Tag Archives: Winlink

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – May 2022 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Tom – WB8LCD and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

Hey gang,

70 years of Hamvention. Themed the “Reunion” after 70 years have passed since the first Hamvention on March 22, 1952. This year also marked the return after a two-year hiatus. Thousands of hams, family, friends, and enthusiasts descended on the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Xenia, Ohio for the convention, May 20 – 22nd. The ARRL Letter states this event brings $30 million to the economy of Dayton and surrounding region.

According to the DX Engineering recap, the count is 31,367 attendees this year. Down 1,075 from 2019, which for the crap we’ve had to put up with the last two years, still quite the showing of attendees. I was hopeful the crowds would be huge and worthwhile for vendors and flea market. My dad – N8ETP and myself attended Friday and Saturday. The Friday crowd seemed like a Saturday crowd, especially at lunch time around the food trucks! We hit the indoor exhibitors. Saturday seemed a little on the lighter side. Could have been the storms and rain Friday night into Saturday morning that kept some away. Hamvention wouldn’t be complete without spring storms! We hit the flea market Saturday and might have missed the larger indoor crowds. If you did the indoor exhibitors just right and found shaded seating areas to rest, I was able to skate by without sunscreen Friday.

Hamvention Friday lunch crowd

The ARRL had their large exhibit area as per usual. There I got to talk a moment with our previous Section Manager, now Vice Director of the Great Lakes Division, Scott Yonally – N8SY. While talking with Scott, a ham stopped by and said he really enjoyed my articles right here in the OSJ. Always appreciate that. I asked if he wanted to see anything and he commented about SDR. It has been awhile since I talked about Software Defined Radio or used them for any projects. Stay tuned. Had a good chat with the Ohio Section Public Information Coordinator and Editor of the ARRL Letter, John – KD8IDJ.

I popped in and talked to Tony Milluzzi, KD8RTT, Advisor for the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Program. I became licensed when I was in high school. One of the things I looked for in a college was a university that had a ham club or, at least, one associated with the university. Still wanting to be radio-active, I wasn’t going to have mobile or base station radios on campus. Only being a Technician back in those days, no HF either. An HT was going to be it so having a repeater close-by was my way of communicating. I found the Wood County Amateur Radio Club, which has support from the university with rooftop space and Internet resources from BGSU Information Technology Services. The club now has three repeaters, including a Fusion digital, as well as an APRS IGate on campus. Additionally, while at school, I was involved in efforts to keep college radio clubs active and on the air. Participated in the College Amateur Radio Club and collegiate Echolink nets (both defunct). I’m a big proponent of getting college students, such as engineering students, exposed to and active in amateur radio.

I asked Tony, ‘what is something the rest of the ham radio community can do to make sure collegiate clubs thrive and survive?’ I wasn’t quite as clever with rhyming at the time. He suggested a couple things that might help college clubs such as donating equipment. They may not receive much, if any, funding from the school for radio gear. The bigger benefit, he felt, would be to simply get involved. A few hams can help Elmer and teach students how to setup a station, maintain equipment, or simply teaching new operating modes such as digital. This would help faculty advisors keep the club going as advisors are often a single staff member and they may need time for other responsibilities and career goals. The link to the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Program has resources to find college radio clubs, ways to participate in events, and example constitution and bylaws to get a club started.

ICOM SHF module and control head

ICOM booth was on my to-do list to checkout their SHF module prototype I mentioned last month. It was there, not a lot is known which was disappointing. The non-functioning prototype was “under glass” (couldn’t touch or play) shown mounted to a pole, presuming it can be mounted outside close to the antennas to minimize line losses. There was an Ethernet cable from the SHF module plugged into a device that looked like an IC-705. The ICOM representative pointed out that it’s not labeled as a 705 nor could a 705 reach the frequency displayed on the unit (5.780 GHz). The Ethernet cable carries PoE (power over Ethernet), presumably from the control head to the SHF module since the control head was powered. When asked what applications might this be used for or anticipated use cases, the representative didn’t have any. I didn’t know if they’re producing the hardware and leaving it to the ham community to figure out uses. They didn’t have answers so purpose still remains unclear. D-STAR was mentioned, so maybe they’re looking to do RF links that’s not the 10 GHz links they were originally hoping for in the early days of D-STAR repeaters. With a control head that can operate different modes, has filters, speaker, and a waterfall, to me it looks like they’re thinking some kind of operating in or around the Wi-Fi bands – maybe not necessarily for ham radio only.

Early the next day, I got to have an eyeball QSO with AmateurLogic.TV‘s own George – W5JDX. It was the first time we’ve met after helping out with their weekly Sound Check net. We talked about forums that were on-tap and treasures found the first day. We got a picture together so there’s evidence we were there and in the same place. I later got to meet the “Cheap Old Man,” Emile – KE5QKR. Amateur Logic has a weekly net on my DVMIS interlink system that bridges 12 ham radio voice networks.

Saturday’s start was preceded by early morning showers. The paved remote parking lots of the high school and town square really helped out instead of parking on soft grass. Quickly though, the sun came out and it was pretty brutal as temperatures reached the mid-80’s. It was flea market day and we spent the day meandering the inner horse track for some treasure. Want to build a repeater? Want to fix up an old radio? Looking for cheap finds? Want to make new friends? Looking to do something new in ham radio? It’s all out in the Hamvention flea market.

Since getting locked down, I have been playing with commercial gear in the ham bands, mostly NXDN and P25 radios. I was looking to find VHF counterparts to some UHF gear I already own. I found a VHF Motorola CDM1250 for $60 with hand mic. Tried it out, after returning home, on some local frequencies and it seems to work great. Don’t know if I’ll use it as a spare or maybe reignite my interest in APRS. I did find a VHF XTS but the seller was firm on the price, more than I wanted to pay.

We managed to survive a little longer than 4 hours in the flea market. We kept hydrated and layered on sunscreen twice. That was a good call. I thought I got burned after returning to the hotel but it was just some slight redness. Festivities were abruptly interrupted about 2:15p with an announcement of approaching storms known to produce hail and had cloud-to-ground lightning. We missed most of what hit Xenia but got our share at the hotel in Dayton. Rains were coming down horizontally for about 15 minutes and had pea sized hail. Please, for the love of everything sacred, double-check your equipment. There were stations squawking APRS during Skywarn nets. Yes, we’re called “amateurs” but most people look to us as professional operators. Lidding up emergency nets with APRS squawks is neither.

Whether because of the slight possibility of not having the show or the economy and supply chain issues, big names did not make the show. Radio manufacturer Kenwood did not have a booth at the show, neither did Heil Sound. Maybe due to last minute changes and lack of commitments for the reasons above, there was no formal list of vendors in the program. Big tents outside the forum rooms were not present this year. While Heil Sound was not present, I received their mailing indicating they still had specials for the weekend and allowed vendors like DX Engineering, HRO, and R&L to make deals on their products. A mainstay, W5KUB, in the past, streamed his entire trek from Tennessee to Dayton and streamed the entire event. Tom was still there but not streaming. I didn’t see any videos about Hamvention posted to his channel either as of this writing.

K8JTK (left) and AmateurLogic.TV host George – W5JDX (right)

Vendors I know were located in specific areas at past shows were also missing. They weren’t there or maybe cut back their presence. Things were different over previous years at the fairgrounds. That leaves more opportunity for other vendors to make their presence known.

Congratulations to DARA and the 600+ volunteers on a job well done and reunion for Hamvention. If you’ve never ridden the school buses from the parking lots, you probably didn’t know that Xenia Community Schools do not have school the Friday of Hamvention. This is such a big event for the area that school children have the day off. Michael Kalter – W8CI mentioned on the DX Engineering video many did not know that fact. Most, including myself, do not realize how much of an undertaking this event really is. The DARA Hamvention YouTube channel has forums if you missed them or want to review a presentation.

The day before the hamfest started, Ham Radio Crash Course’s Josh – KI6NAZ streamed a Voice of America Hamvention Tour. It is jam-packed tour with lots of history of the station, engineering, model of the antenna arrays – the VOA antennas are no longer standing, and the switching matrix which is still standing. This tour is a fantastic history lesson and a must see for any radio buff on a future visit to Hamvention. Tours were given on Thursday for those that arrived early.

With Field Day coming up, sending 10 messages over RF from a site garners 100 bonus points. This includes Winlink messages. I love to receive messages about setup, stations, operating, or social activities taking place. These can be sent via the National Traffic System (NTS) or Winlink – K8JTK at Winlink.org – to my station. The Field Day rules state messages must leave via RF from the site (7.3.6). It does not state “formal messages” be in any particular format or utilize any particular network. A message to the SM or SEC must be in radiogram format and leave via RF or no credit will be given (7.3.5). If there are any questions about sending or format, send the message using the NTS network or Radiogram form in Winlink Express. Copies of messages must be included with the Field Day report submission for credit.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – March 2022 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Tom – WB8LCD and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

Hey gang,

Time. We all use it. Most states change it twice a year. We all have our devices to keep track of it. Some are a little too proud of their device – ‘my WWV synced clock…’ I’ve discussed WWV in the past when it was on the chopping block for the national budget. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. As hams, we coordinate time with other operators. Nets that cross multiple time zones include Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) in announcements. This time, it’s not so much about having the correct time, rather how do computing devices know when they should change the time? I learned there’s one guy that makes sure devices know in what time zone they’re located.

