Field Day 2020, APRS, Updates, and Civil Unrest

June 26, 2020

Well like many things in 2020, Field Day 2020 is going to be different this year.

I actually think it’s a good thing. For many groups Field Day has become way too much of Yet Another Contest (YAC) and a reset would be healthy.  I remember hearing some guys fussing last year about how Field Day just wasn’t as fun as it used to be and too much work to pull off. Sorry guys, but Field Day is like Christmas. If you’re tired, stressed out, and sort of glad that it is over with then you’re doing it wrong.

While the ARRL has hinted along these lines, consider doing something different this year. Maybe do something more off-grid EMCOMM realistic than YAC (Yet Another Contest) like operation. Maybe pack your gear up and go operate off battery or generator somewhere where you have to improvise more. This could be nothing more than going out in the back yard, a park, mobile on a high point, activating your favorite camping spot, etc etc.

Maybe do more than the usual SSB/CW stuff and also test your digital/packet modes off-grid.  Maybe pass some P2P traffic/messages over digital.  Maybe see if your state STM will guard some HF frequencies on a schedule for incoming P2P traffic. Try getting that message and acks/replies from point A to B without ANY internet transport while operating off backup/emergency power.

I often come across EMCOMM operators that constantly pick the lazy way of doing things commenting “well if power is out and internet is down I’ll just do this or that.”  Sorry but talk is cheap so go out and do it. See if you can actually do it fully off-grid during the optimal conditions of “normal” times.  Those that have worked a few real world disasters will tell you that if you haven’t actually tested things under realistic conditions then you are just asking for “I didn’t think about that” gotchas and quality time with Uncle Murphy later on when you really need things to work.

 

Summer Plans?

Well I’ve been bachelor’ing it for over a week now. Ah man it’s freakin’ amazing what one can get done when left alone for more than an hour! LOL The XYL went back to work on a long trip that will end in Denver. From there she’s taking a rental down to her family’s place in Iowa to visit with them till I get several items wrapped up here and head west in a few weeks.

Given what is going on now all our plans are “soft” this year but we both are suffering from serious mountain-time withdrawal LOL. Given the Festival de Crazyville going on lately it looks like a really good summer to go disappear into the mountains where it’s easy to unplug from it all.

Fall will equal a lot of work helping with harvests on both family farms. So a couple months of Summer is about all the break I think we’ll probably get this year LOL.

 

My Field Day 2020 Plans?

Well last evening’s shop project was replacing the coax on my 6m slim jim style antenna (300 ohm twinlead design) from where I made the mistake of originally using solid center conductor RG-58 for the feeder on a roll-up antenna.  After a few years of being packed around and used a lot you can figure out what happened inside that coax. Hey it was all I had handy at the time, but lesson learned. Ah those things you learn from actually using/testing your gear under real usage scenarios LOL.

If weather allows I plan on going 1-B portable QRP back at a hilltop camping site on the EM78PP/EM78PQ line. Hopefully I can get some on-air validating of the repaired antenna on 6m SSB and probably work some packet too.

Right now the weather forecast doesn’t look too promising as rain is fine, but I’m allergic to lightning LOL. Unless one is looking for a Darwin Award nomination it’s a bad idea to be on top of a hill, under a tree with an antenna hoisted up into it when lightning is around 😉

 

Ham Radio Time?

Well between work and playing wannabee farmer and helping with three gardens I haven’t had as much spare time for ham radio stuff as I would prefer. Still managing to get some projects done and have some fun on 6 meters SSB and packet.  If you haven’t been on the 6m weak signal modes this Spring then you are missing out on a lot of fun.

Yes even some 6m packet/APRS DX has been flying around lately with the Conway, AR node and VA 6m APRS stations popping in at times.  Some asked if K4AF-6 is down. Judging by APRS-IS it appears to have been down since the first of the year. I also didn’t note it on the air a few months ago when visiting family in Haymarket, VA. We had a nice strong opening to that area of VA on Father’s Day (June 21st) and it was not heard but the Calverton VA digi was ripping in at times.

