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:
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.
“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
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.
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.