

Fedora 31 released at the end of October, 2019. I usually wait 2-3 months for the major problems to be ironed out and updates made available before I upgrade. When I tried to update to 31, I ran into a problem. Using the Fedora 31 Live CD or doing the automatic upgrade, the boot process would hang on this line:

A start job is running for Monitoring of LVM2 mirrors, snapshots etc. using dmeventd or progress polling

This process neither finished loading nor failed to load after any amount of time. Off to the Internet I went. Searching “Fedora 31” and the message above brought me to a couple bug reports and forum posts about the same message. Unfortunately, none of the suggestions got me past this problem. Due to life and other responsibilities, I put it aside secretly hoping Fedora 32 would have fixed my problem, saying I would upgrade from 30 to 32. I saw Fedora 32 beta was available (now a full release) and downloaded the Live CD. Problem still existed. Darn!

Since this occurred during the boot process of both the Live CD and after upgrading a previous installation, I couldn’t look or pull stored logs easily to see if those provided any clues as to why the process was hanging. Live CD images are the lifeline go-to when the installed OS on the hard drive wont boot. In addition to installing the OS, they are used as a rescue method to repair a borked install. I couldn’t get the Live CD to boot so I was in trouble if this system ever became unbootable because I’ve never *cough* have done something that *cough* *cough* caused my system to become unbootable…

Storage server supporting RAID (Wikipedia)

The forum post above gave me a clue and I started exploring this as being an issue with my RAID array. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive (or Independent) Disks. It’s a technology that combines multiple physical disks into logical units for redundancy, performance, or both. I tried messing around in the BIOS disabling other arrays, that didn’t work. I thought maybe something in the RAID information written to the disk was causing a problem. Backed up everything on the array and deleted it. Deleting a RAID array destroys all data on those disks!! When I recreated the array, the Fedora 31 Live CD booted! Problem solved!!? Yeah, no. It would boot successfully once then hang on subsequent reboots or after being installed to the hard drive.

After screwing around with it even more, I finally searched “Fedora 31 Intel RAID array LVM2 dmeventd” and found this bug report and how to work around the exact issue I was having. Whoo Hoo! Problem solved, well workaround provided. It took a while to get there. Simply searching a message, error, or problem may not return the most relevant search results for your issue. You might have to dig at it a bit by gathering other information to determine the real reason or peel back the right layer to discover the correct answer.

Work around involved masking the lvm2-lvmpolld.service via kernel load parameters and at the command line after install. Masking creates a link to the Linux blackhole /dev/null device so the service cannot be started by systemd or dependencies. The service is a polling system for the Logical Volume Manager (LVM). After all that, I was finally able to get Fedora upgraded to 31! Just in time as version 30 was about to go EOL. I noticed the data consistency validation scan no longer automatically occurs on the arrays, which is likely related to disabling the service. I initiate it manually every couple of weeks. The problem of not being able to boot has an active bug report that’s assigned. Hopefully gets attention from a developer and fixed.

Windows 7 Users: Take Heed

Broken Windows (Krebs on Security)

It’s become more imperative that you move to another operating system like Windows 10, Linux, or utilize a 3rd party patching service like 0patch. Unlike Windows XP’s end-of-life, there were not too many critical issues shortly after EOL. Microsoft did release patches for ‘really bad’ issues. XP, and any OS, always have an unknown number of undiscovered security problems. We were not so fortunate to run with Windows 7 as long without discovering major problems. There have been a number of significant critical issues each month since Windows 7 went EOL that affect Windows 7, 8, and 10, for which Microsoft has not (and likely will not) patch Windows 7.

My February OSJ article has information about how issues can affect ‘all versions of Windows’ and information on 0patch. March OSJ article covers upgrading to Windows 10 for free and check my Linux information article for choosing a Linux distribution. A reader previously tried to argue that exploits resided in browsers. Since the last official update for Windows 7 in January, these critical exploits are largely operating system based: ActiveX, Windows Installer, Graphics Interface, font rendering, and shortcut handling (.lnk files) with many being 0-day, meaning they are actively exploited in the wild. Could be a result of someone that has physical access to the machine, an application the user thinks are legitimate or an app that comes bundled with crapware/malware, or polled by an infected device on the network.