I worked the CQ 160m Contest on remote from my sister’s place in SC. 160m is a band that is growing on me. No VHF contesting so far this year. I know, I know but just too many other conflicting priorities so far. Kind of hoping to maybe work part of the CQ VHF Contest from the mountains, but will probably be busy keeping some fly line wet if you know what I mean 😉

Been working on upgrading station grounds and installing some outside antenna disconnect boxes for the 4-land gear. I wanted to make it easy for my neighbor hook-up or disconnect the main lightning rod HF antennas here for me while we’re gone. Normally my cousin will handle that for me on his daily visit to check on things and feed the animals for us, but wise to have a Plan B. I have considerable lightning protection in place, but the best protection is always physically unplugging things.

Another project completed this winter was to build an identical hamshack desk for the 7-land QTH and then another frame to allow mounting the gear stacked “vertically” to allow easy tear down or moving it around. The first desk I built was originally for the 7-land QTH, but it became part of the 4-land home office/hamshack.

We’ll be looking at some land this summer and considering getting an RV to live in for awhile if we find a place we buy and want to get started building. Thus a perk of keeping the radio gear in an easily moveable frame makes it easy to move things from the shack to the RV as needed. Like any good ham I have my ideas for the ultimate hamshack/geek-cave layout when we settle down and I build the “last hamshack” I’ll probably build.  For now this approach works fine and provides consistency between the shacks.

I’m also enjoying getting back in SWL’ing which was my original radio enjoyments that led me to some of my career and hobby choices. Enjoying chasing NDBs, DXing the lower bands, and chasing mediumwave DX when time allows.  Spare time project has been installing a couple nice beverage antennas for VLF and mediumwave DXing.

Having some fun on 80/60/30/17/10m robust packet at times. Yes 17m is open at times. I worked the 4-land BBS via the KY Gateway on 17m several times from WY a few months back.

One of the Spring robust packet connections ended with a surprise tail-end connection from a friend /P in Haiti that got a nice DR-7400 modem for Christmas. That link up turned into a 24 minute 10m/17m crossband chat session via the Jonesville and my home home nodes…..gotta love BPQ32 + RP LOL. Was neat to hear what was really going on Brazil (his home country) weeks before it showed up in our news here stateside.

I even worked the KY Gateway on 15m (yes 21 mhz) RP from Iowa (usually a 30/40m path) on a short skip opening. Always fun to see hat you can do with “5 watts and wire” QRP.

Yeah 40 and 30m have been the workhorse bands for a couple years now, but the higher bands are so much less crowded. So even at the bottom of a solar cycle it’s a good idea to keep an ear out for short/e-skip propagation indicators.

 

APRS Stuff

On the 2m APRS front I helped an old packet friend over in SE Indiana work on resurrecting the Dearborn County 2m APRS Digipeater.  KB9GYO-2 is online from his office in a low power configuration till he can acquire the needed gear better suited for installation back at the old original tower site.  Even the temp installation has helped improve 2m APRS coverage in NKY. 

The BPQ32 Jonesville node can technically provide APRS digi/gate functions on any or all ports just like it does on the 6m 1.2k port. Over the past few months we’ve done some testing of alternate-QRG APRS on the 2m 1.2k and UHF 9.6k ports and found that approach could work very well if needed. Since we have done some APRS on UHF simplex in the past we may test enabling APRS on the node’s UHF 9.6k port this Fall to have handy if needed. That said, the existing 6m APRS and groundwave into K4KPN-10 should cover most anything we really need.

It’s also been an interesting tool for seeing what the real world mobile coverage of the system is on UHF, 2m, and 6m using APRS setups. I need to take a 220 radio out sometime and see how well it plays across the area, but suspect it will beat UHF and slightly outperform 2m even with half the TX power as that’s what we observe on classic packet uses.

When time allows I’ll do a more detailed posting on what was observed while doing mid-day (to minimize inversion enhancement) during heavy foliage loss season. Basically reasonably solid mobile coverage (modest mobile setup) for 30+miles on 6m, 25 on 2m, 20 or so on 70cm. Note that is mobile packet coverage, not voice coverage. Takes a decent signal level to get 1200 baud packet to decode a moving mobile station, even more so for the UHF 9600 signals. So basically some worst case mobile-to-base range testing.

