K4KPN-15 2m APRS Digipeater/I-Gate is QRT.

January 21, 2020

As previously announced the K4KPN-15 2m APRS Digi/I-gate was turned off this morning. Considerable notice and explanation was given.

I have no plans nor desire to return it to the airwaves even if I had a suitable location for it. If there is a real local need for 2m APRS infrastructure then others can step up and provide it.

The former WA4ZKO-15 2m APRS digipeater radio (50w ICOM) and TNC (a nice KPC3+) remain available for FREE loan out to someone with a good site in our primary service area. Part of the “free” deal is they commit to running it 24×7 under their callsign and will keep it well maintained. Our primary service area consists of Grant, Pendleton, Owen, and Gallatin counties.

The HF and 6m APRS infrastructure remain available and KYPN remains committed to providing those systems in addition to the BBS/Node infrastructure.


The Winlink QRM and Poor Choices Continue.

January 12, 2020

I get that our hobby is a “reflection of our society” so it’s not surprising to see so much lack of personal responsibility, lack of consideration of others, and the entitlement mentality increasingly on display. That said, one would think a group (Winlink) seeing so much ongoing anger, frustration, and regulatory heat aimed their way would realize they need to be making widespread on-air operational changes. Nope.

One only has to sort this list here by frequency and see a long list of poor frequency choices that are just asking for QRM problems. Admittedly on some bands the choices are tougher, but not impossible. There is zero excuse for what is observable there on a band like 20 meters.

Rather than be like virtually every other digital mode and pick one or two watering holes (centers of activity) they choose to spread across entire sub-bands like a virus. Then many of them set around apparently dumbfounded why so many are frustrated with the QRM their HF gateways and users cause and why someone like Ted Rappaport has so much support.

Thus what is easily STILL observable today begs the question of “is this leadership/gateway operator ignorance or arrogance?” Sorry for the harsh question, but what else is one left to conclude?

 

A few examples?

For many decades the Network 105 folks have used 14.105 LSB. For over a decade they have suffered ongoing QRM from Winlink gateways whose sysops either too lazy or too incompetent to make better QRG choices. Yet after all the drama of the last year or so we still see something like this:

#OhDear

Sadly this is just snippet of how several of the Winlink gateway operators just ask for and add fuel to dangerous regulatory fires like the Ted Rappaport/NYU mess. A mess that is undoubtedly the first of many our hobby is going to face until some operating behaviors change or they get HF Email gateways like Winlink banned or effectively shut down. Question for some of these gateway folks….is that what you want? Not to mention you’ve helped create a pending regulatory situation that threatens the entire digital side of the hobby. Bravo, good job, good freakin’ job….not.

Heck recently I was out west in the car swapping HF/6m antennas around before heading out to grab lunch for my crew. I tossed the 30m antenna on the mount to run an HF APRS test and check on the gateway back home. Flipped on the ham gear and the 30m APRS window is being clobbered by a Pactor 3 link in progress. Okay, NBD….I put the 6m whip back on the mount to use it for monitoring since driving around with a 7+ foot tall HF antenna on “her car’s” trunk isn’t going to happen LOL. Go down to Subway to get our takeout lunch, the link is still going. Leave the store, the link is still going. Get back to the office, link is still going.

After lunch I check to see who the hell was downloading half the internet on a crowded band like 30 meters LOL. Looked to be a VE7 /MM station downloading a pile of weather data. Okay, maybe he is at sea with no other options available like Satphone/SatFi/etc, but something tells me he had other more appropriate options available.  Something tells me there was either some WiFi available in port (hints that he was docked) or a satphone and either too lazy or cheap to use them.

Was his content legal? Yes if there is no “common carrier” angle to it. Was it appropriate and considerate use of crowded spectrum? Well that depends and I don’t want to get into the “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” debates or the like. All I can offer up is I would not be comfortable tying up several KHz of an already congested 10 KHz window for that long, especially if I had other options available. Again, I have no way of knowing his full situation or available options, but I’ve yet to meet a /MM operator that wasn’t packing a satphone with them at sea. Never mind that if they are on HF Winlink then they already have at least some (if not all) of the gear needed for HF SailMail.

 

Why don’t I use HF Winlink?

I’ve been asked before why I don’t use Winlink for remote email considering we often wind up in places where there is no WiFi and or cell service. Well I’m far from a “rich guy” but I have better ways to access my email. One is called a satphone plus a tablet or laptop. Laptop or tablet depends on our load-out & charging capacity. It isn’t broadband fast, but it gets the job done and a lot more spectrum considerate.

Portable SatPhone terminal for remote email access.

While sometimes I have to reposition for “clearer sky” the satphone has never failed us. The HF gear, if I even bring it with me is Plan C at best. Yes Plan C versus Plan B, since we usually have two satphones, my personal one and the other half has access to several from her aviation day job. Each is on a different constellation so we have system redundancy. If one of the aircraft is nearby then we have several voice and data options available on it although that’s a $$$ “generator” to fire up LOL.

I generally don’t use my winlink account for anything more than testing/stress testing the latest “version of the week” of Winlink Express with the Tracker modem/firmware across RP, 1200 and 9600 baud. This also allows confirmation that the club RMS gateway is operating fine and the newest version hasn’t broken something.

I prefer access to my personal and work email addresses in a more secure and spectrum considerate manner. Since I still run a business a lot of even my personal/hobby email threads can easily wander into biz related communications. Thus I just keep all my email flows off Part 97 spectrum and never have to worry receiving an email that I read and think “oh boy, that wasn’t suitable for Part 97 airwaves.”