This month alone, 111 security holes were patched, 16 being critical, in supported Windows operating systems. Makes you wonder why anyone is still using a Microsoft Windows OS. Lack of software support and learning curve are probably the biggest. I have a few uses for Windows, ugh – thank you streaming services and your stupid ‘copy protection.’ Microsoft is looking at ‘containerizing’ the Win10 operating system. The belief being when a software component fails to update or creates a problem, it doesn’t affect other parts or crash the entire operating system – separate containers that only affect themselves. Or maybe Microsoft should focus on getting the operating system stable instead of “feature updates” no one cares about. </end rant>.

AmateurLogic.TV Sound Check Net

One of the nets created since the stay-at-home order is the Amateur Logic Sound Check Net. Amateur Logic.TV is a long-running monthly podcast featuring the latest in ham radio. There have been 5 nets so far. I became involved with the net because they wanted the ability to link D-STAR and DMR users to their EchoLink net. I was able to offer up my Digital Voice Multi-mode Interlink System Hub. Started utilizing only those three modes but quickly expanded to incorporate all. Users have checked in using all the modes each week, including Wires-X.

Previous net announcement with NCS K8JTK!

The AmateurLogic guys are using a local repeater in Mississippi connected to an Echolink node. I connect to their Echolink node and transcode audio to and from other modes: AllStar Link, Hamshack Hotline, D-STAR, DMR, YSF, and Wires-X. It has performed well as it mostly lives in the cloud and has data center level resources. Users and sponsors of the net have been impressed with how well it works and grateful to experiment with many modes to reach the net – one of the few, if not only, taking Hamshack Hotline checkins.

I was net control MC for a couple of their nets. It was my longest and most amount of checkins with about 40 at nearly 2 hours for a net. The net is on Tuesdays at 9pm eastern and should be running for at least a couple more weeks. Net can be reached by connecting to any of my hub nodes or checking ALTV social media for other connections. Everyone is welcome!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – September 2019 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

A ham in the section asked me about obtaining the latest Linux kernel. Not wanting to deal with problems found after the operating system install media was released, the latest stable kernel version available was what he wanted to be installed during setup.

Before I get started, if you are not familiar with Linux and have not read my April 2018 OSJ article, I encourage you to do so as some of the terminology defined will be used here.

There is not an easy answer to the question which version of the kernel is “stable.” The answer is: it depends. Depends on:

  • Definition of stable. There will always be bugs and constant fixes being released. Most IT personnel take ‘stable’ to mean: the least amount of issues after testing and polishing.
  • Linux distribution. How well does a kernel version work with the packages and drivers of a distribution. Availability of a new stable kernel depends on maintainers, developers, and the community’s time to update everything including programs, libraries, and drivers. Then test, document, ship, and address bug reports.

At kernel.org, there is a giant yellow button which indicates “latest stable kernel.” As of this writing, currently 5.3. Terminology on the Kernel Archives website for the different kernel types:

  • mainline = beta
  • stable = less issues
  • longterm = maintained and updated longer, typically for business production systems
  • linux-next = patches for the next version of mainline, stable, longterm

Logging into a handful of updated Linux devices I have around the house, their kernel versions:

  • Fedora 30: 5.2.14
  • AllStar Node (Debian 9): 4.9.0
  • Raspberry Pi – AllStar node (Arch): 4.14.97
  • Raspberry Pi – stock install (Raspbian Buster): 4.19.66
  • Wireless access point: 2.6.36

You’ll notice exactly zero are on 5.3. Even Fedora, which is considered a “bleeding-edge” Linux operating system will lag behind. Fedora is currently a single release behind the stable channel. Each distribution has their own definition of “stable” because it’s up to each distribution to maintain and update their releases.

A similar situation exists for software packages too. There will often be different versions of the same named package between different Linux distributions. Packages Managers almost always lag behind source code releases. For example, the Linux printing system software called CUPS for Common UNIX Printing System (cups.org), its latest is version 2.3.0. The latest in the Fedora 30 package manager is version 2.2.12. Therefore, 2.2.12 is the latest stable CUPS install for Fedora 30. Version 2.3.0 will be available when it is approved.

