ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments - 2017-11-26

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Emergency Communications' started by W.T. Jones, Nov 26, 2017.

  1. W.T. Jones

    W.T. Jones Moderator Staff Member Silver Member Golden GPS Recipient AtlDiv EPA Leader AtlDiv ARES Member

    Weekly Image
    The Crowd at the Berwick Thanksgiving Day 2017 "Run For The Diamonds"
    An ARRL ARES®Communicator's Comments
    Run for the Diamonds - Berwick's Annual Thanksgiving Race...
    - In 2016 I helped Columbia-Montour ARC (CMARC) with their communications for the annual Berwick "Run for the Diamonds" Race. I did it again this year! Pretty much did the same thing. Did the "sound of the start" transmission so that the checkpoints could start their stop watches to give a fairly good idea of the time for the first runners. After that I did the walking to bring the reports from the checkpoints to the announcing stand. Between those walks I got to schmooze with K3QIA and K3WJH about the state of Amateur Radio and Disaster Services. Here are some of the photos that the illustrious Bob Foster, K3QIA, provided me with after the race.

    The CMARC group assembled at 3rd and Market St to pick up their Run T-Shirts and have their pictures recorded for posterity. Since I have attended the CMARC meetings I knew many of the faces but not all of them. There is something of an information overload when you visit meetings and events. They have one face and name to remember and put together but I have hundreds of faces and names to associate and that means I screw up from time to time. I hope all of you who have said "Hi WT!" will forgive me if I don't readily remember your name and call. I promise to do better in my next encounter.


    Here is your illustrious EC along side Bill Hoops, K3WJH, who did the net control task for the "Run For The Diamonds" radio support. Bill is an interesting fellow and has a wealth of experience in Disaster Communications and Disaster Response. Needless to say we had a lot to talk about but the need to respond to the check point incoming traffic usually required us to "hold that thought". Even still we managed to exchange ideas and experiences over the 2 hours that we spent together. K3WJH is the Director of Communicationsfor Pennsylvania and New Jersey for the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. He is a real "been there, done that" responder and he does more than use radios. He orders food, sees that it is prepared, and feeds those affected by disasters. He has a high regard for the Salvation Army (which I share) and puts his money where his mouth is as far as supplying his time and equipment for disasters. So putting time in for the "Run For The Diamonds" is like a busman's holiday for him.


    As our Triathlon crew knows that start moment is a critical moment in the race. It used to be that hearing the starters gun was the way the run timers knew when to start the timers. Today that is controlled by electronics but it is still a critical junction. The fellow next to me is the Official Run Starter, Dick Rimple, with his trusty starter's pistol. (I will admit when he pulled it out to show me I had to fight the urge to yell "GUN!" and take him to the ground. Old habits die hard.) Dick was the Berwick High School Track Coach for many years, has a long history with the "Run For The Diamonds" and is a good friend of K3QIA. He is a wonderful gentleman and it was a sincere pleasure to meet him. He had to run to get in position because when this photo was taken it was 5 minutes to Run start time.


    This is another photo of K3WJH's well equipped pick-up truck with the CMARC banner on the side. K3JWH is a Kenwood user and the equipment covered HF, VHF, and UHF. K3WJH is a believer in APRS and uses it for much of his disaster response. My little Baofeng was kind of puny beside it. The repeater used for the event was the 147.225 CMARC repeater. The coverage was solid so my little Baofeng was all that was needed. The total transmit time for me was less than 1 minute. I got to say "Run start coming up - standby" and when the it came time I held down the PTT, the Dick's starter pistol went bang, and I said "start start start." I did get a report that the sound of the starter's pistol was heard over the air. Thanks to Dick it was not a hunt to find the start location. I had a ring side seat to the Run kick-off. I should have taken a picture of K3WJH's interior but to be truthful we were really having some good conversation.


    Just another close of of the K3WJH mobile command post.


    This was an honor for me. K3QIA introduced me to Margaret Livsey, Head Official for the "Run For The Diamonds". Margaret has served as the Run Director for 36 of the 108 years that the "Run For The Diamonds" has happened. She is sharp and I will say that she is dedicated to the Run. She doesn't get around as well as she used to but she is still an integral part of the "Run For The Diamonds." And you could tell that the people of Berwick know who she is and have a special place in their hearts for her. There was a steady stream of people waiting to visit her and say hello. There were even parents introducing their children to her. It is really a tribute to this 85 years young lady to have fostered such respect and admiration from the community over the years. It was a real honor getting to meet her and say hello. What a lady!