I wondered: who maintains the time zone data on computing systems? Updating Linux systems would occasionally include the “tzdata” and accompanying packages. Well, someone changed their standard to daylight saving cutover again. Yes, it is “daylight saving time” though everyone says “daylight savings time.” Also wondered: what’s the difference when configuring a system’s time zone to be “US/Eastern” versus “America/New_York” or “America/Detroit?” For whatever reason, never bothered to look into it any further. That was until Paul, a co-worker of mine, was talking about a post he had seen describing one guy whom maintains the time zone database. That post is authored by Daniel Rosehill, who originally made a YouTube video about the subject. Daniel’s post is where I began exploring the topic further.

In a non-technical sense, time zones are political. Sure, it starts out with the prime meridian and count consistent offsets from there. Adopting and when to adjust time is left to the state. Most of Arizona is on standard time all year long. Some AZ cities decided to stay on mountain time or pacific time, adjusting when those zones change from standard to daylight saving. Closer to home, Indiana cities that are suburbs of Chicago adjust to central time while the remainder of the state uses eastern. Despite what our terrible media says, there are other conflicts, wars, crisis, clashes, and uprisings going on right now. To say that time zones are not important, try selecting the wrong time zone in a territory that’s in conflict with another territory or a countries time zone that has been deleted as punishment due to a historical event.

The “tz database” is a collaborative effort of information gathered by enthusiasts, done as a hobby or maybe in-conjunction with their job. This database is intended to be used with computer systems, programs and operating systems. The tz database definition of a time zone is “where clocks have agreed since 1970” (theory.html in source). If all clocks in a time zone have agreed since 1970, don’t include more than one zone or locale – even if some disagreed before 1970. The database attempts to record historical time zone and civil changes since 1970. 1970 is also important because it is the UNIX Epoch time (number of seconds that have elapsed since the arbitrary time of 00:00 UTC on 1/1/1970). Time zone data rules before 1970 are “best effort” which may identify a region but not necessary be correct for the entire region.

Paul Eggert (UCLA)

ICANN organizationally backs the tz database. ICANN approves top-level domains (.com, .net, .org, .io, .edu, .club, .info, .radio, etc.) and other Internet functions is the same group responsible for IANA. IANA oversees IP address allocation, Domain Name System (DNS), as well as other symbols, protocols, and Internet numbers. One guy is the editor and decision maker. His name is Paul Eggert. Paul works as a computer scientist and instructor in UCLA’s Computer Science department. He dedicates his time to maintaining the global time zone system. Eggert also designed the uniform naming convention for time zone locales, such as America/New_York and Europe/Paris.

Comments in source data files read like the history of the world’s stance on time. Referencing articles and texts used in decision making forming their time zone rules. This, well before Google Earth, where locations of importance only could be estimated in other parts of the world by utilizing such ancient technologies called a map or by calling someone on the telephone. States will arbitrarily decide they had enough of summer and change clocks one month earlier than expected (Jordan). Warlords, dictators take out anger on time and decide to change time zones with only four days’ notice – mostly in Africa.

These rules set time and shift standard to daylight saving (and back) on the correct date and time. They contain rules regarding leap seconds and other historical changes used in calculating time zone conversions. A program that can do such a conversion would know March 25, 2022 at 3pm in Ohio (EDT -4) is March 25, 2022 at 4am in Tokyo – which is still on standard time (JST +9). The same day in 1999, both time zones used standard time. Meaning March 25, 1999 at 3pm (EST -5) was March 25, 1999 at 5am in Tokyo.

Why the difference between America/New_York and America/Detroit? Today, both cities observe changing their clocks at the same time. Differences are of historical significance. Detroit has made many changes to time: 28 minus off central time in the 1900’s. Adopted central time in 1905. Michigan did not observe daylight saving time in 1967 like the rest of the US, it decided to begin DST on June 14 at 00:01. A vote in 1968 narrowly repealed DST to take effect in 1969. Observed DST, again, starting in 1973, however changed late in 1975.

New York (City), is the standard for eastern time by which most US states agree. In 1833, New York City Hall time was 3 minutes 58.4 seconds fast of eastern time. Today, selecting either New_York or Detroit will change the time when expected. Comparing historical time is the issue. Ohio’s time has followed that of New York City. All of this is documented in the tz data source code comments for northamerica with accompanying rules written to account for these changes. Selecting GMT-4 would always be 4 hours off GMT all-year round. The appropriate system section for Ohio would be America/New_York. US/Eastern is a link to America/New_York, which either will work though US/Eastern is considered deprecated.

Should legislation, which has already passed the Senate, making daylight saving time permanent, this would create another set of rules for all U.S. locales reflecting this change. Additional rules would be needed for any locales that decide not to adopt the legislation or decide to recognize the change on a different date.

timedatectl example output

The database is centralized and developed for Unix and Unix-like systems, including Linux and Mac-based computers. Most Internet users don’t understand Linux is quite important in the computing world. While Linux lags behind in the desktop operating system market, favored by hard-core computer enthusiasts. In the server world, Linux dominates, even on cloud infrastructure. Windows systems utilize a mapping between Microsoft Windows time zone IDs and the tz database. This is not perfect as Windows implements less time zones than are present in the database. Changes and releases to the tz database are documented at the tz mailing list.

Most Linux systems store time zone data located in the directory: /usr/share/zoneinfo. Those files are compiled and not human-readable but the operating system uses those files to shift time and for time zone conversions. The Linux command timedatectl will display system time information: local time, UTC, RTC (hardware clock), time zone, and is time synchronized with an NTP server (Network Time Protocol, usually servers on the Internet). It is standard for *nix systems to store the hardware clock in UTC. Philosophy being it is best not to mess with the hardware clock and do the conversion visually for the user. This is noticed on dual boot Linux and Windows systems. Linux will be the correct time but Windows will display (as of this writing) 4-hours fast.

Real Time Clocks are dumb clocks. They have no ability to adjust for time changes on their own. It is understood in the computing world that external facilitates manage the RTC – most often the Operating System – will adjust the system clock with the help of the tz database. Much like an alarm clock, microwave, or wall-clock that need manual adjusting when the time changes or due to drift.

Think of all the systems, devices, and things that rely on time. The tz database is one, very small, piece of technology which hundreds of millions of devices rely. Daniel pointed out in his write up, think of all the startup companies and dubious technologies that claim to change air water into oil, only to vanish into oblivion within a few years. The tz database won’t vanish, because it can’t. Everything relies on this database at the bottom of a very large technology stack.

I’ve seen programs written where developers implement code to account for changes in time zones. Don’t. Just don’t. The best way for a coder or database administrator to deal with time zones is not to deal with time zones. Let the system handle time or include time zone libraries in the project. Where there are time zone issues to fix, there will be more.

Comic depicting modern infrastructure relying on small projects – like the tz database – to perform essential functions (xkcd)

The results are bad and potentially catastrophic when developers attempt to account for time zone changes. It confuses users of the system: why is it changing the time using this one function of the program? The answer is usually something like: the developer stored time in local time instead of UTC, they recognized when this information is sent to a different location across time zones, time would have to be adjusted. However, they implemented hard-coded logic which no longer applies because the state recently changed their rules. Those rules are now wrong and nobody knew or remembered they were there in code.

Upstream systems start making incorrect decisions based on the garbage data received as a result of bugs like these. For example, a customer is charged interest on a payment that was recorded as late but wasn’t actually late. It continues to roll downhill from there.

As Daniel points out, these high-stakes deliberations represent a near Y2K meltdown that must be averted. Every. Time. A single erroneous key stroke could instantly change EST to CST or PST. Magnify the example scenario above by millions of systems which all have the wrong time. Think of all the confusion, missed meetings, missed scheduled jobs, missed TV recordings, incorrectly recorded measurements, incorrectly recorded transaction ledgers, erroneous data, deleted data, and overall impact to the economy (more than our politicians have already managed to do).

Paul (the CS guy, not my co-worker) has gone to sleep each night knowing the world’s computers are using his code to know what time zone they are in. He seems to be handling that pressure in strides and is at least owed a “thank you.”

Regarding my article last month about Winlink nets, some PAT client users have informed me standard Winlink forms are now fully supported. HTML forms support is fully implemented as of the July 2021 release. Those who built a system using KM4ACK’s Build-a-Pi programs will need to update and follow his video to make the necessary changes. New installs of Build-a-Pi will come with the latest configuration of PAT. Installs done through the procedure on the PAT website will have to manually update and make a modification to config.json. New installs should already have this value correctly set.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – February 2022 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Tom – WB8LCD and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

Hey gang,

Ever heard of Winlink Wednesday? Many who operate digital or operate during emergencies are familiar with Winlink because it has proven to be useful and effective. Winlink is a radio messaging system that uses amateur-band radio frequencies. Features include E-mail messages, attachments, position reporting, weather bulletins, emergency relief communications, message relay, and form submission. This system is popular when the Internet is not available. Winlink was first used recreationally by mariners, RV campers, and missionaries.

That’s the Winlink part, what does Wednesday have to do with all this? Greg Butler – KW6GB, who I met at the Vienna Wireless Society’s Winterfest just outside of Washington, D.C., coined the term. It was an honor to meet with him because his video, an introduction to Winlink, is an excellent tutorial. Winlink Wednesday is a net. It then turned into a popular day to hold many Winlink nets. After talking with Greg, he invited me to participate in their net. Greg has since retired as Net Control Station and David – KN4LQN has taken over net responsibilities.