I have nearly 2000 packages installed on one of my systems! That seems like a lot but some are very small and Linux is very modular. Some are programs I installed like VLC or YouTube downloader. Others, I have no idea. Those are likely dependencies for other packages or programs pre-installed by the distribution. Anything beginning with “lib” is a shared common library. Packages prefixed with a program name are modules of that program: “cups” is the core printing system while “cups-filters” are the printer libraries for CUPS. Some are required system packages. “tzdata” is time zone data – so the system knows about different time zones, changes DST correctly, and processes leap-seconds. “Mint-themes” are themes for the Linux desktop GUI Cinnamon.

Linux diehards will “compile from source.” To get the absolute latest and greatest features and fixes, this practice involves downloading the plain-text source code and compiling it into machine executable code manually. It takes alot of trial-and-error to get a successful compile. Not only is the program source needed but the source code for any dependencies and libraries will also be required. Most will say this is to validate the code, add their own custom modules to the kernel, or do kernel development.

Could someone download and compile kernel 5.3 for Fedora, Ubuntu, Mint, or any other distribution? Absolutely. Fedora has a process documented to update the kernel manually. It’s 15 pages. Or you can run a single command. You choose. But you have to deal with any issues that arise from using a custom version of the kernel and doing so is unsupported by most distributions. I have no reason to be on a later kernel version before it is made generally available by the Fedora project.

Unless there are bandwidth concerns, there is little reason to worry about installing the latest version of the OS. The package manager will handle all updates to the kernel, operating system, and programs. Updates through the package manager have been approved for that version of the operating system by those who maintain those programs. It does not mean updates are 100% bug free. There is no need to install updates the minute they are available – even every-couple-weeks will be OK. We’ve all been trained like Pavlov’s dog to install updates the minute we see that pop-up. Thanks Windows. Cherry-picking is not a good idea either – unless you have a specific reason not to install an update, like an incompatible version of Java with another program.

How to install the latest Linux OS updates? I’m a command line guy because I was brought up on the DOS and Linux command lines. Recent Linux distributions have both a CLI (command line interface) and a GUI (graphical) package manager. Once the Live CD install is complete, reboot. When logged in, open a terminal window.

For Red Hat based systems (Fedora, CentOS), run:
sudo dnf -y update
Replace dnf with ‘yum’ on older installs.

For Debian based systems (Ubuntu, Mint, Raspbian, etc), there are two commands:
sudo apt -y update
sudo apt -y upgrade

The -y option means “assume yes” to any download questions or repository updates. GUI versions vary but usually involve refreshing the repository data and selecting all updates. These should always be run after a fresh install. When complete, reboot the machine. I run these update commands about once a week, maybe more if I’m waiting for an update or fix. These can be run at any time after installation as well.

On the topic of operating systems, the much beloved Microsoft operating system Windows 7 will no longer be supported after January 14, 2020. Windows 7 reaching end-of-life means there will be no further security updates – in theory. Even after Windows XP reached EOL, Microsoft went back and patched some “really bad” vulnerabilities in all operating systems, including XP. I can’t say the January 14th date will be extended or moved beyond that date nor can I say how long Windows 7 will remain a safe operating system to use. For the first time ever at the beginning of this year, the number of Windows 10 users just passed the number of Windows 7 users. That means about half of Windows users are still running version 7. There was talk of hackers stockpiling Windows XP exploits that would be released the minute Microsoft stopped updating XP, bringing the world to its knees. That was more hype by the media than reality. Chrome and Firefox browsers continued to support XP until a time came when they decided it was more work than it was worth.

A conversation I had recently, this person was of the mind that Windows 7 is going to stop working all together after January. Not true. It will still work as normal after January 14. You may see nag screens saying Win7 is no longer supported encouraging update to Windows 10. This is not a requirement to continue using your computer because Windows 7 will continue to run fine, you know, until the machine dies. There will be problems installing 7 on certain newer hardware because Microsoft thinks regression testing and customizations for Windows 7 security on modern hardware will introduce more problems. This time may, however, be the last chance you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free, for the life of the computer. If you qualify and have the latest Windows 7 updates installed, you will receive a pop-up from Windows saying ‘Microsoft recommends upgrading to Windows 10.’ This is a similar promotion to the one I talked about in April 2016.