Real world use has shown the satphones are 10x more reliable and usually 1000x more appropriate than HF email. Never mind that where we are often camping/fishing can be a 1 or 2 day horseback ride in. The reality of that means if we have a dire emergency in the backcountry then we are neck deep in “the land of you are on your own for awhile.”  HF Email = unlikely to be immediately useful unless we’re sending our preferred obituary language to the family LOL.

grandeur

“I believe there’s something to be said for exploring beautiful places…it’s good for the spirit.”   David Scott (Cmdr Apollo 15)

In most remote location dire emergency scenarios I’m not going for a HF radio first. Sorry guys wrong tool for the job. I’m activating a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon…think EPIRB for land use). Preferably going to activate two of them. We have one in each medical pack plus an air-band HT with one pack to compliment our usual FM gear. From there we’re going to be making some satphone calls while one of us finds a helicopter LZ.  There is no just dialing 911 and a few minutes later we have an EMS squad pulling into our driveway as there is no driveway out there.  #PlanAccordingly #GearUpAccordingly

Family/friends on our registered emergency SARSAT contact lists know they are on it. They know to tell the SAR folks that one PLB active might be accidental, but unlikely so send the cavalry and keep trying both satphone numbers. If both PLBs are active then that’s not an accidental activation, tell that cavalry to step it up along with ensuring they know which VHF air & UHF FM frequencies we’ll be guarding for their approach or overflight.

When you are where cell service = nil to maybe one bar up on high ground on the right side of the mountain (if lucky) some good rules are….

Rule #1 – Be prepared for emergencies.

Rule #2 – Have a plan, at least for the most likely scenarios.

Rule #3 – Have a backup plan since the first plan may not work.

All skill is in vain when that Angel named Murphy pisses in the flintlock of your musket.”  My friend Tim’s adaptation of an old military saying.

Rule #4 – Don’t depend upon cheap gear made in a sweatshop in a certain SE Asian country. Quality is cheap when a life is expensive. 

 

So far over several years now we’ve only had one minor (compared to what it could of been) medical issue out there involving an ugly fall resulting in a broken wrist and head laceration. We splinted and bandaged her up. Then rode her out (~5 hours) on our strongest/calmest horse…..for the locals, good ol’ “do it all, seen it all” Star. The satphone performed just fine when used for hourly check-ins once out of UHF range and calling a SP dispatch friend to fill them in on our location, plans, and flight weather checking some air-evac resources (aka “that backup plan”).

Hard to describe the priceless comfort of looking over to see the L-band satphone strapped to my shoulder locked onto a constellation of serious communication birds above us. A GPS synced up solid so we knew exactly where we were at on our reverse track out. Comforting knowing that we had “fly her out” options available at the press of “Send” if she started showing any signs that the head injury was more serious than just needing a few stitches.

While taking a break by the river and letting her call her Dad back in Connecticut to fill him in on what happened, I watched thinking “Geez isn’t modern comm-tech just amazing.” Needless to say that was one phone and airtime bill that I gladly paid. Also several ounces of weight that I will never complain about packing around. #WorthEveryPenny #WorthEveryOunce

GlobalStar

Iridium

 

All that is not “dissing” HF. It just is what it is in today’s modern communications world.

I realize that some hams will take any criticism of HF too seriously. Others think every EmComm nail requires a Part 97 hammer. The above is not intended to be critical of HF or ham radio, but in today’s communications world the Part 97 hammer is often not the first tool you should be reaching for. If it is all you have then fine, but if you’re at sea or enjoying the great outdoors well outside of cell service then it should NOT be the only option you have. Plus I’ve yet to figure out a practical and effective HF antenna setup for /HM (horseback mobile) LOL.

Moving on…

 

Ham Radio is not to be a Common Carrier.

Remember we are not to be using Part 97 spectrum as a “common carrier.” I would not be surprised if we get a “reminder” of that from the FCC here in a few weeks.

If you are regularly using email over Part 97 spectrum to communicate with non-hams when you have other more appropriate options available then I think we all know deep down that is, at best, dancing dangerously close to common carrier use. Spin all you wish, it is what it is and 97.113 says what it says.

 

Be considerate of how much HF airtime you use.

Our HF spectrum is not yours, you share it with others. More accurately one could say it belongs to the public and it is all just “on lease” for us to use towards the items listed in the Scope and Purpose of the Amateur Radio Service. If we don’t put it to good use then it’s subject to being reallocated away from us to those that will put it to better uses. The recent bad news for our currently allocated spectrum is just foreplay for the spectrum sucking monster that is coming. #WakeUp #UseMoreBands #MoreHamRadioLessHamInternet

What you do on HF has a high chance of impacting others either positively or negatively so operate accordingly, especially on our very crowded lower HF bands. I used to catch heat from some of the BBS crowd when KYPN’s policy was (still is) that we were not going to tie up 80/40/30 meters with heavy BBS bulletin forwarding. Restrained use for p-mail and NTS flows was okay, but that was all we were comfortable with.

In years past it was common to see bulletin forwarding sessions (not ours) on 40 and 30 meters that went on for hours…yes hours. All to move stuff highly unlikely to be read by anyone and easily available elsewhere. Hard to reconcile that with considerate operating.

Obviously message forwarding over VHF/UHF is a whole different story compared to HF. One could argue we could use more utilization of the VHF/UHF packet channels.

 

 

Emergencies and the occasional training exercises = different story.

Obviously actual emergency/disaster HF communications equal a whole different story. You do what you gotta do and most of us will gladly clear off all the HF spectrum and airtime you need.

If you have a problem with that or “the EmComm” folks then go review 97.1 and The Amateurs Code….or just turn in your ham license. ’nuff said.

