K4KPN-15 I-Gate & WIDEn-n Digipeater now Operational

May 8, 2018

KYPN is happy to announce a new 2 meter APRS I-Gate & Digipeater callsign K4KPN-15 is now fully operational from EM78RP in Williamstown.

K4KPN-15 is a full 2-way I-Gate and WIDEn-n digipeater optimized for 1200 baud infrastructure use. System is transmitting pre-emphasized audio and the modem is fed flat receiver audio. This configuration helps provide improved compatibility and performance with the wide range of equipment and signal quality (wink, wink LOL) found on today’s VHF APRS network.

System is running 40w to 3db at 990′ AMSL. Performance testing with just a 5 watt tracker (Kenwood TH-D72) has shown good coverage to the west, north, and east. Coverage to the south is compromised due to both the rougher terrain south of Williamstown, terrain ridges, and some obstructions blocking a clear view to the S to SSW direction.

Low power tracker coverage around the Dry Ridge and Williamstown areas is nice although on 2m APRS I suggest 25w is going to stand a better chance against the congestion heard at your local digi’s receiver. Admittedly I had to find the “sweet spot” standing outside, but I managed to tag it from New Liberty KY (17 miles) with a TH-D72 HT on stock antenna which isn’t much of a VHF antenna to begin with.

Drive tests with the D72 on a quarter wave antenna has shown expected coverage. It hears better to the north than to the south and exhibits pretty much the same coverage of our central local public safety site when the remote receivers are not helping with the various coverage challenges our terrain creates. An interesting base-to-base coverage observation is it hears the WC8EMA gate/digi 60 miles away in Lebanon Ohio as good or better than the Edgewood digi at 24 miles.

I-75 coverage for a decent 25w tracker to an efficient antenna system should begin around the 168 mile marker southward till you get down around the 144mm. It is frequently hearing hilltop mobiles up to the 182mm. This has been verified with a 5 watt tracker to 1/4 wave roof mounted antenna. If you’re struggling to get in then either adjacent area QRM is really bad that day or you need a better antenna system.

Reference the above “better setup” note. One of the common observations of many voice/data infrastructure sysops over the last 20 years has been how often you will hear/see a ham mobile station running 25-40 watt mobiles yet have the talk out range of a HT. No joking, it’s increasingly common even on VHF where things tend to be more forgiving of poor installation practices. The graphic below is a textbook example. Here we have an unnamed 2m APRS mobile running a D710 passing through on I-75. He passes three different digipeaters and looks to only have maybe 1-2 miles of range. I’m thinking someone needs to examine his system as a 5w HT on the dash would do better than this LOL. Drastic example? Yes, but it is common to see mobiles with performance not explained by being on low power (bad idea on 2m APRS).

poor_aprs_range

Pro Tip:  Forget the fancy looking high gain multi-band VHF/UHF mobile antennas and stick to more simpler designs. Most of those overpriced things are lossy as all get out, look horrible on a vehicle, have long term durability issues, and “might” perform to 50% of their hype only if mounted in the most ideal location.  For 2 meters try a simple quality 1/4 wave antenna in a good location, fed with good coax/mount, and carefully installed connectors. You don’t need to spend big $$ to get good performance on VHF/UHF, you just have to do it right.

Okay back on topic……

Current plans are to put a higher gain antenna on it late this Fall, but for now this is working out well enough and let’s see if enough stations benefit from it. The noise floor at the location is still higher (S1-S3) than I’d prefer, but much better than the nasty S5-S7 powerline noise that used to plague the site. Some of this seems to come and go with dry/wet weather so I suspect we have another bad spot in the utility lines nearby. Being located in a commercial area with numerous offices (lots of switching PSUs, LCD monitors/TVs, cheap cell chargers, etc etc) nearby I doubt this site will ever hear as well as it could for its location.