In general, users have grown numb to the constant updating and bloatware of Windows 10. Believe it or not, Microsoft solved all the real problems with Windows 10. It’s called Microsoft Windows 10 LTSC (Long-Term Servicing Channel). It’s fantastic. It doesn’t force you into feature updates, doesn’t have the Windows Store crap, Cortana junk, or Customer Experience tracking. Feature updates can be delayed 18-24 months instead of having to be applied every 6 months. Not to mention Microsoft has frequently pulled back feature updates nearly as soon as they are released due to lack of adequate testing. The gotchya is you need access to a costly MSDN subscription. This version is out there if you look for it. Microsoft heavily criticizes the use of LTSC saying ‘users want feature updates.’ No, they don’t, that’s why users are seeking out a usable version of your crappie ‘modern’ operating system.

Time Code Generator for WWVB (wwv100.com)

The oldest continuously operating radio station in the world deserves a grand celebration. The Northern Colorado Amateur Radio Club (NCARC) will operate a special event amateur radio station with the call sign WW0WWV, on the WWV property starting September 28 and going 24-hours a day through October 2. For information on the Special Event Station visit: wwv100.com. In addition, HamSCI and the Case Amateur Radio Club of Case Western Reserve University (W8EDU) will sponsor a “Festival of Frequency Measurement” on WWV’s centennial. They are hoping to measure 5 MHz propagation over a given day and compare measurement techniques. HamSCI’s first attempt at measurements occurred during the total solar eclipse in 2017.

Jim – W8ERW, Technical Specialist for the Ohio Section, gave an informative presentation at the Wood County Amateur Radio Club in August about ARDEN MESH networking. He talked about generations of devices used for MESH networking, including the infamous Linksys blue-box, and brought many pieces of his own equipment for demonstration. Seneca county is getting involved and finding plenty of uses for MESH. If you would like a presentation for your club about MESH, get in touch with Jim.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Hi. My name is Jeffrey and I am a Windows user. Yes, I migrated my laptop a couple years ago from Windows 10 to Fedora Linux and six months ago did the same for my main desktop. Windows applications are better. THERE I SAID IT. I can hear the hate mail rolling in. Anyway, I’ve encouraged readers to check out Linux as a Windows alternative. These are my experiences moving to a (mostly) Linux world over the last 6 months.

My goal was to move to Linux as my daily operating system. That is done. In that transition, find Linux programs equivalent to the Windows applications I was using. Anything I couldn’t find suitable replacements would be run in a Windows virtual environment.

In previous articles, I’ve written about the disaster that has become Windows 10 and my desire to find a less restrictive and obtrusive operating system. I settled on Fedora Linux because the virtualization worked better in my experience over Ubuntu. Moving my main desktop away from Windows was the last hurtle. This PC serves the duties of: audio & video recording (DVR mostly), ripping, editing and playing, graphics editing, web site editing, file storage and backup, virtual environment, web surfing, ham radio programming, and experimentation station. That pretty much covers it. You could throw in gaming about 10 years ago – who has the time? Also, the occasional document (image) scanning. This will become important later.

In my experience, what does work?

  • Linux works. I have not had any issues getting Fedora to work on stock laptops or my custom-built desktop machine. With few drivers to install, all hardware works including USB 3.0. Most of the pre-installed programs (graphics viewer, LibreOffice, music & video player) are very usable programs.
  • Package manager. This keeps the operating system and programs updated when approved by maintainers of the distribution. When I can, programs are installed through the package manager and I’ve accepted all updates when made available. I may have had a Kernel issue once or twice but simply selected a previous version at boot time.
  • Customization. I spent some time trying out different desktop environments because I cannot stand tablet-style interfaces in desktop environments on non-touch screen devices. Gnome, I’m
    Oh My Zsh customized terminal

    talking about you! Cinnamon is probably the closest to a Windows desktop-like feel with start menu, taskbar, and system tray. This is the one I choose. Customization tools import and apply different theme options. I replaced the bash shell with Oh My Zsh. Came for the themes. Stayed for the awesome autocomplete.