Most of us know that a “net” is an on-the-air gathering of hams which convene on a regular schedule, specific frequency, and organized for a particular purpose. Such as relaying messages, discussing a common topic of interest, severe weather, emergencies, or simply as a regular gathering of friends for conversation. It’s also an excellent time to test radios, antennas, and equipment. Most of us have participated in a voice net on a local repeater or even on the HF bands. “Digital nets” exist to practice these same concepts except using digital communication.

Winlink nets serve the same purposes as other nets: encourage participation, encourage regular use of the Winlink system, expand operators’ skills, of course test our equipment and the RF gateway network.

I’ve participated in a few digital communication practice sessions as part of a drill. Last time most users dusted off their digital equipment was during the previous drill. When it came time to setting up, using, and operating their equipment, it was an epic failure. Practicing is essential anytime, not just for digital operations.

Greg – KW6GB (left) demonstrating Winlink
at the Vienna Wireless Society’s Winterfest

Winlink is a store-and-forward E-mail system. Conducting nets on this system must utilize a methodology that works with the technology. Everyone sending check-in E-mails during a small window of time is not realistic. Most Winlink nets provide a weekly announcement or reminder to the previous week’s check-in list. Announcements are typically sent out a few days before the net begins accepting check-ins. Announcements will lay out check-in procedures, Winlink modes, and times during which messages will be accepted. Nets may require a simple one-line of text, others a Winlink form. Some have a discussion question for comment, others have a training exercise. A list of check-ins is often returned to the group a day or so after the net concludes. Some utilize other technologies like maps to show locations of net participants.

To check-in, after opening Winlink Express, compose a new message. Do not reply to the original message. There is no need to waste bandwidth having the net announcement text as part of the check-in message. In some cases, the station receiving check-ins is not the station that sent the announcement. Recipient’s or NCS’ call goes into the TO field. It’s not necessary to include the “@winlink.org” part of the address just as it’s not required if the sender and receiver are using the same E-mail provider or domain. Subject is usually the name of the net. Many ask for a single-line check-in consisting of a combination of callsign, first name, city, county, state, and mode/band used to check-in. For example, this is my standard one-line check-in:

K8JTK, Jeff, Westlake, Cuyahoga, OH (HF Vera)

I have found steps in weekly announcements to be straightforward. Some users complain about instructions that are reused where a screenshot does not match the form. It’s often the case a form is updated but an older screenshot was used or instructions have changed slightly after screenshots were taken. Some nets get 400 to 700 check-ins per week. If a check-in requires the NCS to do additional work because the operator didn’t follow correct procedure, they’re more likely to ignore, delete, and move on. Other examples: NCS requested a single-line with comma-separated

Check-in to the Ohio Winlink Net

values and you provided a
different value
each
on separate
lines,
provided a form when one wasn’t requested, or the wrong form was used – are all reasons a check-in may not be counted. There are, of course, system issues and unexpected results. One net found sending an APRS location beacon message over Winlink resulted in the Carbon Copy addresses being ignored. It’s a learning process for all.

Winlink has may operating modes and bands: APRS, ARDOP, AREDN, PACTOR, peer-to-peer, Packet, VERA HF, VERA FM, Telnet (that should cover most of them), or some combination. Nets accept check-ins using any method that works for the operator. A few will not accept Telnet as it’s not typically used over-the-air in the ham bands. Others will not accept peer-to-peer (P2P).

P2P allows one Winlink operator to send a message directly to another station over RF without the use of Winlink infrastructure. Originating station composes the message as a “Peer-to-Peer Message” then selects the appropriate P2P operating mode to match the receiving station. Receiving stations have to let others know frequency and times when they will be available for receiving messages. An NCS may use their station or designated assistants to receive P2P messages.

I haven’t used other Winlink clients such as PAT. It seems PAT does not have the forms one would expect to find in the Winlink Express client. That makes it difficult to operate alternative Winlink clients on devices that are more compact and portable such as a Linux device or Raspberry Pi. A way to get around this, have someone using Winlink Express send an example form to a station using the PAT client. The PAT station uses text editors to modify the fields by hand and return the form. Not as elegant as the interface using the browser.

I currently participate in six Winlink nets. There are probably some DX nets out there I’m unaware. Just like any open net, you do not have to be in the designated area to check-in or participate. I check into the North Texas and West Virginia Winlink nets among others. The West Virginia net receives more out-of-state check-ins than in-state. We even have Winlink nets right here in Ohio and in the Great Lakes region.

Included below is each net’s routine information from their weekly announcement. For more details, contact the NCS station or check their website/groups.io if available. To join any or all of these nets, simply check in!

To use KF5VO’s signing from the Winlink Wednesday NTX net, Happy Winlinking!

Ohio Winlink Net

From: K8EAF
Subject: OH Winlink Net Reminder

Hello Winlink Users,

This is a reminder of the OH Winlink Wednesday Net for *date*.

Just a one line with callsign, first name, city, county, state and via what mode/band (VHF, UHF, HF, SHF, TELNET, APRS, ARDEN, ARDOP, VARA, VARA FM). I'll log you in with any means of communication. Or just send a Homing Message Pigeon!

Enter my callsign in the "To" field (K8EAF). Subject field "OH Winlink Net Check-in". In the body field enter callsign, first name, city, county, state and via what mode/band. See example in my signature line below.

This is a good time to test drive the Winlink forms. Many operators like to use the Winlink Check-In form located in the General Forms tab.

All check-ins will be acknowledged, and a complete roster will be sent later in the week.

"Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance!"

K8EAF, Ed, Cincinnati, Hamilton, OH (VHF)

Great Lakes Area Winlink Net

From: KB8RCR
Subject: Invitation to join the Great Lakes Area Winlink Net

Greetings!

I am the founder and net manager for the Great Lakes Area Winlink Net which was formed in March of 2021.

The premise of the net is to learn and be much more comfortable with Winlink and it's operation as in public service communications as well as emergency service communications can utilize Winlink. Another big part of the net is to learn a wide variety of the forms in the forms library. It is not important how you check in, but that you do check in. By that I mean, whether you get in via Telnet, or from some form of RF connection, your check in is still important to the net. The participation In using the forms are voluntary, but encouraged. If you cannot try the forms, just send a plain text message with the check in information requested below in this message.

The net meets each Wednesday and your check in will be accepted with late Tuesday night and the absolute cutoff is noon on Thursday (Eastern Time Zone) as that gives you plenty of time to check into the net.

The check in process can be a simple plain text check in, or placed in a form somewhere. Use this format for a proper check in:

CALLSIGN, FIRST NAME, CITY, COUNTY, STATE/PROVINCE, COUNTRY.

My checkin for example, would look like this: KB8RCR, RYAN, REMUS, MECOSTA, MI, USA

In the TO: section send your message to KB8RCR

In the Subject: line please put something like GLAWN Checkin (date of checkin)

A good tip for all of these Winlink nets is to use some type of word processing program or text file and just copy/paste your information. This is what I do at least.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and to consider checking into the Great Lakes Area Winlink Net. I strongly encourage you to keep participating in your existing Winlink nets, and to consider checking in to the GLAWN  net too.

Respectfully Sent,
Ryan Lughermo, KB8RCR
Great Lakes Area Winlink Net Founder/Manager

Winlink Wednesday (Virginia)

From: KN4LQN
Subject: Winlink Wednesday Reminder (#xxx)

*** Winlink Wednesday (Episode #xxx) ***
** PRIMARY NCS - KN4LQN **

(This reminder is also on the web at https://winlinkwednesday.net/reminder.html)

Standard check-ins this week (no weather snapshots or attachments of any type, please).

WHO: All amateur radio operators
WHAT: Winlink Wednesday
WHEN: Wednesday, *date*, 0000-2359 EST (UTC: 0500 Wed - 0459 Thu)
HOW: This net will accept check-ins via Winlink only. Send a check-in via any RMS during the timeframe above, or participate in one or both of the P2P sessions below.

Please do not use a "Telnet Winlink" connection (which defeats the purpose of Winlink). The goal is to have the message leave your station via RF.

Please remember to use the correct format (check-in message on a SINGLE LINE) for check-in, as shown below, over an RF connection.

To: KN4LQN (or alternate NCS, as appropriate)
Subject: Winlink Wednesday Check-In
Message body: call sign, first name, city or town, county, state (HF or VHF, etc.)

See example in my signature line, below.

PEER-TO-PEER SESSIONS:
Morning session: 0730-0930 EST, (UTC: 1230 - 1430), ARDOP P2P, several frequencies (see chart below).
   Net Control Stations - Morning P2P Session Only
      Please check in through ONLY ONE of these stations:
   Status         Station   Dial Freq     Operator          Location
   Primary        KN4LQN    3582 kHz      David Elkins      Chesterfield County
   Alternate      KE4KEW    3565 kHz      Martin Krupinsky  Augusta County
   Alternate      KM4DC     3593 kHz      Don McCubbin      Fairfax County
      Messages sent to Alternate NCS must be addressed to the receiving station.