    The "Run For The Diamonds" has been around for 108 years. That is a heck of a run. Amateur Radio has been supporting the Run for many years as well. While I was doing my usual reading of old QSTs I found out that on Thanksgiving Day, 1946, Amateur Radio Operators W3KGA, Roland "Ed" Parsons, W3KQM, Forrest E. Campbell, and W3LGO, George H. Smith, Jr., provided communications for the "Run For The Diamonds!" As usual the "race" officials were pleased with the coverage provided and plans were being made for the 1947 event. I mean how cool is that. I provided a scanned version of the report in QST to Bob Foster, K3QIA, President of the CMARC, in June of this year. Since 1946 and for 71 years since Amateur Radio has been part of the "Run For The Diamonds". As SEC I was proud of the Amateur Radio Operators who participated in the event. They did a marvellous job. They reported a runner who was struggling and kept tabs on her through the rest of the Run. They did just what Amateur Radio operators are famous for. They communicated but more so they were involved. The "Run For The Diamonds" was personal to them. They were out there to make it a success again this year.

    My thanks to the CMARC Club for allowing me to participate with them again this year and I hope they'll invite me back again next year.

    The Winlink to Fldigi Connection...
    - Last week's bulletin had a report of the efforts that N1ZZZ and I made to use Winlink Express over Packet Radio for peer to peer connections. Being heady from the success of that effort Jeremy and I decided that the KISS interface of Fldigi should be the next sea we should cross. I could have said the next mountain to climb but I figured I would stay with a nautical term in light of N1ZZZ's maritime occupation.

    The first step was to configure Fldigi's KISS interface. This is found under the IO tab of the Config options. This was not hard to configure and Jeremy ventured out on his own and had most of it done without help. It is more networking than anything else. The interface is normally locked and in ARQ mode. The ARQ mode is what is used for Fldigi's other programs like Flmsg and Flamp. Clicking on the unlock and selecting KISS opened the configuration area. Next it was select TCP/IP, Listen/Bind (this tells Fldigi to listen for an incoming connection from another program), select AX.25 decode, inhibit 7-bit. Then click Start (which is where the Stop button is in the image). That set Fldigi to act as a KISS TNC to Winlink.

    On the Winlink Express side we selected P2P (Peer to Peer) Packet and then clicked on the settings. Select KISS mode and change the port to match what Fldigi was listening on. Again it was a pretty straight forward effort. If you look behind the settings window you can see that Winlink Express did indeed find Fldigi and establish connection to it. It was easy. The rest of it got complicated and I might as well cover what we had to change and why we think we had to change it while we were "experimenting" with this lashup.

    We increased the TX Delay (literally the wait time to allow the transmitter to come up after PTT) because we found that the short ACK frames were being consistently missed. Even with the radio squelch open there the ACKs were still being missed. We could see them go out but the other side was not hearing them. Increasing the TXD seemed to fix that problem.

    We went through changing the Maximum packet length from 128 to 64. After we tailored some of the other settings the packet length of 128 did work. Again, it appeared to be timing issues and with Winlink Express there is very little that we could do to affect the timing.

    Maximum Frames and Frack also appeared to figure into the equation but again we were driving in the dark. We did keep the changes to a method that gave us reasonable assurance of the effect of the change. We finally settled on 2 and 2 for these values.

    The only other change we made was to "Enable IPoll" which for the life of me I have no idea what it does. That is one of those things that will wait for a winter day and time to research it.

    In any case these settings worked for us. Simplex between Pringle and Duryea.

    As you can see of this image it worked. When the "Update" button was pressed Winlink Express closed the connection to Fldigi and restarted it. The IP address ( and the port used were both identified properly. I won't say there was dancing in the streets but N1ZZZ and I were relatively pleased with our success. Winlink Express at this point was in Peer to Peer mode and ready to exchange messages (we hoped). Jeremy had messages ready to go so we, as they say, let 'er rip. And we were quite happy with the results.

    I won't say that this happened immediately. The parameter changes happened over the course of Monday starting at 3:00PM with an interlude for supper and a church service. However, it was a good run after a while. The image shows the exchange of messages between WN3LIF and N1ZZZ. The rate was better than 2k per minute using the 8PSK1200F modem. We did try other modems but if the speed was not fast then Winlink did not work. Our collective thoughts on that is that Winlink is doing the timing and if something hasn't happened fast enough it will send a challenge ACK to the other station. That sometimes happened right in the middle of the other station sending data. So it has to be a fastest modem that Fldigi will support to make it work right. We also experimented with the 9600 bps settings in winlink but that was a no-go right from the start. Some of the settings dropped the through-put down to 1.3K bytes per second even though the thought process said it should speed it up. So for much of this it was a poke and hope but the goal of getting Winlink Express to use Fldigi as a modem/tnc was a success. I think that N1ZZZ and I are both happy with that result.

    The Winlink Express Log of the exchanges can be viewed to see how things went. It is in text format for easy reading.