  • Virtualization works very well with VirtualBox. I’m looking at getting virt, virt-manager, and KVM working in the future.
  • Cross-platform apps. I’ve had good experience with applications that have a strong user base and are ported to different platforms. These apps would include VLC (formally VideoLAN), HandBrake, Thunderbird, Firefox, VirtualBox, and VeraCrypt. This is likely because development efforts contributed to the project benefit all platforms.
  • Web apps. Many services today are moving away from software installed on a PC to web based services. Having a modern web browser is all that is needed to interact with these services.

Where have I run into issues?
(Lack of) Popularity, including vendor support. This covers 75% of my issues. According to StatCounter Global Statistics, looking over the last two years at desktop and laptop platforms used to browse the web, Linux hasn’t passed the 2% mark and is currently holding steady at about 0.8% in the U.S. In comparison, OS X is at about 20% and Windows about 75%. Servers typically don’t browse the web so these numbers represent users running Linux to do a common computing activity, like browsing the web. When there are financial decisions to be made on developing an app or service, you’re going to go where the customers are. Linux hasn’t gained any significant market share when compared to that disaster operating system or the hardware priced out of the budget of average users (Windows & Mac).

Fedora Cinnamon spin

Vendors are simply not focusing a lot of their resources on a small segment of users when others like Windows eclipse that 2%. I’ve run into a couple examples. First being the drivers for the NVidia graphics card in my desktop. The process of getting this driver installed is a fairly complicated process. It’s dependent on system BIOS and involves editing Kernel boot options – not something average computer users are comfortable doing. If you’re lucky, you’ll magically end up with an NVidia driver that works with the installed Linux Kernel. The open-sourced driver, Nouveau, generally works for me but I notice flickering on some screens like ones with dark gray backgrounds. Nouveau has crashed a couple times when I had a bunch of applications running at once. A sinking feeling knowing how many applications I had open and not knowing when I last clicked save is not my idea of a good time.

I installed the Epson Linux image scanning driver for my flatbed scanner. The app very closely resembled the Windows application which made it familiar to use. However, though the manual indicates I should have been able to scan multiple pages and save them as a single PDF file, I did not have this option. I tried the native Fedora app, Simple Scan. It was way too simple. Automatically scanning the next page of a multi-page document after a selectable 3-15 second interval didn’t make any sense to me. Others I tried created ginormous sized PDF documents, 50MB file vs 3MB using the Epson Windows app. There is no reason to have files that large and some email systems have attachment limits of about 25MB.

In August, Dropbox announced they were dropping support for almost all Linux file systems. Many users were upset. Speculation was Dropbox had to support a wide variety of Linux distributions, file systems, desktop environments, and Kernels where they didn’t see any return on this investment. Companies often take a chance hoping users purchase paid subscriptions to support further developments in these areas. Linux users weren’t subscribing to sustain further development and support, so it was dropped. Most Linux users like free stuff because, well, the operating system itself is free.

I would say the remaining 25% of my issues are round quality of applications. While there are video ripping, editing, and authoring tools available, they don’t hold up to the Windows tools I’m using. Most users are on Windows so that’s where companies devote their time. Application authors who set out to make equally good tools in Linux may run into problems or lack of interest either in terms of downloads, support from the community, or through life, job, or family changes. Handbrake and VLC work as well in Linux as Windows. Video stream repair and splitting, DVD and Blu-Ray authoring, DVR, and audio ripping – not so much. Still using Windows applications. Not saying all Linux tools are bad because there some really powerful ones.

My desktop was the big obstacle to accomplishing my goal of getting Linux as my daily operating system. 99% of the time that system is running Fedora. I do have a number of virtual Windows machines for things like MS Office, radio programming, SDR programs, and my cord-cutter service – which says it will work in Chrome, but its only Chrome running on Windows. For applications and hardware interactions that didn’t work well in a virtual environment, I resized my original Windows partition down to about 30 GB and boot into Windows only when I need it. My shack PC is going to stay on Windows 7 because some of my ham activity is tied to programs only available on Windows.