Evening session: 1900-2130 EST (UTC: 0000 Thu - 0230 Thu), VARA P2P, 3582 kHz (dial).
   Net Control Station - Evening P2P Session
   Status         Station   Dial Freq     Operator          Location
   Primary        KN4LQN    3582 kHz      David Elkins      Chesterfield County
      No Alternate Net Control Stations.

Watch Facebook for details when active.

On Thursday, all check-ins will be acknowledged, and a net report and complete roster will be published to the Web.

73,
KN4LQN, David, Chesterfield, VA (VHF)

Website: https://winlinkwednesday.net/

Weather snapshots are requested on the first Wednesday of the month (no attachments of any type). Standard check-ins are always welcome.

observation time, weather conditions, temperature <<<— WEATHER ON SECOND LINE of message body. A recent example of my check-in with weather snapshot:

K8JTK, Jeff, Westlake, Cuyahoga, OH (HF Vera)
0015L, overcast, winds S@15mph, 45dF

Third Wednesday of each month, an ICS-213 form can be submitted in place of the normal one-line check-in. Instructions are provided for trouble-free submission of the ICS-213 form.

Winlink Wednesday participants

Winlink Wednesday NTX (North Texas)

From: KF5VO
Subject: Winlink Wednesday NTX Reminder

It's that time once again for Winlink Wednesday!

*Discussion question of the week*


Other instructions:

Use the Winlink Check In template when checking in. As a reminder, to use the template, when the New Message screen is opened, click on the menu items Select Template --> Standard Templates --> GENERAL Forms --> Winlink Check In.txt.

Make sure in the Send To box to put my call sign, KF5VO.

In the location box, put the name of your city/town, and which gateway you're connecting through (if known).

IF YOU ARE USING SOMETHING OTHER THAN WINLINK EXPRESS TO CHECK IN:
If you are not using the forms, then whatever you type into the body of the message will be considered the "Comment" field on the form.


Happy Winlinking!


Please visit the Winlink Wednesday NTX web site for more info on how to check in to the net:
https://bit.ly/2TfJNJE

If you haven't already, please join our mailing list on Groups.IO https://groups.io/g/WinlinkWednesdayNTX

John indicated he likes to have stations use gateway nodes instead of peer-to-peer. That way a node administrator can be made aware of and resolve issues. It would be bad to find out a node was not operational for a local emergency. In the past, he has helped identify TNC issues and problems resulting from Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday and Windows Updates released the day before!

West Virginia Winlink Net (Thursdays)

From: WV8MT
Subject: WV Winlink Net Reminder

Calling All Radio Amateurs!
Calling All Radio Amateurs!

I will hold the * net number * installment of the West Virginia Winlink Net this Thursday, * date * from 00:00 to 23:59. I will take check ins all day at your convenience. Please make sure your check in follows the following format in the message body:

WV8MT, MIKE, SUGAR GROVE, PENDLETON, WV (VHF, HF, or P2P)

VARA P2P SESSION!
The VARA P2P Session will take place from 6pm and 9pm Thursday. This week we will be on 3530.5 (Center) 3529.0 (Dial) again.

Please feel free to share this announcement with your fellow Hams. If you have an email list, or a club social media page, or however you connect to your fellow Hams, share this information with them.

WV8MT NCS, MIKE, SUGAR GROVE, PENDLETON, WV

EmComm Training (Thursdays)

For a 300/400 level class in Winlink, this is your net. This group was previously named ARC-EmComm-Training. Every week is a new exercise with different instructions. Exercises range from sending APRS IS position beacons to completing Hospital Bed forms to sending E-mail folder summaries. Detailed instructions are provided each week to complete the exercise, sometimes with an accompanying video. Check the groups.io link below for the next exercise and participate to learn more than you’ve ever wanted to know about using Winlink.

Since each week is different, a common message isn’t possible. They do use “tactical clearing houses” based on FEMA region. Ohio is in FEMA region 5 so the clearing house E-mail address is ETO-05 which stands for “EmCom Training Organization,” region 5. The first is always is the letter “O” and the second is a zero “0”. More information is available on their site for clearing houses outside Ohio.

Section Managers, including our own WB8LCD, were the subject of the February 17th ETO training event. The exercise involved completing and sending your Section Manager a form providing the requested information.

Groups.io: https://emcomm-training.groups.io/g/main
Website: https://www.emcomm-training.org/

Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, became a silent key on Monday, February 7, 2022. Though I never interacted with Bob, I have used technology he developed. He was a pioneer in the development of Automatic Packet Reporting System, otherwise known as APRS. Technology he developed brought many hams into the hobby using packet radio for real time position, telemetry tracking, and reporting. He started his ham radio journey in 1963 with Novice call WN4APR. According to Amateur Radio Newsline, Bob was a US Navy veteran and a senior research engineer at the US Naval Academy’s small satellite lab in Annapolis, Maryland. He has probably contributed to many more advances than just ham radio, in ways we may never, ever, know.

A correction to my article last month: I incorrectly stated the 3.45 GHz band spectrum auction amount. It should have been $22.5 billion, not trillion.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – September 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,

On this month’s edition of “Pi Talk” – just when you thought I couldn’t talk about Pi anymore! I received a question from Chet – K8KIZ who has a laptop used for station operation. He wanted to replace it with a Raspberry Pi. In searching, he found way too many choices and wanted help to set him on the right path. This might be a question that others have or one they are considering. He soon found out it was a lot more complicated than originally thought.

Over the past number of years, I’ve done a lot of integration work which involves making one system or application talk to or replace another. It frequently involves bridging communications with other services such as databases or API’s (application programming interface) and facilitating data flow between them. Sales, Account Managers, and System Engineers for the new vendor will always throw around buzzwords and catch phrases – “setup and integration are easy and seamless,” “automated,” “zero configuration,” “drop-in replacement,” “pays for itself in three days” (not really), “reduce costs.” List goes on and on. It is never any of those things.

They have absolutely no idea about your environment, how involved, and how costly it will be to utilize their services. They just want you to buy them. Soon after comes the nickel-and-dimming: “you want to process how much data? That’s an extra couple thousand dollars” or “that doesn’t come with the license you purchased, that will cost you an extra-large-number with many 0’s!” Internal business units do this too. They weren’t prepared or made it seem like they are in position to handle a situation and were not. Feature requests take an extraordinarily long time to implement or claims of not having enough man-power soon follow.

The FCC is in a situation similar to this or they’re making it seem like they are: ‘oh, our licensing process is all digital and we can eliminate that pesky licensing fee!’ And the peasants rejoice. Reading the latest news about the FCC wanting to reinstate license service fees, “…we propose a nominal application fee of $50 due to automating the processes, routine ULS maintenance, and limited instances where staff input is required.” Wait, isn’t that why they went digital to reduce these costs? Someone sold them a bill-of-goods that didn’t actually reduce their costs or they’re looking to recoup costs elsewhere.

Not wanting the same thing to happen to Chet, where the alternative didn’t actually improve his situation, I took the approach of having him think about his station. What does he use his station for and what he would consider “a success” of replacing his laptop with a Raspberry Pi? Anytime anyone is looking to replace X with Y, an evaluation of this nature. What is X used for and are the pros/cons of Y sustainable?

In Chet’s case, replacing a laptop used for ham radio with a Raspberry Pi, he would need to consider things such as:

  • Is the current laptop setup Windows or Linux?
  • If it’s Windows, would he want to climb the Linux learning curve?
  • Is he using any software apps that are Windows only? Examples would be: RT Systems programmers, Ham Radio Deluxe, N3FJP logging, SmartSDR, N1MM, Wires-X, etc., etc.
  • Can those Windows only apps be replaced by Linux apps – and are those Linux apps equally as good?
  • Does he have any hardware requirements (like multiple serial or parallel ports)? The Pi has UART via GPIO pins but two or more serial ports require USB-to-Serial converters.
  • How many USB ports are required? Pi’s only have 4. 2 ports would be taken up by using a wired keyboard and mouse.
  • Do all of his hardware devices and interfaces work in Linux? These would be things like radio programming, control (CI-V) or firmware flashing, audio mixers and audio interfaces.

This is not an all-inclusive list especially since I didn’t know anything about his station – though I seem to remember he was into Vibroplex CW key tuning and repair from a local hamfest. I thought through scenarios that might apply to the majority of HF operators and came up with that list.

G4DPZ running GPredict on a Pi (amsat-uk.org)

Some Windows programs can be run under Linux using a compatibility layer program such as WINE or run virtual machines (VMs). That would contribute to the Linux learning curve. Raspberry Pi isn’t powerful enough today to run VMs. VMs or hypervisors maybe an option for some Linux desktop/laptop situations.

Instead of wired keyboards and mice, Bluetooth devices could be a replacement option but are more costly. Wired is preferred to wireless for reducing interference problems. Built-in antennas for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi aren’t going to be as good as laptop antennas. Additionally, monitors without HDMI or mini-HDMI connectors will need adapters, cables, or outright replaced if it doesn’t have compatible connectors. USB hubs are an option for expanding the number of USB ports. I have yet to find a USB hub that is problem free. They don’t work well with some operating systems, attached devices do not fare well with temporary connection interruptions, and they tend to break down after a short time.

Best way to track these considerations and more is to make a list. Start by looking at all connections to the existing laptop, both physical and virtual (like with an SDR). Include any software used during operating (radio control, prediction modeling, packet, digital, etc.). Programming radios? Those tend to be Windows (or DOS) programs along with firmware updaters. If using a Raspberry Pi is still desired, another Windows machine will be needed for programming and firmware updates. Include all of these in the list and evaluate solutions on the Raspberry Pi or Linux platform for alternatives that meet the requirements. Consider splitting non-supported, but essential, functionality to another Windows machine.