    I do want to thank N1ZZZ for his time, patience, and knowledge of packet during our fun time. He is one heck of a great person, a knowledgeable resource, and fun to work with when things are frustrating the heck out of me. He must get that skill from dealing with a crew of diverse, non-English speaking, and sometimes hard to get along with people.

    The Radio is in the Car...
    After being without a radio in my Subaru since September I have finally had the FTM-100DR installed today. Oh did I miss having that radio. The HTs worked well in the valley thanks to the fine repeaters provided by N3FCK, N3VTH, N3DAX, WB3FKQ, the Murgas Club, and the Jonestown Mountain Repeater Association but there is nothing like having that mobile radio with a good antenna. Just works a whole lot better and I am not chasing an antenna wire around when trying to use the radio.

    I did not do the installation. I am finicky and want it done right. I do not have the correct tools to do it right. I don't have the time to do it right. In my early mobile days I used rigs on the seat of the car which ended up on the floor of the car more often than they should. I have almost set the car on fire when I shorted the power wires to my Drake TR-22C. I have almost run off the road trying to change the channels on my first 2 meter rig which was a Midland 13-505. It had one knob for receive and one knob for transmit. It had two repeaters and 1 simplex frequency in it. The 146.94 repeater in Scranton that was run by the Lackawanna Valley Repeater Association and the 146.88 repeater at Wilkes College (it was Wilkes College back then) owned by Dr. Toole. It got plenty of use and it finally died around 1979. I should have kept the carcass. So when I got my 2004 Subaru I wanted it done right.

    Enter Dave Wolfe. Dave is the son of Steve Wolfe who is one of my long time shooting friends. I contacted Dave and asked about getting my Yaesu FT-857D installed. He agreed and he did a heck of a job. He put the body under the deck in the rear, mounted two VHF/UHF antennas, mounted an Yaesu ATAS-120 HF antenna, ran the power direct to the battery, fused it properly, put the remote head on the dashboard, mounted the microphone, and returned the car to me in spotless condition. It was a beautiful installation and many who saw it wanted to know how the heck he did it. Well, all I can say is his Dad is one of the best gunsmiths I have ever known and one of the most fastidious ones as well. Dave picked up many of those traits and it shows in his work. He is trustworthy. I don't leave my entire set of keys with anyone. I handed the entire set to Dave this morning and went on my way. So needless to say that when I wanted the radio mounted in the 2009 Subaru it was Dave or no one. I was really happy when he squeezed me into his tight schedule.

    Dave installed the FTM-100DR in the console which required taking the console out, modifying it, running the antenna wire through the headliner of the car, down the windshield post, taking the power to the battery, fusing it properly, and then cleaning up the entire car. His little guy, Shawn, who is a hoot and a heck of a weather nut, told me that "we don't give them back a dirty car." Shawn helped vacuum the car for his Dad. I think I enjoyed talking to Shawn as much as I enjoyed talking to his Dad. Shawn explained how Tornados happen, what the largest one was, and all kinds of weather information. This little guy is really sharp!

    Anyway, back to the radio installation. Dave owns Lighting Services Incorporated and does many of the police vehicles in the area. When I first saw his shop it was pretty bare. Today it is covered with Whelen lights and other police car stuff that I have no idea about. But he does a great job for them and the care he takes is just what a finicky person like me likes. Here is a picture of the installed rig.


    The only additional accessory is the "Magnetic Mic" holder. It is a magnetic holder for the mic. Dave showed me the option which I had seen before in LEO vehicles and I jumped on it. It is not a weak magnet. You do have to give it a firm twist to get it free. But it beats hunting for those two prongs of the old style mic holders.

    If you look at the bottom of the rig you'll notice the programming cable. I had Dave leave it attached so I could make changes with the computer as time goes on. I could have used the SD card but the programming cable seems to be a better option.

    If you can tell that I am pleased with Dave's work then I got my message across. BTW, Dave is also KC3HLQ. He passed his Technician license at the Murgas 2016 Hamfest. He has not gotten on the air yet but! When I was there today the beginnings of his Baofeng adventure had started to show up. He is also a member of the Lackawanna County ARES.

    His prices are reasonable and his work is beyond good. If you need his contact info you can find it at or just ask me. I'll gladly take you right to his door.

    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
    N3LLR's Ham Radio Forum
    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
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    Have a good week everyone!


    ARRL EPA Section Emergency Coordinator
    ARRL EPA District 3 District Emergency Coordinator
    ARRL ARES® Emergency Coordinator
    Luzerne County ARES®
  2. wedgar

    wedgar Administrator Staff Member Gold Member

    Love the pictures of the Run for the Diamonds event.

    Shows that helping at events can be fun working and at the same time helping our community organizations!

    Kudos to the volunteers helping out.

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