These have been my experiences in moving away from the Windows disaster into an alternative desktop & laptop platform – Fedora Linux. These might motivate you to try Linux or some other Windows alternative. It will be like learning something new for most people. I had ideas of what the experience would look like and challenges having supported and programmed in Linux environments for the better part of a decade. The Mac platform has really become popular with great applications and great support from Apple. If you’re not willing to drop a significant amount of money on their devices, consider looking at Linux as an alternative.

Late breaking for FT8 users: if you operate either the very popular FT8 or MSK144 digital modes, please update your version of WSJT-X to 2.0 by January 1, 2019. These protocols have been enhanced in a way that is not compatible with previous versions of WSJT-X. After that date, only the new version of those modes should be used on the air.

Thanks for reading. Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 2018 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


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

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

In all the ragging (er, discussion?) on Windows 10 last month, Bill – K8RWH had some good points and questions about Linux that I decided to write a follow up this month. There is a lot to parse, especially different terminology. The most useful website for Linux information is called DistroWatch, short for Distribution Watch. Most of the information here will come from that site. Let’s get to it.

History

Linux came out of the Unix operating system implemented by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie (both of AT&T Bell Laboratories) in 1969. “Linux began in 1991 with the commencement of a personal project by Finnish student Linus Torvalds to create a new free operating system kernel. Since then, the resulting Linux kernel has been marked by constant growth throughout its history. Since the initial release of its source code in 1991, it has grown from a small number of C (programming language) files under a license prohibiting commercial distribution to the 4.15 version in 2018 with more than 23.3 million lines of [code] … ” (Wikipedia).

Tux

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the official Linux mascot. “Torvalds announced in 1996 that there would be a mascot for Linux, a penguin. This was due to the fact when they were about to select the mascot, Torvalds mentioned he was bitten by a little penguin on a visit to the National Zoo & Aquarium in Canberra, Australia. Larry Ewing provided the original draft of today’s well known mascot based on this description. The name Tux was suggested by James Hughes as derivative of Torvalds’ UniX, along with being short for tuxedo, a type of suit with color similar to that of a penguin” (Wikipedia).

Crash course in Linux terminology

GNU/GPL – software licensing methodologies frequently used by Linux and Unix variants.

Open Source – anyone can see the building blocks of a project known as the source code. This is beneficial because anyone with skills can fix and improve upon an open source program.

Kernel – is the core to any operating system (not only Linux). It interacts with and controls the computer’s hardware (mouse, keyboard, monitor/graphics, hard drive, USB devices, network). It is the lowest level of the operating system.

Operating System – collection of kernel and software that make a computing device work. Most operating systems include drivers, text editor, file manager, and a method for installing & removing applications (known as a “Package Manager” in Linux).

Architecture – type of processor an operating system can run. 64-bit, 32-bit processors, Raspberry Pi and mobile devices are examples.

Live CD/Medium – the operating system can be run from a CD or USB drive without installing to a hard drive. This is useful in testing different operating systems or to aid in recovering an inaccessible system.

Dual-boot – in contrast to “live CD,” installation of one or more operating systems on the same computer. My experience: install Windows first, then Linux. The Linux boot-loader plays nice with Windows but not the other way around. Reinstalling Windows will also break the Linux boot-loader. It can be repaired but will stress your Google and command line-fu skills.

Distribution – similar to “Operating System” but often targeted for a specific purpose or category: servers, desktops, beginners, education, gaming, multimedia, security, utilities, telephony, etc.

Checksum or Hash – applies an algorithm to data. It is used to track errors introduced in transmitting data or storing data. Checksum programs are standard in Linux operating systems. A third-party program like HashTab or QuickHash GUI are needed to verify a checksum in Windows.

Desktop environment – how a user interacts with multiple applications at once. This is a matter of personal preference. Popular desktop environments are: Cinnamon, GNOME, KDE, MATE, and Xfce.

Popular Linux Distributions

DistroWatch has just short of 900 Linux distributions in their database. Over 300 are considered active (updated in the last 2 years). Only about a handful are useful to average users. For a complete guide see “A Guide to Choosing a Distribution.”