Another way to approach evaluation would be to operate with a new “Pi” system, hands-on, but keeping the old system up-and-running nearby. The old system would be used as a reference for program settings, coping or migrating data files (such as export from one and import to the other), and a comparison point when evaluating Linux programs.

Lastly, completely ditching the previous system and entirely starting from scratch is an option. This type of evaluation style is more draconian by ripping and replacing. Most people have their own operating style and rarely want to deviate from their ritual. Rip-and-replace might be needed if they’re fed up with a current setup and want to start over with something else. The operator, in this case, would not care about migrating previous data, starting out anew, and take whatever options are offered by a different platform.

Raspberry Pi 3 projects for Ham Radio with 7-inch touchscreen (qrznow.com)

To future proof, I’d recommend going with the latest version of the Pi. Currently, that would be a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B with at least 4GB RAM ($60), 8GB ($90) if able to spring for the extra RAM. Quality of the power supply and SD card plays a role in stability as I talked about in July. Data corruption possibility is still not zero. Even on a desktop PC. Corruption seems to be more prevalent on Pi’s, likely because of cheap components chosen by the user.

I strongly recommend making frequent data backups. This applies to any system. There should be 3 copies of data: the local copy (on the Pi), another copy on a storage device like a USB Hard Drive or Network Attached Storage (NAS). A third copy, off-site, located at a friend’s house, relative’s house, or a work location. Another off-site storage location would be cloud storage or backup service provider. Think about where you would be if you lost those LOTW logs, FT8 contacts, SSTV images, or Winlink messages. This strategy is known as the 3-2-1 backup strategy and should be used for ANY important data. 3 copies of data, 2 on different medium, and 1 copy off-site.

Starting out, I would consider the “Ham Pi” or “Build a Pi” projects I discussed in August initially. “Ham Pi” has just about every Linux ham radio application pre-installed. That would allow an operator to try different programs, find one that suits their needs or one they prefer. “Build a Pi” can be a little more tailored to operating style. You can also get down and dirty by compiling programs from source, depending on Linux experience or desire to tinker with Linux.

That just about covers broad considerations. Chet realized this was a larger undertaking than finding a plug-and-play option. He appreciated the analysis of the issues at hand. I hope he is able to find a working solution to replace his station laptop. When considering major overhauls such as this, know that for most people, it’s a little more complex and involved than most realize.

A quick note about Winlink. The WINMOR protocol has been deprecated systemwide and will soon be removed from the client software application. First introduced by Rick – KN6KB in 2008, it was the first ‘sound card’ mode offered by Winlink as an alternative to modem hardware needed at the time. Rick and the Winlink Team have moved on to developing robust and speedier protocols such as Amateur Radio Digital Open Protocol (ARDOP) and VERA HF. RMS gateways will only support ARDOP, VARA HF, and Pactor 3 or 4 (where applicable) near term. If you are still using WINMOR, it’s likely been hard to find gateways that support the protocol because sysops have been asked to remove in favor of the other modes. WINMOR had a great run and was the mode I used when I first got on Winlink.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – July 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-Jul-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Around the time of Dayton, the FBI asked everyone to reboot their routers. Why would they do that? Over the last two years more than 500,000 consumer and small business routers in 54 countries have become infected with a piece of malware called “VPNFilter.” This sophisticated malware is thought to be the work of a government and somewhat targeted with many of the infected routers located in Ukraine.

Src: Cisco’s Talos Intelligence Group Blog

Security researchers are still trying to determine what exactly VPNFilter was built to do. So far, it is known to eavesdrop on Internet traffic grabbing logon credentials and looking for specific types of traffic such as SCADA, a networking protocol controlling power plants, chemical plants, and industrial systems. Actively, it can “brick” the infected device. Bricking is a term to mean ‘render the device completely unusable’ and being as useful as a brick.

In addition to these threats, this malware can survive a reboot. Wait, didn’t the FBI ask all of us to reboot our routers? Won’t that clear the infection? No. In order for this malware to figure out what it needs to do, it reaches out to a command-and-control server. A command-and-control server issues commands to all infected devices, thus being “controlled.” C&C, as they are often abbreviated, allows the bad guys in control a lot of flexibility. It can allow infected devices to remain dormant for months or years. Then, the owner can issue commands to ‘wake-up’ the infected devices (called a botnet) and perform intended tasks. Tasks can range from attack a site, such as DynDNS which I wrote about in November of 2016, to steal logon credentials for users connected to the infected router. Back to the question, the FBI seized control of the C&C server. When an infected router is rebooted, it will try to reach out to the C&C server again but instead will be contacting a server owned by the FBI. This only gives the FBI a sense of how bad this infection is. Rebooting will not neutralize the infection.

Affected devices include various routers from Asus, D-Link, Huawei, Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear, TP-Link, Ubiquiti, Upvel, and ZTE, as well as QNAP network-attached storage (NAS) devices. There is no easy way to know if your router is infected. If yours is on that list, one can assume theirs is infected. As if that wasn’t bad enough, many manufactures don’t have firmware updates to fix the problem. The ones that have fixed the problem did so years ago. Since no one patches their routers, that’s why there’s half a million infected.
First thing to do is gather information about the make, model, and current firmware of your router. Then check for announcements from the manufacturer about affected firmware versions or preventative steps. The only known way to clear this infection is to disconnect it from the Internet, factory-reset the router, upgrade the firmware (if one is available), and reconfigure it for your network – or simply throw it away.

If those last couple words strike fear into your heart, there are a couple options:

  • See if your ISP has a device they will send or install for you. It can be reasonably assumed that devices provided or leased by the ISP will be updated by the ISP.
  • Find someone in your club that knows at least the basics of networking to help reconfigure things
  • Many newly purchased devices come with some sort of support to get you up and running

If you’re a little more advanced and want to learn more about networking:

  • EdgeRouter-X
    Use 3rd party firmware. Currently they are not showing signs of being vulnerable to VPNFilter or other infections. 3rd party firmware projects are often maintained by enthusiasts. They are updated LONG past when the manufacturer stops supporting their own products and updates often happen quickly. Some of those projects include: OpenWRT/LEDE, DD-WRT, or Fresh Tomato.
  • A Linux box could be setup with Linux packages to mimic router functionality or use a distribution such as pfSense or OPNsense.
  • Another great device to use is the Ubiquity EdgeRouter-X for $49.
  • Check the “Comparison of Firewalls” for other ideas.

That $5 hamfest deal isn’t sounding so great anymore. It’s the law of economics for these companies too. $10, $30, or $100 for a device isn’t going to sustain programmer’s time to find, fix, troubleshoot, test, and release firmware updates for a 7-year-old device. It’s a struggle. I think it will come down to spending more on better devices which will be upgraded longer or spend $50-$100 every 3-5 years to replace an OK one.

The Department of Commerce released a report on the threat of botnets and steps manufactures could take to reduce the number of automated attacks. It hits on a number of good points but lacks many details. “Awareness and education are needed.” Whose responsibility is it to educate? I can write articles in the OSJ but I’m not going to be able to visit everyone’s house and determine if your devices are infected. “Products should be secured during all stages of the lifecycle.” Automated updates could take care of this problem but doesn’t address what-ifs. What if the update fails or worse yet, bricks your “Smart” TV as an example? Who is going to fix or replace them? Will they be fixed if it’s out of warranty? Not to mention operating system “updates” are bundled with more privacy violations and ways to monetize users.

There’s a lot of work to be done. I wish I had the answers. Regardless, we all need to be good stewards of the Internet making sure ALL attached devices are updated and current.

More technical details on VPNFilter and citation for this article: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/06/router_vulnerab.html
https://blog.talosintelligence.com/2018/05/VPNFilter.html

Finally this month, thank you to all the clubs and groups that sent messages to this station via WinLink or NTS over Field Day weekend. It was the most I’ve ever received, about 12 – 15 messages altogether.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – February 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-Feb-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Have a bunch of odds and ends for everyone this month.

Ham Cram Sessions

I received a piece of feedback worth sharing from December’s article on the “ham cram” type training sessions. One group in the section is working on a cram session for new licensees. That will be followed up with a “now what” session. The follow up session would have mentors and elmers available to help get new hams on the air. Depending on the success, this may be followed up with a General class too.

I think it’s a great idea to follow up with the “now what” session in a more relaxed environment for learning and getting them comfortable being on the air.

Digital Communications in Amateur Radio

Operating PSK31

I’ve been working on my Digital Communications in Amateur Radio series for the Wood County Amateur Radio Club. The series started with an overview of Ham radio digital modes and how to get your station setup with different interface options. From there I’ve been taking an introductory look into specific modes, though mostly ones used on HF. My articles are available in the club’s newsletter, CQ Chatter, found on the Wood County Amateur Radio Club Website (past years are on the CQ Chatter Archives page) or available on my site as well. Check them out to get an introductory look at digital modes.

Latest additions:

  • Conversational Digital Modes like PSK, RTTY, MFSK, Olivia (February 2017)
  • Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System or NBEMS (August 2017)
  • Winlink (February 2018)

Yaesu Fusion Announcements

After the New Year, Yaesu released an announcement with regard to their Fusion C4FM offerings.