 

73
WA4ZKO


HF & Robust Packet Freq List – January 2020 ** DRAFT **

January 11, 2020

Below is a draft frequency listing of where packet activity can be found on HF. List updated after a couple months worth of part time monitoring of each frequency from two different sites (IA, KY) in the U.S.

For now it is a draft listing. I’m interested in any confirmed updates/corrections.

Appears the old NET40 HF packet hangout of 7.1095 LSB is now 7.104 LSB.

*** DRAFT ***
HF & ROBUST PACKET FREQUENCY LIST
UPDATED: 01/11/2020 COMPILED BY: WA4ZKO

3.5980 LSB HFP – Network 80 – general use (active)
3.5980 USB RP – Robust Packet – general use (active)
3.6100 USB RP – RP APRS – Europe (active)
7.0473 USB RP – RP APRS – Europe (temp uses)
7.1010 USB RP – HF SkipNET – BBS-to-BBS forwarding (inactive)
7.1035 LSB HFP – HF SkipNET – BBS-to-BBS forwarding (inactive)
7.1030 USB RP – Network 40R – general use, limited BBS-to-BBS (temp uses)
7.1040 LSB HFP – Network 40 – general use (active)
7.1095 LSB HFP – ? Old Network 40 – general use (? inactive)
10.1450 LSB HFP – Network 30 – general use (defunct ?)
10.1455 USB RP – Network 30R – general use, limited BBS-to-BBS (temp uses)
10.1467 LSB HFP – HF SkipNET – BBS-to-BBS forwarding (inactive)
10.1473 USB RP – RP APRS – PRIMARY Robust Packet APRS QRG (active)
10.1510 LSB HFP – HF APRS – HF Packet APRS Primary QRG (active)
14.0978 LSB HFP – HF SkipNET – BBS-to-BBS forwarding (inactive)
14.1020 USB RP – Robust Packet – EU (active)
14.1033 LSB RP – RP APRS – Mainly EU (active)
14.1050 LSB HFP – Network 105 – general use (active)
18.1080 USB RP – Network 17R – APRS & general use (temp uses)
21.0980 USB RP – Network 15R – APRS & general use (temp uses)
24.9270 USB RP – Network 12R – APRS & general use (temp uses)
28.1400 USB HFP – HF APRS and general use (inactive ? seasonal)
28.1480 USB RP – Network 10R – general use (active)

FREQUENCIES = Dial with following CF usage:
HFP = 300 baud HF Packet, CF is 1700 Hz.
RP = R300/R600 Robust Packet, CF is 1500 Hz.

(active) = Monitored as active in Winter 2019/2020.
(inactive ?) = Monitored for several days with no noted activity. May still be in intermittent use.
(temp uses) = no daily activity, just used for testing and special coverage needs.

This list is NOT all inclusive in nature, but should represent where the bulk of HFP APRS, HF RP APRS, HF Packet, and HF Robust Packet can be found on the bands.


K4KPN-15 2m APRS Digi/I-Gate Shutdown

January 2, 2020

The K4KPN-15 2m APRS Digipeater/I-Gate will be turned off sometime in late January 2020. Due to my biz/future plans I no longer have any need to keep the location that currently houses that gear.

K4KPN-15 was always a temp fill-in location, low profile, and considerable previous notice of its shutdown has been given for awhile now. KYPN currently has no sites that would be friendly (either space or RF wise) to a busy 144 MHz transmitter.

The hopes have been that if there was enough 2m APRS interest in the area that others would step up and run a digi/i-gate at a better location. I personally offered the former WA4ZKO-15 TNC & radio “free to the cause” if someone had a good site and would assume 24x7x365 responsibility for it under their callsign….no takers.

I realize that the area’s 2m APRS scene has taken a lot of hits over the last few years. The loss of the Lawrenceburg (IN), Dry Ridge, and Edgewood KY digis really clobbered Northern KY coverage. The loss of the high profile Lexington digi did a number on Central KY coverage. A few low profile RX only gates have helped gate in trackers in a few areas, but they do nothing for 2-way messaging and other APRS network functions.

UPDATE:  Jan 2, 2020 – Good news, it appears Edgewood (K8SCH-10) was restored this morning.

In a way I hate to turn K4KPN-15 off, but there just isn’t enough local interest in 2m APRS now nor do we have a good site for it going forward.

Due to economy related job relocations, retirement related moves, and a growing list of Silent Keys the original KYPN crew is now just a fraction of what it was in the 1990’s. It is what it is. Fewer and fewer ops and resources keeping quality RF infrastructure on the air. As we’ve seen with the slow demise of the KY and IN DMR voice systems/networks, these challenges are not just limited to the APRS/packet scene.

KYPN’s wallet and resources are also not without limits. As such we can’t run everything for everybody and will have to periodically evaluate where our finite time/resources should be devoted.

For 30 years KYPN has kept packet systems on the air except for about a month in the summer of 2016 when things went from a multi-port stack to a single port (6m) TNC Mailbox. Those three decades have seen a lot of changes and challenges. As we head into this new decade I suspect there will be more of the same combined with new threats to our spectrum and the hobby’s future. My biggest recommendation to every ham is to get on the airwaves, be active, try and use new bands. There is more to ham radio than HF and 2 meter FM.

 

K4KPN-6 & K4KPN-10 Future?

KYPN will continue to provide the HF and 6m APRS digis/gates 24x7x365. Frankly those alone are enough of a time/money/resource commitment LOL.

The K4KPN-6 6m APRS digi/gate (K4KPN-6) is more of summer/winter “propagation toy” and a free perk running on top of an existing 6m packet node/app stack. 6m APRS definitely comes in handy at times, but it is NOT intended to replace the 2m APRS network.