Linux Mint

Linux Mint – launched in 2006 to address many of the drawbacks associated with a more technical operating system such as Linux. Using the Ubuntu distribution as a base, many beginner enhancements were created for usability. I had read about security concerns with Mint and began to steer users away from it. However, DistroWatch published a “Myths and Misunderstandings” debunking many of those points. If you’re a noobie and want to dive into Linux as an alternative operating system, start with Mint.

Ubuntu – Launched a few years earlier in 2004, this project took off faster than any other distribution and was touted as the way to get average people to use Linux. Learning from the mistakes of other projects and taking a professional approach to its users made it a popular choice. Excellent web-based documentation and an easy to use bug reporting facility was created. Though frequent major changes and the Unity interface – more suited for mobile devices – have driven users away.

Elementary OS – This one is for Mac users. It emulates MacOS and puts a lot of focus into ascetics.

Debian – base for the above and 120 other Linux distributions. Debian is remarkably stable due to its high level of quality control. It has support for many software packages and processor types making it a great choice for older systems. Due to that level of processor support it lacks newer technologies.

In the 300 other active Linux distributions, specialized versions serve an intended purpose:

Windows Compatibility

Users who’ve switched to Linux or Linux users that need to run a Windows app might ask: can I run Windows applications on Linux? Yes, there are a couple ways to accomplish this.

Run a virtual machine program like VirtualBox. A virtual machine emulates hardware and the functionality of a physical computer. Similar to dual-booting it requires a full installation of the desired (guest) operating system. Emulation is resource intensive for the physical (host) operating system hardware. It doesn’t make much sense to have a multi-gigabyte Windows virtual install to run a small application.

WINE running Media Player Classic and SumatraPDF (Wikipedia)

This is where WINE comes into play. Wine stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator. It’s not a virtual machine but rather a compatibility layer to translate Windows system calls into Linux system calls. WINE takes a considerable amount of configuring but programs like PlayOnLinux and Winetricks make life much easier. Neither solution is perfect and won’t succeeded in cases of complex applications or ones requiring specialized hardware.

In terms of ham radio, Windows was the overwhelming platform of choice for Morse Code and digital mode applications because everyone was using it. Older Windows only applications (MMSSTV, DigiPan) are going to run well on that platform. The good news is programs like Fldigi and QSSTV are viable replacements on Linux and, in many cases, better than their dedicated Windows counterpart. In addition, the Ubuntu package manager has an entire category dedicated to Amateur Radio applications. If you’re someone whose fed up with the badness and frustrations of Windows 10, give Linux a try.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Bridge a Remote Site Network with OpenVPN Access Server

Having access to your devices over the Internet is a requirement for any admin deploying a project. Instead of running to a remote site to administer devices (making changes, applying updates and patches), it’s easier to connect remotely and make changes. Remote access poses many issues and concerns.

Security

First and foremost is security. You always, always, ALWAYS want devices connected to the Internet behind a router with a built-in firewall (NAT router). A firewall filters traffic between two networks (your ISP and home for example) and will block attempts to connect to your internal (private) network.

Device manufacturers take security for granted. Little testing and auditing takes place because the analysis is expensive for throw-away devices. This is noted in many stories including Bug Exposes IP Cameras, Baby Monitors where simply clicking “OK” on the login dialog allowed access to the Internet connected video camera. It is trivial to find these devices on the Internet because of Shodan. Shodan is dubbed the “Internet of Things Search Engine.” If you’re not familiar, think of it as the Google for devices connected directly to the internet. These could be: web servers, printers, cameras, industrial machines, bitcoin mining… Putting devices behind a firewall minimizes the risk because anything trying to peer into the network would be blocked by the firewall.

This holds true for networks you don’t control (granted access on someone else’s network). Put your stuff behind a router/firewall so they can’t see your devices and you can’t be exploited by devices on the other network.

Port Forwarding is a popular technique to only allow traffic on a specific port to a device you specify in your firewall (router). This provides little security as it still allows a potentially vulnerable service to accept incoming connections from the Internet.

Choose a good router

Couple of tips for a good router:

  • You get what you pay for. Don’t opt for cheap.
  • Opt for ones that support third-party firmware like DD-WRT and Tomato or setup a dedicated computer running pfsense or Untangle. These have proven to be more secure than stock firmware in addition to offering a more complete feature set.
  • Stick with popular models as found on Amazon, Newegg, or other tech store. They’re more likely to be reliable, well updated models.
  • Look for ones that accept USB cellular modem dongles for installations that have no accessible network connection like a remote site.