  • The DR-2X purchase program will continue through June 30, 2018.
    • A trade-in program is available for current DR-1X repeater owners (they will not accept the beta version) towards the purchase of a DR-2X. $300 if you are trading in a DR-1X and only want the DR-2X repeater. If you wish to include the IMRS IP linking option in the DR-2X, the price will be $500.
    • Buying the DR-2X outright is $900. $1100 to include IMRS.
  • New Firmware will be released for DG-ID and DP-ID functionality in the DR-1X repeaters. Much like the Wires-X upgrade, it is very likely the repeater will need to be sent back to Yaesu for this firmware upgrade.
  • They are releasing the DR-1X FR. The DR-1X FR is a “factory refurbished” DR-1X for $400. It will have the DG-ID and DP-ID firmware already installed. The DR-1X FR cannot be used for the trade in program towards a DR-2X.

The discounted prices listed for the DR-2X and DR-1X FR require an application available from Yaesu. Firmware upgrade details or applications can be obtained by contacting John Kruk – N9UPC (Sales Manager for Yaesu USA) at j.kruk@yaesu.com or through the Yaesu Service department.

Yeesh. Lost yet? I won’t rehash my thoughts on Fusion (see August & September 2017 editions of the OSJ) but I think this announcement only further fragments their offering.

Tom Gallagher – NY2RF to Retire

Tom Gallagher – NY2RF is going to retire after 2 short years as CEO of the ARRL. For me the cliché is true: it only seems like yesterday. I appreciated Tom’s articles in QST and his behind the scenes look at the ARRL. As an MBA, I loved his explanation into some of the financials and reasons for the league raising membership dues in 2016 (July 2017 QST, Mythbusting: ARRL Not “A Big Radio Club”). The League may have $14.7 million in assets but that doesn’t mean that is money lying around. It goes toward programs and services to benefit members and non-members alike. Despite the non-profit status our government affords the organization, they need to pay competitive wages to employees and authors – otherwise they will go elsewhere. I also had the privilege to correspond with Tom on, I think, an excellent direction to get Makers into the ham radio hobby.

I wish Tom well in his retirement. Announcement: http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-ceo-tom-gallagher-ny2rf-to-retire

Tinkercad

Speaking of Makers, I saw a video on the Amateur Logic podcast that demonstrated TinkerCAD electronics. If you’ve done anything with 3D printing, you’ve probably used Tinkercad. Tinkercad is a product of Autodesk, makers of software for architecture, engineering, and construction manufacturing. As Tommy demonstrates in the video, Tinkercad has an electronics section to simulate building electronic circuits and projects. This can be used as a great introduction into electronic circuit building for students and kids. The simulator has many types of electronic components: switches, capacitors, Arduinos, diodes, power supplies, oscilloscopes, potentiometers, resistors, ICs, breadboards, motors, servos, sensors, and of course – wires!

Tommy duplicates a simple blinking LED project he built in a previous episode using the simulator – even using the exact same Arduino code. I wondered if there was a product available to simulate circuit building and was quite impressed how well the simulator worked. Check it out in Amateur Logic episode 113. To sign up and start “tinkering,” go to: https://www.tinkercad.com/. 6 years or so ago, they were charging for the service. It appears when Autodesk took it over, it’s been free to use.

Scanner Anti-encryption Bill

Lastly for this month, I’m a scanner listener and I’m intrigued by the State of Ohio’s MARCS-IP public service safety system (Multi-Agency Radio Communications over IP). In short, it’s a state wide P25 digital communications system that allows users to be anywhere in the state and communicate with their agency. Once of the selling points for any commercial digital system is the ability to encrypt. Only those authorized can “unscramble” the transmission, meaning scanner listeners are locked out of listening to that particular group, or system in a few cases. Agencies love it and scanner listeners hate it.

Robert Wareham – N0ESQ

Our friends in the Colorado section made headlines last month when State Government Liaison and Section EC Robert Wareham – N0ESQ participated in drafting what is being called the “anti-encryption Bill.” With the backing of Colorado State Representative Kevin van Winkle (R), the bill outlaws blanket encryption by state and local governments striking a balance between transparency and the public’s right to monitor public agencies. Legitimate needs of confidential investigations and tactical operations are not protected under the bill. There are criminal penalties for those who monitor these communications to further a criminal enterprise, avoid arrest, detection, or escape capture.

While this bill only applies to Colorado, it could set a path for other states to draft something similar. Encryption for public radio systems is always a hot topic with completely valid points on both sides. There is a 51 page thread on the topic in the Radio Reference forums debating reasons both ways.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Digital Communications in Amateur Radio: Winlink

This article appeared in the The Wood County Amateur Radio Club newsletter CQ Chatter February 2018 edition.

Read the rest of the series in the Digital Communications in Amateur Radio articles category.


Hurricane season wasn’t particularly fun in 2017. We had both extremes. Houston got hit with Hurricane Harvey which required little response from the ham community. Infrastructure stayed online. Disruption to communication systems and Internet was minimal. This left many hams wondering, ‘are we at the point where our infrastructure is stable enough to survive a category 4 hurricane?’ ‘Are hams still relevant since we were not needed for this type of event?’ We got the answer to those questions over the next month with two category 5 hurricanes. Irma impacted the state of Florida and Maria devastated the relatively poor U.S. possession of Puerto Rico. We went from wondering if ham radio was still relevant in emergency situations to rethinking training for extended deployment scenarios, all within a matter of weeks.

Ham radio news sources pointed out many communication techniques were utilized getting traffic in and out of affected areas. An ARRL press release indicated “Maxim Memorial Station W1AW at ARRL Headquarters is monitoring the HWN, 60-meter interoperability channel 2, and Winlink for any traffic.” Winlink gained prevalence in ham news media due to these disasters, gained popularity in emergency communications circles, and became an operating requirement for hams that assisted in Puerto Rico. Winlink is a very powerful and flexible system for exchanging all types of messages.

“Winlink (also known as Winlink 2000) is a worldwide radio messaging system that uses amateur-band radio frequencies to provide radio interconnection services that include email with attachments, position reporting, weather bulletins, emergency relief communications, and message relay” (Wikipedia). In other words, Winlink is a global email system via radio. The backbone uses the Internet for communication but users do not need an Internet connection. This makes the system popular in Emcomm when the Internet is not available. Winlink was first used recreationally by mariners, RV campers, and missionaries. The entire system is run by volunteers and a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. Though similar in name, the “WIN System” is a popular IRLP repeater system based in California and entirely different.

https://www.winlink.org/content/getting_started_winlink_and_winmor

The Winlink system consists of multiple Common Message Servers (CMS) on multiple continents thought the world. The CMS servers form a “star” network configuration to coordinate traffic and provide services like email, webmail, telnet, bulletins, and reporting. Each CMS is a mirror image of the others for redundancy, failover, and outage situations. The Internet, by design, can work around outages. To date, there has been no global outage of the Internet – only regional. Having multiple servers, with redundant copies of the same data, means one or more could be affected by an outage and the system still functions. As of November 1, 2017, the CMS servers have been moved into the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud for greater redundancy.

Remote Message Servers (RMS) are scattered throughout the world and are the RF connection into the Winlink system. RMS gateways access the resources of the CMS servers via the Internet. These nodes are provided by hams familiar with the system and are setup on many ham bands (HF, VHF, UHF). On VHF/UHF, connectivity is limited to local clients. HF gateways serve a wider area but depend heavily on band conditions.

Finally, your computer runs the client software which interacts with services provided by the CMS, most often through an RMS gateway. The client software sends and receives messages. Size is limited to 120KB maximum, including attachments. Winlink uses a “store and forward” approach to messaging meaning clients are not constantly connected to an RMS or CMS gateway.

There are currently 6 client software applications available for Winlink. A feature comparison is available at: https://www.winlink.org/ClientSoftware. Winlink Express (formally RMS Express) is the preferred client because it’s developed by the system administrators and supports all features of the system. The software is well supported and frequently updated. The application looks and operates much like a stripped-down email client. Using a familiar email interface makes the application easy-to-use. Though free to download and use, Winlink Express is nagware. It will frequently prompt to purchase a key supporting development of the system. Registration of $24 is encouraged but not a requirement to use Winlink.

Winlink Express interacts with a wide selection of transceivers, provides different operating modes (PACTOR, Packet, Telnet, WINMOR Virtual TNC), and offers different connection methods (relay over mesh and D-STAR networks). It can be operated in any of four general methods:

  • Winlink: access messages on the CMS via an RF connection to an RMS gateway using the Internet.
  • Peer-to-Peer (P2P): messages exchanged directly with other users over RF, Internet, or mesh without the use of a RMS or CMS.
  • Radio-only: messages transferred between HF RMS gateways – without use of the Internet.
  • Telnet Post Office: connects to the CMS directly over the Internet.

A growing library of forms is available for ARES, RACES, SHARES, or MARS organizations including ICS, ARRL, and form types used in Ohio. The advantage of Winlink versus NBEMS is the ability to exchange messages over the public Internet. A form could be emailed directly to a government official instead of relayed via another ham. Winlink Express makes it easy to fill out or reply to forms by utilizing the local web browser. When composing a message, these forms are found under “Select Template.”

