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