Even had a little 6m/10m packet groundwave DX fun the other morning while in Richmond. There’s a couple spots down there that we can hit our dispatch repeaters if the band is in decent shape while down at the academy. While eating breakfast at one of them, for giggles, I tried the 10m RP port and got in fine. So I swapped in the 6m whip and worked the BBS via both ports at 64 miles mobile to base. I had to make a meeting so I didn’t have time to try the other ports but 6 and 10 meters were getting it done that morning.

 

Is W4VPN Still on 80m RP?

Since some have asked….yes it is still there. I got into it from a pit-stop in southern Kentucky the other day as I came back from SC.

80m_W4VPN_SKY_2020June

While I can tell the 80m antenna works better on the truck than the car, it’s always fun to see what a few watts of robust packet can do. S3-4 on the mobile and I was most likely at the NF (noise floor) on the other end but still linked up.  #GottaLoveRobustPacket

Admittedly I was unable to get into it from SC, but I only had my 40/30m end fed wire antenna available there. Only had some mid-afternoon downtime available and that’s a poor time for that 80m path even with a better antenna. Plus he may of had it offline due to local weather or testing other things.

PS – John KX4O sysop’s that system. Please contact him if you have questions regarding it.

 

Protests, Riots, Crazyville?

Several interesting exchanges in the inbox lately from friends in my LE and non-LE circles. I could write a multi-volume novel on things and several aspects few consider.

My soundbite answer is summed up as “I stand with the peaceful and innocent.”

Longer version…..

As someone with an LE background whose work sometimes has him on the grounds of three different LE academies, I would offer up a caution. Many of your large police agencies are increasingly struggling with recruiting new officers. Policing now pays a heck of a lot better than it did back in my day, yet fewer and fewer folks want to pursue that career. It’s a growing problem in law enforcement across several major metro areas.

This recruiting problem has resulted in more than a few of these agencies lowering the bar on their recruiting standards. More than a few instructor friends have commented that agencies are increasingly hiring folks that they would of never hired just 10-15 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, with a good FTO and adequate supervision most of these recruits will become good officers. Unfortunately some will be walking liability time bombs poorly suited to the challenges of modern law enforcement.

Note:  We have over three quarter million police officers in this country. Most do an exceptional job of keeping our communities safe by reasonable enforcement of our laws. Are there bad apples out there? Sure there are, just like any other large group, but I think the fair minded will understand a few exceptions do not equal the rule.

 

As far as the riots go?  Well unfortunately well intended peaceful demonstrations tend to get invaded by certain criminal elements. It’s also pretty clear there’s both money and organized support feeding a lot of the criminal element.

While keeping in mind this is a few weeks old, some good food for thought within. For the hams I know Jon is a ham and think the other two are also hams. For those looking to be offended and upset by the “Roof Korean” comment, its a term they don’t mind and you need to brush up on your history studies.

 

Are there some serious problems with policing today? Yes. Are some changes needed? Yes, but a lot of what I’m hearing is not going to help. Why not? To fix a problem you have to gather all the facts and then actually identify the root problems versus just repeatedly playing politics with the symptoms and exploiting people.

Unfortunately instead “take a breath, wait for all the facts” rational problem solvers we now get an ever increasing deluge of “we gotta look like we did something” political pandering, camera whores, and frankly insulting levels of virtue signaling. Too many politicians playing distraction from their own failures while acting like they had nothing to do with the collapsing conditions in their area.

Of course our shameful political media complex is a more than willing participant in a lot of this. Hate, fear, lies, and division sells. It’s now all they have to sell. Business is good and thus they see no need to change. It is now all about ratings, views, and clicks. The full truth is increasingly the first casualty of every incident. Real journalism in the national media is increasingly rare and usually only by accident. Sad, but it is what it is.

Most of what I’ve seen offered up lately is just going to make the jobs of the “good” officers out there even more difficult. This will cause more recruiting difficulties, increase the number of officers leaving large metro agencies for other careers or smaller agencies, and add to a flood of early retirements. That’s not theoretical, it’s already happening. Several of my old LE friends comment “glad I’m retired” and others can’t wait to retire or seriously considering relocating or retiring early.

One of our newer deputies out west is from a large SoCal agency and oh the stories of political insanity he can tell. He now enjoys working a low crime area full of good hard working people that for the most part we all get along just fine. Works where he feels welcome, supported by his bosses, supported by the community, gets to be more peacekeeper than revenue generator, and doesn’t even have to be careful about where he grabs lunch or a cup of coffee while on patrol. His comment of “we should of left that sh#%2hole 10 years ago” speaks volumes.