A “Query Catalog” accesses services provided by the CMS such as weather and marine forecasts, news, and propagation reports. Location coordinates can be reported through Winlink as well.

Winlink Express will work on a modern computer or Windows tablet running Windows Vista or later. The WINMOR Virtual TNC requires a 700 MHz or greater processor and 512 MB RAM or more due to the Digital Signal Processing (DSP) needed. An Apple or Linux version of Winlink Express is not available but it can be run using a virtual machine or dual-boot configuration. A Linux client is available but does not support all features.

This series primarily focuses on soundcard modes over HF and I will be discussing the WINMOR Virtual TNC. WINMOR is a low-cost interface utilizing the SignaLink USB for $120 as opposed to a PACTOR 3 dedicated hardware modem which can run $1,100 – $1,600. Low-cost hardware means tradeoffs. WINMOR is not anywhere near as fast or reliable as a PACTOR 3 modem, but it does a very good job.

To get started, first go to: ftp://autoupdate.winlink.org/User%20Programs/. Download two programs from the list of files: latest itshfbc program and Winlink_Express_install. ITS HF Propagation is prediction software to provide a rough estimate of the signal path quality between your QTH and remote RMS. Install both applications, order doesn’t matter. Click “next” through both installs, accepting defaults.

An Internet connection is required on the computer for initial setup. After starting Winlink Express, a “Winlink Express Properties” configuration will be seen. If not, click Settings, Winlink Express Setup. At a minimum the following fields must be completed: callsign, choose a password, enter a non-Winlink password recovery email, and grid square. Under Service Code, if you plan on using EMCOMM channels, make the code read: PUBLIC EMCOMM

I recommend checking Display list of pending incoming messages prior to download. This will display incoming message details prior to download allowing the user to select or reject messages based on size or sender. Click Update. An account will be setup on the Winlink system. The Winlink email address won’t become active until a message is sent through the CMS gateway. Click Remind Me Later on any Winlink Express Registration screens.

To create a message activating the Winlink email address, click the New message icon or click Message, New Message.

In the To field, enter your real email address. In the Subject field, enter something like “My first Winlink message.” In the message body, enter something like “This is my first Winlink message, whoo hoo!”

The message is ready to send, but wait! There is no “send” option. What gives?!? Since this system is store-and-forward, messages are Post to Outbox and appear in the “Outbox” System Folder. Messages in outbox can still be edited but will be sent when connected to a CMS.

Next to “Open Session,” in the drop-down select Winmor Winlink. Click Open Session.

Two more boxes will appear: “WINMOR WL2K Session” and “WINMOR Setup.” The WINMOR WL2K Session box is where an RMS gateway is selected and it displays the connection status.

You will be prompted to select the Capture and Playback soundcard devices in the WINMOR Setup box. For the SignaLink, select USB Audio CODEC. Leave all other settings at their defaults. Click Update. A third “WINMOR Sound Card TNC” box will appear. This window shows a waterfall along with transmit and receive state of the virtual TNC. Ignore this box for now.

On the SignaLink, begin with the TX and RX volume knobs set to the 12 o’clock position. Set delay (DLY) to the 2nd tick-mark (8 o’clock position).

If you have a way to control your radio through CI-V commands or equivalent, click Settings, Radio Setup, and configure the settings for the radio. Radio control makes it much easier when selecting different RMS gateway stations. Selecting a different station will automatically change the radio’s frequency and mode. With a VOX device like the SignaLink, for “PTT Port” select External. Click Update.

Back in the WINMOR Winlink Session box, click Channel Selection. An “HF Channel Selector” window will open. A message will ask to ‘update the channel list and recompute the propagation estimates now?’ Click Yes. If not asked, click Update Table Via Internet. This table will update with the current list of Winlink RMS gateway channels on HF. The list can be updated over radio in the future if desired.

Once updated, the presence of color in the “Path Reliability Estimate” and “Path Quality Estimate” columns mean the ITS HF Propagation predictor program is installed and working. Calculations are based on your grid square and solar flux index. Update the current grid square in Winlink Express setup and this table often when traveling. “Mode” is the bandwidth of the RMS node. A higher number means faster transfers are possible. “Hours” means the hours each day the node is online. “00-23” is all day, “02-13” is 02:00 – 13:00. The rest is self-explanatory.

To select a particular RMS gateway, double-click that row in the table. Gateways in green are good choices but ones at the top of the list may not always provide the best connection. Reliable gateways are found by trial and error and can be added to the “Favorites” list. If Rig Control is enabled, the radio should tune to the dial frequency of the RMS gateway and enter USB mode. If not, tune the radio’s display frequency to the “Dial Freq” (VERY important!) shown in WINMOR. Warm up the Tuner if it needs it. Remember to use no more than 30% power. Click Start.

If WINMOR thinks the channel is busy, it will prompt to verify you still want to connect because your transmissions maybe interfering with another station. Your radio will start pinging the remote RMS gateway station. In the WINMOR Sound Card TNC, above the receive indicator will be the “Measured T>R Latency” value. This measures the transmit/receive turnaround time. This should be less than 250ms and adjustable in part by the SignaLink DLY knob. Higher values will cause problems receiving from the RMS gateway. While receiving transmissions from the gateway, adjust the RX knob to a level that falls within the green portion of “Rcv Level.”

With any luck, your client will connect and your first Winlink message will be sent! There will be A LOT of back-and-forth (TX/RX switching) between your radio and remote RMS gateway. These are handshaking and acknowledgments or sending/receiving messages. When all messages are exchanged, the client will automatically disconnect from the RMS gateway. Clicking “Stop” will gracefully disconnect and ID at any time during a session. “Abort” should only be used when something is very wrong because communication is terminated immediately (without ID). Attempts will be made by the RMS to reestablish communication with the client before eventually timing-out.

Once the test message is received in your actual email, your new callsign@winlink.org email address is now active! Send a reply to the test message through your real email. To call a different RMS gateway, click Channel Selection and select a different station. Wait 5 minutes or so for the reply email to reach the Winlink CMS. Click Start in the WINMOR Winlink session box. You will see your reply downloaded to the inbox! When replying to lengthy messages, I will keep a few sentences (paragraph at most) of the original message. This keeps the transmission time down. The original sender can look at the full message in their client sent folder.

Before going crazy telling people to send messages, there is one crucial piece to this system. Winlink uses a “whitelist” (approved senders list) approach for external email addresses. This keeps abuse and spam to a minimum. As a Winlink user, you are free to send messages using your Winlink address to other Winlink users. Other Winlink users can do the same, freely contacting you.

External email addresses are handled very different. An external email is any mail system other than Winlink (Gmail, Outlook, DACOR, Buckeye Cable, BGSU, etc.). If you first send a Winlink message to someone@someprovider.com, that email address is automatically added to your Winlink whitelist. That means email from someone@someprovider.com will be delivered to your Winlink inbox.

For an external email address to send you a message unsolicited to Winlink, there are two options: add that email to your whitelist ahead of time or the sender must put “//WL2K” in the subject line. Example: “//WL2K Holiday Meeting.” Anything with //WL2K in the subject is considered a deliverable message and will not be flagged as unauthorized. By default, all outgoing messages have this inserted automatically by Winlink Express. When some individual replies to your message, which would have //WL2K in the subject, it will be accepted. Any non-whitelisted (blacklisted) addresses or messages without //WL2K in the subject, the sender will receive a bounced error message saying “Sender not authorized for any recipient.”

Whitelists can be managed by logging on to the Winlink My Account page and click My Whitelist. That page will provide details how to update the whitelist using client commands, if desired.

Another important detail to remember, there is no expectation of privacy with the Winlink system. RMS gateway owners and Winlink administrators can read messages exchanged through the system. They are looking for Part 97 violations and inappropriate usage of the system. Violators will be blocked. I’m sure they would find details of your camping trip fascinating, but they really don’t care.

Email messages through this system are considered 3rd party traffic under Part 97. The email message resides on the CMS until you (a ham) make a connection to another ham’s station (RMS) to retrieve your messages. This is similar in nature to passing messages over the National Traffic System (NTS).

The list of services available through the Winlink system is extensive. Winlink is quite flexible allowing many different ways to access the system over RF, APRS, or Internet. Feel free to send a message to my Winlink email address, K8JTK—at—winlink.org. Replace “—at—” with the appropriate email symbol. Don’t forget to include //WL2K in the subject!

Find out more information:

Winlink website: https://winlink.org/

Introduction presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTx9pY1Akl8

Resource for beginners: https://www.winlink.org/content/getting_started_winlink_and_winmor

System tutorials, documents, and FAQs: https://www.winlink.org/content/winlink_book_knowledge

Terminology of the system: https://www.winlink.org/glossary

Winlink over APRS: https://www.winlink.org/APRSLink

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2016 edition

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

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

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

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://n8sy2.blogspot.com/2016/12/december-edition-of-ohio-section-journal.html

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey Gang,

In October, I was invited by Medina County ARES to see a presentation about Winlink. I had heard of it as a way to send email messages over the HF bands. There were rumors around whether specialized hardware was needed and I really wanted to see what it was all about. Rick – K8CAV gave a great presentation on how it all works and some tips that really helped me get operating on Winlink.