The K4KPN-15 site has limited backup power and thus should not be counted upon for EMCOMM use. It is on a unique local city managed power grid that sometimes survives when adjacent areas are down, but generally suffers far more outages than adjacent area providers. The local joke is if a cow farts too hard in an adjacent county the power goes out in town LOL.

The Dayton Hamvention is coming up soon and that will give us a good look into K4KPN-15’s I-75 coverage. Gate/digi is not really intended to cover I-71 but I suspect it will help out some.

73
WA4ZKO

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Stay Tuned

April 22, 2018

Well after two weekends worth of discussion and debate, some Kentucky Packet Systems will be returning to the airwaves soon. Not everything is returning and a lot of what is returning will only remain if it sees enough usage to justify it. This week’s projects have been tower climbs to re-feed the VHF/UHF antennas on my personal tower and tweaking the microwave links between the sites that will be used.

Our utility company recently replaced a pole next to the Williamstown building where I still maintain a minimal office/storage site. When they scheduled that I pressured for new hardware (vs just swapping it to a new pole) and better grounding. This has helped some with the nasty 6m/2m noise floor at that location. As such I’m going to see if it will be useful to have a low profile APRS I-gate there. With the loss of the KB9GYO digi last Fall, Edgewood’s limited coverage down this way, and the reduction in coverage from the Lexington digi, the area’s local 2m digi coverage is very poor now. I’m not certain how much a low profile I-gate/Wide1-1 digi in Williamstown will help, but we shall see what T&E reveals this week.

Do note that this I-Gate site will not be permanent, it will eventually be turned off.  I’m leasing that site and seriously doubt I’ll still have any need for it in a few years. The proper fix for the APRS network is a much better I-gate location and a local medium profile digipeater. Sorry but I can’t provide either and others are going to have to step up and provide better 2m APRS infrastructure. Sorry, it is what it is.

Yes the local APRS scene is in near shambles. My inbox since last summer makes it clear that I’m not the only one that has noticed. My initial monitoring of the 2m APRS network from a medium profile location quickly revealed many problems.  A lot of stuff with poor signals, misconfigured software, and of course the usual congestion from abuse/silliness on the channel from adjacent areas. My my what a mess the 144.3900 APRS frequency is anymore. I can’t imagine why I prefer the HF APRS network over the 2m APRS network for my needs LOL.

Some have asked about K4KPN-10’s future? Well I just signed a 3 year contract on two very nice fiber runs into that site and invested in a new HF radio for it last Fall. Safe to say KYPN remains committed to keeping that on the air. Plans to eventually move it to Wyoming? No plans to move it out there since it is not wise to place another HF gate there that close to Bill’s excellent gate in Montana. With VE7OI’s new gate coming online and the excellent observed performance of K4KPN-10 out that way by myself and Randy (K7LNR) it seems clear that the N. American 30m RP APRS network is best served by K4KPN-10’s current location.

With the solid internet (both fiber and dialup) at that site now, it’s proving relatively easy to properly monitor, control. and keep secure from afar which has been one of my top control op concerns. When you run stuff under the automated & remote control rules you have an obligation to monitor and keep control over anything putting RF into the air. Obviously there are no guarantees – it’s a hobby, we provide it for free – but currently KYPN has no plans to change K4KPN-10 for the foreseeable future.

Not sure how much of the local packet gear will be back online before we head back west in a few weeks. Dad’s health and my day job project list will have at least myself coming back to 4-land fairly often this summer. Plenty of opportunities to finish whatever is not completed this time around.

Last but not least, no I’m not back to stay. We will be very “bi-coastal” for a few more years for work/play and helping care for an elderly parent. That said our retirement is coming sooner or later. I like southern Idaho just as much (same quality of life and a heck of a lot cheaper) but the XYL fell in love with NW Wyoming. She recently switched the car registration, moved her business, and made herself an official Wyomingite. You can guess how our WY vs ID homestead planning conversations go….Wyoming it is LOL.