Virtual Private Network

The preferred way to connect to a remote network is to use a VPN. A VPN connects to a private network securely over the Internet. It allows the user to exchange data, use services, and connect to devices as if they were directly connected to that network. An open-source project that implements VPN technologies security is OpenVPN. OpenVPN is an application that allows for secure point-to-point communication. There are many implementations of OpenVPN including using it in many third-party router firmware (mentioned above). OpenVPN Access Server is one of the many implementations and the one used for this project.

This project was inspired by Hak5 1921 – Access Internal Networks with Reverse VPN Connections. As an Amateur Radio operator into the newer computer and digital technologies, more devices are located at remote sites.

This setup consists of:

  1. A remote network behind a firewall where devices exist you want to access. This will be a Linux server on the remote network that will act as the gateway and persistently connected to the bridge. This could be a full desktop computer purposed for something else or Raspberry Pi. Also on the same network will be a Windows machine.
  2. An unsecure/unknown network, AKA the Internet.
  3. A private server that will act as the bridge between the remote network and a device you choose.
  4. A device in a separate location that will connect to the cloud server and will be able to access the remote network. I will use a Windows machine to act as a ‘home’ computer.

This setup works in nearly all cases because the only device receiving incoming connections is the bridge server in the cloud. Firewalls block incoming connections by default. Very few block connections originating inside the network out to the Internet (egress). If a device along the way filters by content, connection attempts will be blocked. Many corporate networks are doing this kind of filtering. Otherwise the traffic looks the same as secure web traffic on port 443. No port forwarding is used.

Hosting

I recommend using an infrastructure hosting provider for the bridge server. This can cost anywhere from $5-$15 per month. The device can be anywhere on the public Internet. It must accept multiple connections on different ports but only by a couple users at a time are needed. Minimal configuration is more than sufficient. Bandwidth, latency, and up-time of all points in this setup effect reliability. My personal recommendations for infrastructure hosting providers are: Rackspace and DigitalOcean.

IP addressing

All remote networks and the home user networks cannot overlap in address space. That is they need to be differently numbered. For example, typically home networks have addressing as 192.168.1.x. The remote site(s) can’t have the same numbering (192.168.1.x). It must be different. I suggest making the remote site different enough to not cause conflict with any home users’ networks. Remote sites as 192.168.25.x, 192.168.26.x, and 192.168.27.x would work fine when the home users’ networks is addressed 192.168.0.x, 192.168.1.x, 192.168.2.x, and so on (except 25-27). Similarly addressed networks create routing conflicts and the packets will not reach the correct network.

Downsides

Cost.

In addition to hosting, a downside to using OpenVPN Access Server is licensing. While OpenVPN is Open-Source Software and OpenVPN Access Server is free, the license allows for only two concurrent tunnel connections at any one time. This means the remote site counts as one connection and the home device the second. If a second person (third device) needed access to the remote network, they would get a message saying ‘Access Server has reached its concurrent connections limit.’ The first person would need to disconnect first before the second could connect otherwise current connections will begin to be booted. Additionally, connecting two or more remote sites and a home user is not possible without purchasing licenses or running an additional bridge server. Additional licenses can be purchased for “$9.60 License Fee Per Client Connection Per Year. Support & Updates included. 10 Client minimum purchase.” $96 per year.

An alternative to OpenVPN Access Server is to setup your own (roll your own) OpenVPN server which is free. I hope to do an OVPN server setup at some point in the future.

Assumptions

This guide is step-by-step in nature, meant for beginners, with brief explanations of the steps. It will help to have an understanding of Linux commands and scripting. Capitalization is important in Linux! Understanding of basic networking concepts including determining network prefixes and CIDR notation is also required.

Program versions

I used a Windows 7 64 bit PC for configuration (and Home PC). Applications and versions used in this writeup:

  • OpenVPN Access Server 2.0.24
  • Putty 0.67
  • Ubuntu 14.04 x64 (bridge and remote servers)
  • Filezilla 3.16.0