The K4KPN-10 HF digi/gate is a key and valuable site on the NOAM HF network due to both location and the site’s very low noise floor providing excellent receive range. To save some money we changed it’s internet feed around after the last move, but we have no plans to turn it off. K4KPN-10 meets some real needs and the one piece of KYPN APRS infrastructure that gets noticed if it is offline for more than few minutes for maintenance/etc LOL.

 

 

K4KPN-1 Packet BBS Future?

The BPQ32 node/BBS/chat server remain key components of our local EMCOMM strategy. As such there no plans to turn any of them off.

The BBS and node have already been switched over to the club callsign to facilitate a future location change to the backup site. That location change WILL involve the loss of the 2m port due to available space and RF environment reasons.

The 6m port’s future is not guaranteed, but I may keep it online nearby and remote serial-IP linked in over the Canopy inter-tower LAN. We could move it to the backup site, but the VHF noise floor there is pretty bad. We would also prefer to keep that rack space available for gear to support a future 40/17m HF Robust Packet (RP) port for user access and likely some eventual linking to the 7-land BBS. We will cross that bridge when the time comes.

Ports that are safe bets long term?  The 70cm 9.6k and 220 1.2k primary ports and the 10m RP port. They are key to our operations and historically seen the most “real” usage over the years.

 

 

K4KPN-14 Winlink RMS Future?

I would expect a shutdown notice for it in the coming weeks. No date has been set yet.

I would note that this does not depend upon the upcoming FCC ruling. Plus let’s face it, the first ruling will likely be just the first of many rulings needed. It’s not hard to see and connect the dots of what is really driving that mess.

Plus it doesn’t seem that many (if any) of the Winlink HF gateway operators have learned anything from this mess. Still scattered all across the digital sub-bands with more than few poor frequency choices just asking for QRM problems.  One only has to sort this list here by frequency and in many places be left asking “are they really that inconsiderate or just that incompetent/ignorant of the spectrum they operate in?”

 

73
WA4ZKO /7


FAQs – KYPN’s Stance on the Winlink vs NYU-Rappaport Clusterfudge

December 19, 2019

Ah, the Winlink versus NYU-Rappaport clusterfudge in progress. My, my, oh my what a mess the kids have made with this one.

I think G8BPQ summed up the core issue very well here:

“This is not an issue with Pactor but with FBB compression, which has been around on packet as well as pactor for over 25 years. To use it as an excuse to ban Pactor is laughable.”  John Wiseman, G8BPQ

Yeah, that John, the guy that rarely publicly comments on such things. I think I saw where even Phil Karn (KA9Q) voiced his concerns over this silliness.

 

For those asking “what if” the FCC does this or that with this Rappaport vs Winlink mess?

There are some good folks involved with Winlink. Unfortunately Winlink leadership and some of it’s HF gateway operators (and some users) have been their own worst enemy. As such many of us really struggle to feel sorry for them.

Ted Rappaport is definitely Winlink’s worst nightmare come true and a large flock of their chickens have come home to roost. That said, we are gravely concerned for all the collateral damage Ted’s poorly chosen approach here may bring to large swaths of the digital side of the hobby.

There used to be this well founded old ham wisdom about “Police ourselves, work together to solve our problems, and think twice before asking the FCC for their opinion.” Why? It has this nasty way of coming back to bite us all in our backsides.

While I’m sympathetic to some of Ted’s concerns, others are just off the charts ridiculous. Even worse it opened the doors to some more perpetually miserable, easily offended, and overly entitled kids wanting to get in on the dramafest.  Wow, all over core problems that could of been solved with some HF bandplan tweaks, Winlink leadership not ignoring ongoing complaints, Winlink HF gateways being A LOT more considerate in frequency choices, and better enforcement against flagrant abuses of our spectrum using the existing rules.

Given the spread of lack of personal responsibility and perpetual adolescence across our society today, I’m not surprised by this mess at all. Even more sadly, I suspect this is just the first legal battle on this topic. Something tells me Ted and crew are not going to give up if they don’t get the ruling they want this time around. Especially if it’s true what some think is actually driving this. All as we head into a new decade full of increasing threats to our spectrum from commercial interests that would love to see our ranks distracted and divided.

Plus let’s not kid ourselves here, Winlink is far from the only bad actor on our HF bands when it comes to piss poor operating, violations, and unnecessary QRM.  How much are you hearing about that side of things? ’nuff said.

 

Did Winlink contact you regarding the Open Message Viewer?

That question pretty much blew up the inbox for a couple weeks earlier this year. No they never contacted me regarding the Winlink Open Message Viewer or about the “A Compromise?” suggestions in one of my 2018 blog postings.

The interesting part was watching how long it took for the bulk of the ham Winlink community to realize it was out there. It was there for awhile before the news on it blew up. A lot of what followed reminded me of that old farmer saying of “If the rooster is crowing then he’s damn sure been in the henhouse.” LOL

IMHO what they did was a good start towards some needed transparency. I think a years worth of archives should be the minimal retention period. Should also be searchable by band and time/date period which would make going back to ID a QRM source a lot easier. Would even be handy for the ARRL to vet the Field Day bonus point messages having at least used some non-LTE (LOL) RF to leave the sites.

Gateway operators and members of the Official Observer program should be able to sign up for ongoing archives via email so they can archive and search for problems as needed. Now that it is undeniable that the Winlink system is being abused by some users, it seems the above would be a good minimal foundation towards real transparency and deterring abusive/violative behaviors.

I have mixed feelings about putting the archives behind a login. There are ways to mask out email addresses and PII data before serving it up publicly while maintaining the original message in case needed by the FCC.