 

The Seattle Mess?

Thankfully all my Seattle family moved out into the distant suburbs years ago.

Seattle is a good example of a once great city (one of several) that has been “circling the drain” for years now. A city in dire need of productive policy changes versus all the political denial and distraction blame games. The ongoing neutering of law enforcement is ultimately just making things worse for everyone there.

I recognize the following is a long video, but it is a rare piece of actual journalism. Worthy of at least watching the first 30 minutes of if you want some insight into what is going so wrong in several of our major cities. Warning, you are going to see some things that not easy to watch if you care about your fellow man.

To be fair to the good people of Seattle, you could replace Seattle with the name of several other cities in our country.

That’s enough for now.

73

WA4ZKO

 


7/4-Land? K4KPN-14 RMS, K4KPN-10 APRS, WA4ZKO-7 HF Gate

March 19, 2020

Greetings from the Land of Uncertainty. Hey, it is what it is.

An update to deal with some of the FAQs in the inbox. I’ll “may” go into more detail over the weekend if I get enough downtime.

 

K4KPN-14 RMS Gateway:

Early this morning I re-enabled the K4KPN-14 RMS (Winiink packet gateway) on the Jonesville node/app stack. I received some “nudges” about bringing it back considering everything going on now. While we don’t particularly need it for our local needs, I do get the case for it possibly being handy due to being located between two major cities. I was out of town and originally denied the latest request, but a family issue brought me back to 4-land briefly.

To be clear I don’t foresee this COVID-19 disaster becoming a real communications emergency that will require a major ham radio response. But there are a lot of unknowns here that only time will answer. Plenty of room for “oops, we never thought about that biting our backsides” problems to develop.

Plus there is always the possibility of another natural or man-made event developing on top of this virus disaster and cause failures or serious overload of existing strained systems. Let’s face it, the earthquake in Utah reminded us that we need to avoid getting “tunnel vision” on the COVID-19 threat.

K4KPN-14 is back on the air for a roughly 6-month probationary status. Later this summer I will review usages levels and decide if it remains available after that. #UseItOrLooseIt

I did a quick stress test of all the RF ports below except 220 as I don’t have 220 in the truck. All looked solid.

Port QRG Mode
1 441.050 9.6k
2 145.690 1.2k
3 223.660 1.2k
4 WAN
5 28.148 USB RP
6 50.620 1.2k

I’m leaving to catch a ride back west here in a bit, but will try to test the 220 port on remote this weekend when I have some downtime. The guys also wanted Serial-over-IP PWAN access to a Pactor and 1200 baud modem so we have some redundancy into the digital side of NTS if needed. That will be worked on over the weekend as/if time allows.


 

K4KPN-10 30m RP APRS Gateway’s Future?

Lot of inquiries regarding the future of the K4KPN-10 30m RP APRS Digi/Gateway’s future due to SCS announcing the EOL of the SCS Tracker DSP TNC.  Rest easy, we have no plans to shut down K4KPN-10.

The underlying component availability problems that impacted the Tracker will eventually impact some of the other older SCS models. I suspect at some point we’ll have a Gen 3 Tracker, but nothing official yet. With the Coronavirus mess on top of the lingering NYU/Rappaport mess it is safe to say SCS has other priorities for now. How all that plays out will certainly have impact on their future product lineup.

The EOL of the current SCS Tracker DSP TNC does not mean RP is dead.  Plenty of existing Tracker TNCs out there along with other modems that do Robust Packet.  There is ZERO indication that SCS is abandoning Robust Packet. The SCS Tracker DSP TNCs have proven to be reliable workhorses.

KYPN has at least one spare Tracker TNC on hand, preprogrammed, and ready to plug-n-play at the K4KPN-10 station if something happens to the current TNC. That said, we use RP elsewhere and the one on our 10m port is considered “essential” to local needs. Thus if something happened to the current K4KPN-10 TNC before a replacement model becomes available then we would have to debate utilizing our spare TNC on 30m RP APRS or keeping it for the non-APRS 10m RP port. We will cross that bridge when and if we get to that point.

 

Future Planning?