Winlink, in short, is a way to send email via radio circuits frequently used by RV campers, boaters, and mariners where the Internet may not be available or reliable. It is a store and forward system meaning your messages will be held and delivered when you call into a gateway, much like the dial-up or BBS days. There are a number of ways the software will operate: connect to a remote gateway station over the air, operate peer-to-peer over-the-air, connect via the Internet using Telnet (yeah, yeah ‘telnet isn’t secure’ but neither is your email going out over the air), or webmail. Winlink has regional Central Messaging Servers (CMS) which connect to the Radio Messaging Servers (RMS) over the Internet. The RMS is the gateway your client connects to for sending and receiving messages over-the-air.

There is little privacy as other stations can read your messages but the intent is to have a worldwide emergency email messaging system. Messages can be exchanged with any email address (Gmail, your ISP) on the Internet using the assigned callsign@winlink.org email address. Stations conducting business will likely get blocked from the RMS gateways. Attachments can be included with messages but due to bandwidth, these should be kept to small files like CSV or TXT files – no multi-megapixel images or videos.

There are three pieces to the Winlink client software: RMS Express is the ’90’s looking email client, Winmor – the modem, and ITS HF Propagation is a third party software program that works with Winmor to determine propagation for connection reliability. I got Winlink setup and working with my radio and SignaLink so no specialized hardware is required. A lot of back-and-forth transmit and receiving happens between the client and gateway. The TX/RX turn-around time needs to happen quickly (under 200ms), longer will require a high number of retransmissions. One tip to help minimize the delay: set the SignaLink delay control no further than the second hash mark (8 o’clock position). To get started, go to ftp://autoupdate.winlink.org. Click “User Programs.” Download and install “Winlink Express Install,” and “itshfbc” to their default locations. To get an account created on the system, you need to send one email to an Internet address such as your personal email. In addition, Winlink has an “APRSLink” where you can check for messages, read, compose, forward, and delete all by sending APRS messages. Feel free to send me a message to “my call” at winlink.org. More: http://www.winlink.org/

I’ve also been playing around with a new device from Shark RF called the OpenSpot. It’s a small company with two guys in Estonia (South of Finland). Production is done on a batching basis so there is a waiting list. It seems like they’re shipping units close to once per month. Once I got the shipping notice, I had the device within a week. They say 3-6 business days shipping time and it arrived certainly within that range. The OpenSpot is a standalone digital radio gateway otherwise known as a hotspot. It currently supports DMR (Brandmeister, DMR+), D-STAR (DPlus/REF, DCS, XRF/DExtra, XLX), and System Fusion (FCS, YSFReflector). If the mode or network isn’t supported, they do take requests and will make additions available via firmware upgrades. Since it is a hotspot device a transceiver capable of operating that mode is required. They are doing something cool since DMR and Fusion use the AMBE2 codec. A DMR radio can be used to access the Fusion network and vice-versa (DMR Talk Groups with a Fusion radio).

The OpenSpot has a lot of flexibility, very well designed, and is superior to the DV4Mini. It doesn’t need different Raspberry Pi images for different modes like the DVMega. The device comes with everything: the OpenSpot hotspot, Ethernet cable, USB cable, USB power adapter, and antenna. It runs an internal webserver for device configuration. I even like how they do the firmware update process. The OpenSpot shows up as a drive to the computer and using the copy command – copy the firmware to it and voilà – done. For DMR, it will operate like a DV4Mini with the radio configured in TG 9 (talk-group) or it will operate like a repeater (my preference) where the Talk Groups are push-to-talk. All the TAC groups are available (310, 311, 312, etc) and call routing works. I could not get these to go on the DV4Mini. D-STAR works great too. You can link and unlink to reflectors using radio commands. It does not have a drop down for linking directly to a D-STAR repeater on the network. The only systems listed are reflectors. Forum posts describe how to link to a D-STAR repeater (like a DVAP or DNGL would do) using the “Advanced Mode” screens.

It’s not great for portability as it comes (in a car, for example). I have not tried any of the USB to Ethernet adapters with my smartphone or tried a Raspberry Pi as a WiFi to Ethernet bridge. OpenSpot requires an Ethernet cable connection meaning no WiFi though there are plans to add this and uses USB for power and firmware upgrades. As with these devices in DMR mode, they do not transmit a valid call sign. The radio ID is not valid identification. If you listen to a repeater in FM it will ID in CW. Unfortunately, the cost is about twice that of the DV4Mini 182.50 € which, when I ordered, was about $235 including shipping. More: https://www.sharkrf.com/

Other new tech (Christmas gifts?). With advancements in Software-Defined Radios (SDR) I’m seeing a new breed of devices hams can use as radios: your smartphone. Well, at least something that resembles a smartphone or tablet – still need the additional hardware. A device out of the UK called “MyDel Hamfone Smartphone Transceiver” is available. It offers a 3G cellphone, 70cm transceiver (500mw/1W) with camera, expandable SD card, and GPS. The few reviews are positive but there is some question if its FCC certified in the US. More: http://www.hamradio.co.uk/amateur-radio-handheld-radio-mydel-handhelds/mydel/mydel-hamfone-smartphone-transceiver-pd-6093.php

Bob – W2CYK and the guys over at RFinder (the online repeater directory of the ARRL) have released the “RFinder Android Radio.” Their device integrates 4G LTE & GSM cell technologies alongside FM (DMR is also available) radios into a device with the RFinder repeater directory database. The directory offers coverage maps and switching repeaters is a point-and-click away. They also boast the elimination of codeplugs for DMR. This is great as finding codeplugs, or the information for one, is not always readily available. More: http://androiddmr.com

This past month, the Parma Radio Club invited me to their meeting to give the Raspberry Pi presentation. There was a lot of good discussion and questions. This is always good to hear because you know the audience is engaged, thinking, and ultimately providing real-time feedback on the presentation. Thanks for having me at your meeting. More: http://www.parmaradioclub.com/

Don’t forget, National Parks on the Air will be wrapping up at the end of the year. According to Tom Gallagher – NY2RF, NPOTA is getting closer to #1MillionQSOs: https://twitter.com/hashtag/1millionqsos. Look out for those NPOTA stations to get your score up for your wallpaper (that is certificate if you don’t operate special events and contests).

Starting this past fall with the kickoff of new TV seasons, the CW is airing a show called “Frequency” loosely based off the 2000 Sci-Fi thriller of the same name. It starred Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel as father and son, Frank and John Sullivan. This was big with hams because the movie incorporated something that resembled ham-radio which allowed the father and son to talk 30 years into the past and future. The TV show has gotten positive reviews with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 74% with the biggest criticism being the back-and-forth between now and 20 years in the past. It airs Wednesday nights at 9pm (Ham Nation time so it gets the DVR treatment here) with the last couple episodes available on the CW website and on Netflix streaming. More: http://www.cwtv.com/shows/frequency/

Finally, don’t forget the HF Santa Net through Christmas Eve. Starts at 8:30 pm Eastern and can be found on 3916 kHz for the little ones to have a chance to talk with Santa! More: http://www.3916nets.com/santa-net.html

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

73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Radio Interface Setup – For getting started with Ham Radio Sound Card digital modes

Table of Contents

Introduction – page 1

Configuration
-Playback settings – page 2
-Recording settings – page 3

Testing and troubleshooting – page 4
-Transmit
-Receive

Recording with Audacity – page 5
-Recording settings
-Record all received and transmitted audio
-Timer recording
-Saving
-Playback

Sound card clock calibration – page 6

Introduction

This document will demonstrate basic setup of a radio interface device in the Windows Sound Control Panel to use with Ham Radio Sound Card digital modes. Programs include: Ham Radio Deluxe DM780, MMSSTV, Fldigi, wsjtx, FreeDV, Easypal. In addition, it will demonstrate how to record digital transmissions and play them back.

This is written with the beginner in mind and many concepts outlined step-by-step. It will provide direction for further experimentation on your own or on the net and direction for troubleshooting.

The SignaLink USB was used but these instructions can be adopted for similar devices. Those using other methods may find the settings and techniques useful.

SignaLink and many other external interfaces have external volume controls. Set these controls at half to start. Adjust these controls first as they are the easiest to adjust and fine tune while operating. If a situation occurs where you have too much/little audio with the volume controls set low/high, then adjust the Windows audio levels second.

It is important to point out:

  • Plugging the same device into a different USB port will be recognized as a new device by the system. This means the audio settings will need to be re-configured. In addition, the audio device settings in the digital mode program may need to be re-configured as well.
  • The process of setting audio levels is not exact.  Each system is different, drivers are programmed differently, hardware interacts differently with the operating system. It will take some time to fine tune audio levels.

Prepared for The Lake Erie Amateur Radio Association’s Digital Net (http://www.leara.org/).

Program versions

Windows 7 – 64 bit
Audacity 2.0.6

Resources

Still having trouble after using this tutorial? Read through the product manual and support documentation. Below are links for popular devices.

Specific instructions can be found online typically by searching: [name of application] [radio interface device]. Example: Fldigi SignaLink USB.

SignaLink

Homepage: http://www.tigertronics.com/

General support, operating tips, manuals, and modifications (all models): http://www.tigertronics.com/sl_suprt.htm

SL USB troubleshooting: http://www.tigertronics.com/slusbts.htm

Rigblaster

Homepage: http://www.westmountainradio.com/

Knowledge base: http://www.westmountainradio.com/knowledge_base.php

Drivers and manuals: http://www.westmountainradio.com/content.php?page=wmr-downloads