 

For those I saw commenting “our served agencies are going to freak out over that Open Message Viewer”

Well that’s on you. You clearly oversold yourselves and the system to your served agencies. Anything that sensitive should of never been going over Part 97 airwaves to begin with. You don’t have to say “yes” to everything they want and frankly you shouldn’t be doing so.

It’s NOT the job nor the proper role of ham radio to routinely be the “Plan B” they should already have. Be the backup for their backup and make it clear what you can and can’t do for them.  Undersell, over deliver not the reverse. Learn to say “no” to folks that just want you to save them some budget money for backup comm gear they should already have.

We are the Amateur Radio Service not the Emergency Radio Service so know where draw that line. Hint, hint the FCC has previously reminded us of that.

 

The K4KPN-14 RMS Gateway’s future?

I suspect its days are numbered. Regardless, rest fully assured that I will not loose a single tear as I edit the config file on the Jonesville node/app stack to disable the RMS functions and restart things. You may well hear a “thank you lord” shouted from the radio room LOL. Those that followed the old blog know that I’m not exactly a big fan of Winlink.

The RMS gateway app on that BPQ32 node stack has been and continues to be an optional component of our local AuxComm digital plan in that it “might” be handy in some limited cases. That was turned on after hints and nudging from KY ARES, yet the only consistent ARES usage has been out of Ohio…not Kentucky LOL. Don’t get me wrong, they are welcome on the system, but that’s not our primary service area. Once the Winlink Open Message Viewer and WinlinkArmageddon news hit the ranks then the already minimal usage disappeared over the summer.

Outpost against the KYPN BPQ32 packet BBS has been and always will be our primary local digital messaging strategy, nothing has or is changing there.  Frankly these fiascos of late have helped us appreciate the wisdom in building our own locally owned, locally oriented, and locally controlled internet independent packet node and BBS system.

 

Predictions on the FCC ruling?

Who knows. I want to have faith that the FCC can sort through all the noise and give us a good ruling that doesn’t cripple a radio service that is already struggling to remain relevant and facing increasing threats to our spectrum.

I’m starting to detect they may not be overly happy with the PITA the ARS is becoming for them. Remember they don’t exactly make money off us.

We also need to realize that we don’t have a Riley Hollingsworth working at the FCC anymore. One of the things that makes what Ted & Crew did so darn reckless.

A good ruling could actually bring some clarity to some of the issues brought up here.

That said, if my ARES/AuxComm/CERT team was dependent upon Winlink I would be working on Plan B for my digital messaging needs.

 

73
WA4ZKO


KYPN Status, K4KPN-14 Shutdown Rumors, ARES, NG0O, Etc

December 19, 2019

Holiday greetings from a snowy 4-land…well it tried to snow. Lots going on around here which I will not even try to cover it all in this posting. Seems like just yesterday we just got back from a long Thanksgiving out in Iowa visiting the XYL’s family and tomorrow we start packing to go spend the holidays out in 7-land. Wow, time flew by this year.

Let’s deal with some rumors and FAQs showing up in the inbox lately.

 

KYPN Packet Systems Status?

All KYPN packet radio systems that were online last summer have been online all of 2019 and remain so as of today. Preventive maintenance was done back in the Spring and all systems are running fine.

Update:  Dec 19th – PM done. I tested all ports, QRP (4-5w)  mobile from 24 miles out, all functioning fine. Quick check on service monitor shows all radio gear operating fine,. Antennas checked, 10m port showing signs the surge suppressor might be failing, replaced, all is fine there.  441/223/28 MHz ports are the most used, all are in great shape. The 10m/6m/2m noise floor remains extremely low so excellent Rx range. 2m port often hears stations over in WV.

The “Orange” sheet for the packet system was updated in July and can be found here in PDF format. The public and internal County ICS-217a forms were refreshed in July and have been distributed as appropriate. New Outpost and BBS/Node cheat sheets were laminated and distributed as appropriate.

For those wondering about the color names?  We print many of the cheat sheets we use across our EOC, MCP, and go-kit documentation binders on colored paper to make them easier to find when needed. Examples?  A ham ICS-217a = red, PS/AuxComm 217 = blue, NTS = yellow, etc.

Some may of noticed that everything is being phased over to the club callsign (K4KPN). There is no need to read anything into that like some have. Nothing more than just part of our forward planning towards the day we fully retire out west and others will be taking over daily control op responsibilities.

Yes blogging has been very scarce and sporadic. No need to read anything into that. Frankly one should get used to that. I’ll try to post more in the coming winter months, especially if we decide to “winter” in 4-land again this year.

 

K4KPN-14’s Future?

Some have heard that we are shutting K4KPN-14 down on December 20th. Shutdown of the RMS (only the RMS functions) on the Jonesville node/app stack has been discussed, but no final decision has been made.

None of our local KYPN crew, FD/EMA, and CERT/AuxComm folks here are even interested in Winlink so its future has been a big ? for awhile now. Some of it is they were never interested in it and some not wanting to get near the black cloud that hangs over Winlink lately. If we need email access then we have a long list of ways to access that. We are far more concerned about what happens if the internet is down or is too hostile to be used and we have a heavy messaging need well suited to digital transport.

Outpost against the KYPN BPQ32 packet BBS has been and always will be our primary local digital messaging strategy, nothing has or is changing there.  Frankly these fiascos of late have helped us appreciate the wisdom in building our own locally owned, locally oriented, and locally controlled internet independent packet node and BBS system.

 

K4KPN-15 2m APRS Digipeater/I-Gate Shutdown Plans?

The only system we currently have any shutdown plans for is the K4KPN-15 2m APRS Digi/I-Gate. It is no secret that has been coming and many months (actually over a year) worth of notice has been given. This may be part of the rumor mill confusion regarding K4KPN-14 RMS.

