ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments - 2017-11-19

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Emergency Communications' started by W.T. Jones, Nov 19, 2017.

  1. W.T. Jones

    W.T. Jones Moderator Staff Member Silver Member Golden GPS Recipient

    LCARES Members Operational Status:
    ARES Single Resource Team


    80% Operational





    Sunday Night Bulletin for October 29, 2017 Responses
    First Response
    John, K3DBG

    Second Response
    Rich, KC3FKW
    Third Response
    Bill, KC3HLT

    Weekly Image
    An ARRL ARES®Communicator's Comments
    LCARES Recognized by the Luzerne County Council...
    - The Luzerne County Council, some time following in the February 2017 Tornado in Pittston Township, passed a resolution recognizing the Luzerne County EMA, the "amateur Radio Emergency Service" (sic), the American Red Cross, local fire fighters and emergency service personnel, and all the men and women whose diligence and professionalism kept out county and citizens safe.

    Thank you to N3SRO who obtained a copy of this proclamation for the LCARES Radio Room at the EOC.

    See the weekly image for a view of the Luzerne County Council's Proclamation.

    Hamcram a bit of a bust...
    Well, we had one fellow show up for the Hamcram today. Since he was the only one that showed he elected to wait until the January session. KB3VS, KC3FKW, and I regaled him with the contents of the LCARES room in the hopes of keeping him interested. Our candidate resides in Pittston so he is not too far away for us to continue the encouragement effort. He is a Red Cross Volunteer and has field experience which we could all benefit from in our own ways. It would be nice to have another person named "John" in the group.

    An AB3ZI Recommended Youtube Site...
    - John, AB3ZI, has been on the prowl on Youtube for good information. Here is his latest find:

    TRX Bench

    New Video from Survival Tech Nord...
    - Julian is at it again. "Building Blocks for a Solar Powered Generator" is his latest effort. I like it. You might too.

    Another video came in today, Friday, so I am alerting you to it. You'll see it on Julian's page when you go to the link above. More good information.

    Winlink Fun...
    - N1ZZZ and I decided to play Peer to Peer with Winlink Express over packet radio. Ah, those wonderful days of setting audio levels via the AF Gain control on your rig, listening to the high and low tones coming out of your packet TNC, getting the O-scope out and looking at the wave forms. Gosh, days of Ham Radio when digital modes were ruled by AX.25 and Packet technology. I am so glad that they are gone!

    At first, my intention was to use Direwolf to create my AX.25 packets to connect to N1ZZZ. That was doomed to failure because I was using my VirtualBox Windows program. The USB facility on Virtual Box is not all that good for the high speed turn around that packet communications requires. That is not an indictment of 'VBox' by any means. It is a really great piece of software. It works wonders as a virtual computer inside Windows or Linux and it is a free implementation.

    So I went forth into Windows 10 Land. Not exactly where I like to play around but it is Winlink after all. I again retrieved Direwolf from its web site and set it up. By the way, the setup of Direwolf is easy. It does not "install" like other Windows programs. You unzip it into a directory, I mean folder, and, if you need to, make some small changes to the conf file and off you go.

    Well, almost off you go. The newer sound protocols need a lot less audio than Packet does. Getting to that point is a bit of an effort. And trying to do that using only the Winlink connection is not an elegant way to test and diagnose the issues. I decided to go back to 1980's technology and use a real TNC.

    I have several of them and they work very well with APRS. However I went for the big gun. The Timewave PK-232SC. The PK-232 was my original TNC way back when. Good TNC and does more than just packet. I use it for my Winlink Pactor connections on HF. It only does Pactor I but it is way better than most modulation schemes for Winlink. I had used the PK-232SC with my Yaesu FT-450D and my FT-991 and it was plug and play.

    Well, that was not the case. This time it was playing with the Yaesu FT-8800 FM Rig. There is a set up issue with the FT-8800. The long story is that the audio for receive is coming out of the accessory jack in the back of the FT-8800. That audio is set internally to a max of 40 microvolts Peak to Peak. The receive audio for the PK-232 had to be much higher. Again, no go.

    I could have disassembled the connector and taken the audio from the speaker jack and I was ready to do that but I thought I'd give the Direwolf a second chance.

    With Fldigi we have said that "softer is better" when it comes to the audio settings. Well, this time I cranked the Windows setting to max turned the knobs on the Signalink almost to maximum. And it worked. I did get a terminal program that worked with Direwolf and that made life easier. I could key in text and press the enter key to see how it looked. I was pushing the FT-8800 almost to the point of over deviation. But it worked and it was not out of specs. It has been a long long time since I have gotten to this level of the nitty gritty with a signal. In some respects it felt good. In other respects I am glad that I don't have to do it with Fldigi. The Scope and other paraphernalia are safely returned to their storage areas for the immediate future.

    Enough talk...

    - Pictures are better. Here is a picture of the Signalink. Note the TX knob position. The settings are higher than we use for our MFSK-32 and other Fldigi modems. Since Packet needs a fast turn around from TX to RX and back the Delay knob is set to 0. Stations that are "connected" via packet send Ack's for Information frames at a fast rate even at the relatively slow speed of 1200bps. Adding a delay might mean that one station thinks that the other station did not hear it and retransmit the frame. Result - collision! Slows things down greatly. So an artificial delay should not be introduced.

    After testing and knowing that the connection could be made we moved on to letting Winlink have at it. The results were gratifying.