I will do another post soon detailing what is coming back permanently, some background, what is coming back conditionally, and what will be turned off in a few years.

Stay tuned!

Jeff
WA4ZKO


K4KPN-10 Antenna Upgrades Completed

October 8, 2017

After a few tower climbs to repair some lightning damage to the feedpoint the K4KPN-10 30m Robust Packet I-Gate/Digipeater is back on its primary antenna.

Thanks to a client that gave me some old LDF after we did a tower upgrade, the 9913F coax has been replaced with LDF that is much better suited to that environment. I also replaced the radio whose PA had failed so the gate is back in full TX/RX mode with much improved transmit and receive performance.  Seems to be getting out as expected and some HF noise floor reduction work at the site has yielded some serious receive SNR performance improvements.

Jeff
WA4ZKO


K4KPN-10 I-Gate Now Receive Only

June 21, 2017

As of June 20, 2017 the KYPN sponsored K4KPN-10 30 meter Robust Packet APRS I-Gate is now a RX only I-Gate.

During recent maintenance at the site, the PA in the Yaesu FT-100D radio there was found to have failed. This is the 2nd Yaesu FT-100 of mine that has suffered PA failure and I gather this is very common failure for that radio. You would think it was a post-2001 era ICOM radio LOL. In fairness this radio was purchased used and with unknown TX hours/treatment in the past. I did do the fan modification to it and it was in a cool climate controlled environment, but again I have no idea of how it was treated in the past.

I obtained this radio cheap off the used market due to a damaged display so I’m not shedding any tears over it. Since it is remote operated via CAT control the display was a non-issue. It was well suited to a “tower site” 24x7x365 radio versus putting a more expensive HF radio at a tower site that takes a few lightning hits each year.

Even if replacement parts can be found I don’t plan to fix it for several reasons. We can’t run much more than single digit power at that site and it has always suffered from “big ears, tiny mouth” syndrome (RX range far exceeded its TX range).  I’m gone from the area most of the time and a friend has been helping me keep an eye on it since transmitters operating under the “automatic” rules need to be closely monitored. There has been some past concerns with digi/beacon rate abuse on the 30m channel from 2-land and we had recently discussed just running it as a receive only I-gate. Guess you could say this event has sealed the deal on that particular discussion.

I’m not a huge fan of RX only I-Gates, but given the increasingly sparse 24×7 gate coverage here in North America the pros outweigh the cons. Maybe some dedicated soul will put up a 24×7 30m RP I-Gate in the southeast sometime. If that happens I’ll probably pull the plug on this gate or run it on another band for tinkering. We have had it on 80/40/17/6m briefly a few times for tests, but I feel the HF RP APRS network is best served by NOT “fragmenting” all over the HF bands.

 

73
Jeff
WA4ZKO


KYPN Mourns the Loss of KG4IDY

April 13, 2016

April 13, 2016:

Today KYPN mourns the loss of a loving husband, the father of two boys that any Dad would be proud of,  a ham’s ham (KG4IDY), and a kind generous man devoted to a lifetime of public service. Our hearts ache, your shoes impossible to fill, but we get some comfort knowing that heaven just inherited a true one-of-kind man.

chase_480

Jonesville Fire Department Chief Duvall. AKA 1201 and KG4IDY.

Rest in peace my friend, we “got this” down here. Your family will have all the support and prayers they need today and going forward…they are now our family more than ever.

—-

1201/9101/KG4IDY's casket returning to Jonesville from Owenton for the graveside service. The weather was perfect this weekend, the occasion so somber.  For those wondering about the duck? Don't worry, if you knew Chase then you know the story behind it.   Photo credit to B. Hearn.

April 17, 2016:   Chase’s casket returning to Jonesville from Owenton for the graveside service. The weather was perfect this weekend, the occasion so somber.  For those wondering about the duck? A local story to it, too long for posting here.     Photo credit to B. Hearn.

 

WA4ZKO