Current plans are to turn K4KPN-15 off in late January 2020, maybe early July 2020 at the latest depending on how much longer I need to keep leasing it’s current home location as part of my day job needs. Have no doubt that its days are numbered. If there is enough 2m APRS interest in the area then hopefully some others will step up and run the needed infrastructure for it.

 

Are you still involved in KY ARES?

No I have not been active in KY ARES since around 2016. If nothing else was at play here, I wouldn’t have the time to commit to it even if I wanted to. Plus given my family plans there is little need for me to get involved in 4-land ARES when I’m scarce here and will become more so as time goes on.

I have a completed AF MARS application here in the office waiting on a date and signature. That will be the direction I go in when time allows for such a commitment after we get settled into retirement.

Locally our county, like many others, is going down the CERT/AuxComm team road. It has an amateur radio component and I’m helping facilitate that when and where I can. Our EM wants a well trained and well vetted (the felon and sex offender problem in our ham ranks is becoming an increasing concern) team of guys/gals ready to fit into an AuxComm environment more effectively than a group with to many unknowns.

KY ARES is suffering from a long list of problems and challenges that could be a lengthy blog posting alone. Let’s just boil it down to a lack of participation, lack of credibility, and obsessing over things not worthy of much (if any) attention when compared to the mission and current preparedness levels.

Lot of “wearing the hat, but not the boots” and tons of “all hat, no horse” as we say out west. Toss in some bullying (lets call it what it is, you should see an email that I was given a copy of, wowzer) of both ranks and critics and it’s not hard to see why participation is so low in state with nearly 10k hams. Actual relevant training and on a air practice of that training is MIA and what’s there is often counterproductive. Results of last major exercise revealed several problems including  basic message handling failures. It is what it is.

There are some good folks involved in places, I wish them well, but as a whole KY ARES has unfortunately have fallen into the same traps of the past.  I’ll leave it at that.

 

Seems 2019 vindicated your preaching about the coming spectrum threats.

I was not the only one warning of what is coming so nothing to vindicate. Yes “is coming” is exactly what I meant to say. What we’ve seen thus far is nothing compared to the spectrum sucking monster that is coming. The days of us being so lazy and complacent towards spectrum utilization must come to an end.

Soapbox warning……

Newington needs to stop the “quantity over quality” approach that is helping lead us down a road of ever decreasing relevance. We are not going to keep our spectrum just so a bunch of appliance operators can play with internet linked toys, contest, and DX. Not saying those are bad pursuits (I enjoy the last two myself), but they’re not going to keep a healthy sized band chart on our hamshack walls.

That said, if you are a U.S. ham radio operator and you are NOT a member of the ARRL….then shame on you if you don’t change that. Yeah I get it, I detest some of what they are doing but right now they are the only unified voice we have in Washington.  The last thing we need as we head into the new decade is a weakened ARRL. Plus it seems when they struggle for membership they become more open to dumb ideas LOL.  Yeah, pinch your nose, take a stiff drink, write the check and join.

AMSAT needed to get back to dreaming big a decade ago. Enough of the endless 2m/440 FM voice toys. Let’s get some serious birds up there that are truly useful for emergency and remote communications. Imagine where we’d be at if we had a few modernized 9600 baud store-n-forward birds up there?  Imagine if some of them had nice microwave data forwarding links on them?

Imagine if the crew that went into KP4 was able to fire up a D710 or D72 radio, a tablet, and modest antennas and not be screwed if there is a useful attachment because they had the speed to handle it. Imagine the field teams using D710/D72’s at 9600 back to the San Juan via a bird, then San Juan also has a multi-megabit microwave satcom link back stateside? Yeah that’s easier said than done, but we didn’t even try working towards it?  Available spectrum is not on the list of challenges here…well at least for now.

I look at something like the OtherNet box I installed this summer at a friend’s cabin in in southern Idaho. A 12 GHz LNB, no dish needed, just a freakin’ LNB strapped to a rail with some plumbing strap and pulling down a clean 20 kbps stream 24×7 of useful information for a remote location. Cell service is on the other side of the mountain (literally) so just the news feed alone is handy. Even as limited as OtherNet is one has to wonder why we hams don’t already have something similar to it.

AREDN, you guys were warned about focusing so much on the “easy” (and increasingly noisy) 2.4/5 GHz band approaches. Imagine where we’d be at if we’d focused a lot more on some of the other bands vs just letting them languish. My what we could of done with just 1.2 and 3 GHz makes one want to cry.

In case you haven’t noticed we’re going to have to start ACTUALLY justifying our spectrum going forward. A node on the air isn’t going to count for much minus actual usage data. Defensive arguments based upon theoretical or possible future uses of spectrum we are not using much (if at all) equals spectrum we best get ready to scratch off our band charts.

For the Ham Internet toy folks, how are you going to feel as we loose good chunks of our VHF/UHF bands? How are you going to feel when “they don’t need all that link/aux spectrum, they are already doing more and more of it over the internet vs RF anyways” is one of the compelling arguments the commercial interests use against us? May I suggest using a lot more Ham Radio and a lot less Ham Internet.

We have simply become too lazy, cheap, and apathetic towards real radio communications to survive much longer. Too many appliance operators, too few communicators. Even fewer with much useful technical talent beyond running to their favorite search engine to copy the work of others versus taking a manual and actually learning something. Well those lazy chickens are just starting to come home to roost. If we don’t snap out of this soon we’re going to be setting around wondering “what the hell happened to our hobby.” I used to think we had about 15-20 years left, but I’m starting to think that is a bit too optimistic.