    - This image shows the exchange between my winlink station and N1ZZZ. Jeremy had set up two test messages for me to grab in peer to peer mode. The entire exchange is presented. At the bottom of the text you can see it took 54 seconds for the entire exchange to happen.

    - The Direwolf window showed the exchange in raw format. The red warning lines are telling me that the received audio from N1ZZZ is too high. If I backed off on the receive audio the connection started to falter. I did manage to get the audio level down to get rid of the warning but it was still really too high for comfort.

    - This is another exchange which I think is an acknowledgement message going back to N1ZZZ. Only reason I think this is that the message size is so small. I could look in the sent folder and see what it looks like but I'd have to boot back into Windows and I really don't feel like doing that. The Direwolf window is to the right and you can see the raw exchange as compared to what Winlink shows to humans.

    - This is what the received messages look like. Looks like email. No surprise there. The email portion of Winlink is much the same as Outlook Express. Reason being that it was a well known email service that came with most of the Windows systems since 1998. It is crude but it is free. The spell check is not real time. It is run whenever the operator clicks on the spellcheck button. Selecting text can be a bit of a problem. The big thing is that it works and has worked for many years. If you see SailMail or BushMail you are seeing pretty much the same program with commercial HF stations handling the RF interchange.

    - One of the messages that Jeremy sent me was a radiogram. We are familiar with the radiogram in Fldigi. Guess what? It is pretty much the same in Winlink. Winlink has a complete cache of forms for specific purposes. The image to the left is the raw message that has arrived and opened.

    - This is the form that Winlink opens to make the radiogram look pretty. The difference between our special forms in Fldigi and the Winlink forms is the coding format. Winlink uses XML or eXtensible Markup Language. In Fldigi, the forms are created using HTML or Hyper Text Markup Language. XML is used for configuration files, files that are meant to be read by a program, or the most common is a Preference File such as found in a web browser. HTML is meant for generating web pages on servers. What Winlink does is using its own internal web server (just like Flmsg has its own web server), the contents of the message, and the XML form it creates a web page that is easily viewed by humans.

    You can see that there are a lot of similarities between Fldigi/Flmsg and Winlink Express. Winlink Express started its life as a radio email program and continues to grow in that direction. Fldigi started out as a PSK32 keyboard to keyboard program and grew in many directions including the use of software modems to provide a wide variety of methods to get on the air cheaply. The Narrow Band Emergency Message System or NBEMS (pronounced N Beams) was added 11 years ago at the request of KB3FXI, Dave Kleber, who is considered the Father of the NBEMS.

    W3HKJ, Dave Friese, who along with others, authors NBEMS never asks for donations. His only "donation" request is that if we like his work then we contribute to the Gideons International. If you have ever stayed in a hotel and opened up one of the night stand drawers to find a Bible then you are seeing the work of the Gideons.

    That is it but I will leave you with one other thing. Winlink and Fldigi can play together to help each other. Fldigi's strength is in its modems and ability to interface with other programs. Winlink's strength is its ability to handle email. N1ZZZ and I have successfully configured the Winlink to Fldigi interface but have yet to test it. I hope to report back on the success (or failure) of that effort in the future.

    Happy Thanksgiving...
    This is the last bulletin before we celebrate Thanksgiving. I wish you all a very Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving Holiday and all the best that it brings. This year Jan and I will be celebrating with my Brother and his family on Wednesday Evening. The days of doing everything on one day are gone for us. The nieces have two families to be with on Thanksgiving Day so we give way to their scheduling and do the festivities the evening before Thanksgiving. It is still a wonderful time together and we do enjoy it. Jan and I will celebrate on Thursday with our own Thanksgiving dinner. Taffi will celebrate with another bowl of her favorite dog food and maybe some special dog snacks. Remember, don't give Thanksgiving Turkey to our Canine friends. I used to be under the impression that Turkey was bad for dogs but it is not the Turkey but the added ingredients that we add to make the Turkey taste better. Turkey can be a good part of our dogs' food if prepared properly but the Thanksgiving Turkey that graces our table should not be something that fills our dogs' bowls.

    So Happy Thanksgiving and all the best. I have a lot to be thankful for again this year and part of that is the great friends I have. Thank you to all of you for being a big part of those friends. It would not be the same without you!


    EPA-ARRL Web site...
    - If you have not done it yet then what are you waiting for? Get to the EPA-ARRL web site and either submit your email address or like it on Facebook. It is the place to get the information and news about the EPA Section.

    Ham Radio Links
    ARRL Eastern PA Section Web Site
    Luzerne County ARES®
    Harris County Texas ARES® - A great training resource
    Lake County (OH) RACES Personal Go-Kit for Emergency Operations - KE7LHR
    MecklenBurg County ARES® and RACES
    K0BG - The Website for Mobile Amateur Radio Operators (Perhaps the best web site on mobile operations I have found!)
    Origins of Ham Speak - Fact, Legends, and Myths??? - Compiled by AC6V from the Internet and other unreliable sources
    The Petite Prepper
    The VOA Radiogram
    Luzerne County ARES Facebook Page <-- New
    Thank you for copying our weekly digital information Bulletin to all Amateur Radio Operators.

    Send reception reports and comments to

    Have a good week everyone!


    ARRL EPA Section Emergency Coordinator
    ARRL EPA District 3 District Emergency Coordinator
    ARRL ARES® Emergency Coordinator
    Luzerne County ARES®
    ARES and "Amateur Radio Emergency Services" are registered service marks owned by the American Radio Relay League, The National Association of Amateur Radio. Use of these service marks is by permission only.

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