The days of commercial interests thinking “don’t bother even asking about the amateur spectrum” is changing over to “it’s time they start justifying what they have or give it up to those that can put it to uses that better serve the public interest.”

Let there be another lackluster response like post-Katrina and brace yourself for a full on onslaught against all our spectrum.  Hint, they are doing their homework on our spectrum while we are doing what? Fighting over antiquated symbol rate silliness. Plus I’m sure all that symbol rate headache we’re causing the FCC is doing wonders for how they feel towards “the hams and all their valuable spectrum.”

We’ve gone from being respected by the commercial radio world to often being LOL material tying up way too much valuable spectrum. One doesn’t need much imagination to hear the arguments coming, we’ve done a wonderful job of providing them the ammo they need to come raid what they want.

Heck, one doesn’t have to read much between the lines of recent news to realize that our 3 GHz allocation is ALREADY gone. I don’t think I’ve seen a more thinly disguised “they want it, we’re taking it for them, thank you, you kids can feel free to formally pout about it if you want” NPRM in 30+ years.  Wowzer, OMG the precedent this is going to open up here stateside.

Wake up, pay attention, ignorance will not be bliss much longer.

 

What do you think of the NG0O murder case?

Obviously a tragedy. A major loss on many levels. A good reminder of how domestic violence can easily turn deadly.

As far as some of the good father or bad father allegations that are out there in public?  Who among us is a perfect Father? Sure there’s always a little room for a surprise in these things, but nothing justifies murder and the dots are not hard to connect here regarding what most likely happened.

I realize this seems completely out of fashion in our society lately, but let’s try waiting for all the facts to come out after a proper investigation has completed before passing much judgement.   #GoodFreakingGrief

Sorry, maybe I’m a tad jaded but my first instinct is to not trust anything coming from the mouth of a felon that just confessed to a murder after being caught fleeing the scene. If that’s not enough go read the existing DVO against him.

For the knuckleheads trying to make it anti-gun? Zero evidence of any gunfire involved. All evidence points to Marvin being killed with a hammer, a freaking hammer. Suspect we’ll find out that if he would of had a gun handy he might still be with us. Never mind it was good guys with guns that brought his killer in to face justice.

 

 

I’ve seen you out on the reservation. Arapaho or Shoshone?

Neither of those. I have a family there that I’m friends with that I met on a work project out there. We’ve spent a few nights with them there on the Res since the Iowa to NW Wyoming portion of our roadtrips is a wee bit too much for one day’s driving LOL.

I’m part Seneca Indiana via my Grandfather on my Dad’s side. A very distant descendant of Chief Strong of the Buffalo Creek Reservation. Family rumor is I likely have some Cherokee in me via my Grandmother’s family but she never wanted to talk about it.

Unlike a certain politician I don’t try to “gain” from it even though I suspect my bloodline is considerably thicker than her PPM levels LOL. I never lived their life or struggles so I would never try to profit off it. It’s just part of my ancestry and something my late Father and Uncle got me interested in. The other half says it explains my affinity towards horses and why riding into the backcountry to go fishing/camping is “Jeff’s happy place.” Guilty as charged LOL.

 

A true Wyomingite has a Wyoming worthy Rifle, what is yours?

Gee, never heard that before LOL.  Actually we both fit well into the rules of Wyoming worthy calibers…..those calibers that start with either a number 4 or 357 LOL.

Rifle = it depends. Trunk gun is usually an AR-10.  An old .444 Marlin lever-action is usually in my saddle scabbard and backed up by either a Glock 35 in .40sw or a Sig P320 in .357 Sig if needed. The other half is fond of her Henry lever-action in 357 Magnum and her work HK USP in .40sw. All go into the backcountry appropriately loaded with “hot-n-heavy” handloads well suited to intense final negotiations with a large angry or hungry 4-legged problem if it comes down to that.

 

Word is you camp in a real teepee?

Sometimes. A friend down in on the WY/CO border has one they built next to a private lake. The fishing isn’t that great, but the views there are awesome. They built it primarily for a hunting camp.

Don’t laugh, a well designed teepee is a great camping shelter, even in cold weather. It’s actually a pretty neat camping experience so don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

For the radio geeks….the top makes a decent antenna support and offers a couple easy feedline entrance options LOL. Hey most see top poles merging, I see antenna mast 😉

No, I haven’t done any sweats, put on war paint, wore a headdress, or smoked a peace pipe (I have one)…..yet LOL.

That’s enough for now.

 

73
WA4ZKO

FAQ:  I’m Interested in APRS but I Have Security Concerns With It.

December 19, 2019

A common question regarding APRS is the security risks of putting your home, car, etc on a public map. I tend to think a lot of that concern is over-blown, but the risks are not zero. I know that some of the recent ham gear thefts, including some high profile ones have understandably created some legitimate physical security concerns across the ham radio community.

As someone with a LE background I can tell you that most vehicle burglaries are more spontaneous crimes of opportunity versus targeted thefts. If your vehicle is targeted by a thief then they probably just saw your visible antenna collection or they walked by and saw radio gear that you left in plain sight just asking for a smash-n-grab.

Home and business burglaries are the ones more likely to be targeted efforts. Often there will some searching for targets and “casing” them prior to the crime. Still I wouldn’t worry too much about a home station on an APRS map when you have a radio tower or antennas visible from the road LOL.

That said life will never be a zero-risk adventure. The wise will mitigate risk as much as practical then plan for and insure against the rest.

If you have serious security concerns about being active on APRS there are many things you can do to help minimize risk/exposure. Obviously how much or how far you should take some of these ideas will vary and depend upon your particular risk profile.

 

1.  Take advantage of position ambiguity. You don’t have to use high accuracy position data in your beacons. Some of the APRS capable radios, software, and even some GPS systems can run with reduced precision. Part of my commercial gear has a GPS output that I can limit the resolution of and even which particular GPS sentences it outputs. I often take advantage of it for my Tracker’s GPS feed then use a separate GPS system for high accuracy full-time navigation needs.

For fixed (non-moving) objects maybe consider just manually adjusting things to plot at another nearby location.

 

2.  Consider getting a PO Box or using another address for your public FCC data versus listing your full home address.

 

3.  Neighbors looking out for neighbors is a powerful tool. When we lived over in town we were on a good street, but the next ridge over was a source of some concern when we were not home.

Now both QTHs are in very low crime areas and we have great neighbors. We all stay in touch and have a good feel for who and what is normal or not. A retired state trooper and detective both live down the road plus a deputy sheriff living up the road from our 4-land QTH doesn’t hurt either.

We are also blessed to have have a retired elderly neighbor that spends most of her day by a window that overlooks our 4-land place. We often joke that she probably knows more about what is going on there than we do.  I have received a call when a FEDEX delivery guy spent too long in the driveway for her liking LOL.

 

4. Install good physical and electronic security in and around your home.

Our former 4-land home was a lease and we couldn’t install a wired security system. Plus decent affordable wireless systems had not hit the market yet. Today it’s a whole different game.

One of the first things I did this year with the 4-land QTH was to beef up both automation and interior/exterior electronic surveillance of the house and property.  It’s handy for more than just security and paying for itself in a multitude of ways including 7% off our homeowner’s insurance.

 

5. Beacon upon departure from a location versus your arrival when parked in strange or high risk areas.

I use this approach a lot since it fits well with how I operate HF when on the road since I’m usually swapping the 60m/30m antennas for the smaller 6m antenna used when mobile in the car.

You can also turn off your beacons just prior to arrival. Or as the other half likes to say “turn off the tracking collar” LOL.

 

6. Don’t be “daily predictable” in your movements if you don’t have to. Actually good advice for more than just your movements on APRS if you feel you are at higher than normal risk.

 

7. Think twice about mounting clearly visible GPS and radio control heads up on top of your vehicle’s dash for the whole world to easily spot.

 

8.  Use simple camouflage techniques.

Put a ballcap over that GPS puck on the dash when parked.  Get a towel that matches the interior color of your car. Use it to cover up your radios while parked. This works especially well if you have them mounted down low or in the console….I use this often.

 

9.  Learn “gray man” techniques. Don’t make yourself or your vehicles stand out from the crowd. Blend in, don’t unnecessarily attract attention.

Don’t have “please burglarize me” signs/decals on your vehicle. Think twice about those decals that advertise you have valuables inside. Take the ham radio and car audio decals off your car. You are advertising that you likely have valuable electronics inside. Yes for some of you with mobile antenna farms on your vehicle those decals may be the least visible part of the equation LOL.

 

dont_be_this_guy

Don’t be this guy. #OhDear

 

Evaluate your antenna needs. Do you need that big shiny fancy looking (to a thief), easy to spot across the parking lot high gain mobile antenna or would you be just fine with a flat black painted 1/4 wave spike or similarly sized dual-band antenna? Maybe use a compatible mount and keep the bigger antennas in the trunk for when you really need them. Trust me, a well located and fed 1/4 wave spike will work just as well as a poorly located high gain mobile antenna. A few dB of gain doesn’t help if it’s not going in useful directions. I’ve seen my share of “nice high gain antenna, shame you wasted it that way” installs.

For the firearm enthusiasts in our ranks consider taking those NRA/GOA or Glock/Sig/etc decals off your vehicle. Many of your fellow firearm owners and law enforcement appreciate that you enjoy legal firearm ownership, but also cringe when they see those. Why? You are advertising to thieves that there is probably a firearm inside your vehicle. A stolen radio is bad enough, but a stolen firearm is a risk to public safety for what should be obvious reasons. Own it, respect it, secure it, …..your responsibility.

Don’t leave valuable items unsecured in parked vehicles if you don’t have to. Yes vehicle alarms are a good idea, but depending upon the situation they may not help you with a smash-n-grab. Quick question…did you even do more than a glance (if that) the last time you heard a car alarm going off out in a parking lot?

Consider installing a vehicle safe to put things behind a second serious lock. FYI – the locks on factory glove boxes and center consoles will barely slow down a thief and those are the first two places they will look once inside your vehicle.

 

10.  This is a biggie that many people are walking failures at. Practice good situational awareness (SA). Good SA will not only help you avoid becoming a property theft statistic it will also help with your personal safety.

Get your head out of that damn cellphone and pay attention to your surroundings when out in public. Learn to pay attention to your gut instincts. Did that out of place car just go by again? Why is that guy wearing a coat in hot weather? Is that guy approaching us acting odd? Was that really a magazine salesman knocking on the door or a scout for a home burglary crew checking to see if anyone was home?

When pulling in somewhere to park take a look around as you choose a spot. Is that group of rowdy kids over there just having fun on a Friday night or are they a pack of trouble brewing? Don’t park in high risk areas if you don’t have to. Park near security cameras in well lit central/front areas of a parking lot, not some dimly lit or dark corner.

Good SA will not only help you avoid becoming a property theft statistic it will also help with your personal safety. This doesn’t mean you live in fear or operate at DEFCON 2 all the time. You just live prepared, observant, and take a few easy steps to help reduce risk.

Those looking for trouble are not much of a problem to those ready for them.
The late Patrick Swayze line from the Road House movie.

Or you can stick your head in the sand and operate under the “ignorance is bliss, bad things never happen to good people” illusion and take your chances.

 

73
WA4ZKO