Obviously everything just got flipped on its head overnight….for all of us.

As far as KYPN’s future? If you don’t read it here or on the BBS then give it the credibility of your typical Wash’ DC politician LOL.

We are considering getting a 2nd “spare” RP TNC so we don’t get stuck with the tough decision previously mentioned. Obviously other higher priorities are at play right now, but KYPN will do it’s best to make it across the long haul ahead.

Remember KYPN is not some large formal club with a big member dues funded bank account. Unless you are super wealthy (hope you have copious liquidity right now LOL) we all are going to have to tighten up the budgets going forward for awhile.

 

Endless uncertainty about so many things right now.

I join many in deep concern (understatement of the year) about what we are likely to see happen to the NYC area and parts of the west coast here in the coming weeks. It is what it is, denying reality doesn’t change reality. The math is what it is and none of the models look pretty. That said, we will get through this.

A good one for the “It’s no worse than the flu bro” folks….

Not mine, but makes a point. I’d add that in parts of Italy the bodies are piling up in churches. The Italian healthcare system is rated the 2nd best in EU. Yeah their healthcare system has it’s share of problems, but they are a first world country.

Not that anyone is going to escape the impact of this, sure looks like Spain saw the NY/NYC mess and said “hold my beer” and royally screwed its citizens.

While it’s not an end of civilization type of pandemic, it is going to kill a lot of people across the globe and here in the states. It is time for all of us to mentally prepare ourselves for a spell of endless bad news as we witness some dark history ahead.  Don’t panic, but be prepared. Be prepared to take care of yourselves and not depend solely upon others.

Take care of yourselves and your family. Be flexible, be a team, be proactive vs reactive. We just spent the last 24 hours nearly moving heaven-n-earth to get a precious 92 year old member of the family out of a facility that we were not comfortable with him being in if things go seriously sideways in the NYC area. That after a weekend of my NYC and CT extended family turning the 4-land farm QTH into a busy B&B as they fled south to family places in the saner lands of Alabama and Tennessee.

Never imagined I’d see some of the things we’ve all seen in just the last week or so. Neighbor came over Sunday when I was packing the car, saw what I was taking and asked “you going to war or not planning on coming back?’ Told him that I usually pack against a known itinerary so this is kind of surreal. Had to pack for the possibility of having to stay and function from one of four locations for unknown periods of time.

Moving on…  Maybe we will get lucky and going “whew, we dodge that one” in a few months. Suspect we best all start wrapping our minds around the concept that things are going to get worse. Then it’s going to get even worse before it gets better.

The news today was refreshing in a way, but we still have the immediate problem to deal with this Spring and none of the math or models look good.

 

WA4ZKO-7 HF Gate

Some have inquired about if I have the WA4ZKO-7 RP HF Gateway node active. It will be active at times on QRGs like NET40R and NET30R.

Sorry I can’t provide a live schedule or the like. It is a convenience node/gateway into the local packet WAN. May or may not be available on a day to day basis since it uses my 4-land shack radio which I may need for other remote uses at times.

We are entering storm season and I’m counting on others to disconnect/connect antennas based upon local weather there. Since I don’t have a spare for the Tracker TNC on it, no storm chances will be taken with it or all the associated hardware (IC-7300, ATU, PSU, TNCs, etc).

 

Bugging out to 4-land or 7-land?

Well actually we have several options including a 0-land option at the XYL’s parents farm in Iowa. Just got the XYL back in from Chile and she’s wrapping up work this week. What’s left of their decimated (thank you virus) Spring flight schedule can be handled by the younger pilot crews that are lower risk and need the flight hours/paychecks.

For a few days we’re going to be helping her family repair some farm equipment. Like so many farms out there they have had a couple rough years and need a good year. Going to spend a few days there helping them save some money on repairs by doing it ourselves. I was going to go out and do that in April, but too many unknowns now to wait that long. Life has to go on and the crops have to be planted this Spring….well that is if we would like to keep eating.  #NoFarmsNoFood

I can Telecommute for 70-80% of what I do. We’re both blessed to be where we have some work from home-office flexibility for now.

Basically plans are open after we get done in 0-land. Maybe back to 4-land, maybe just camp out in 0-land to see how things look after a few weeks. At this point we just don’t know for sure. Obviously wise to be in a good spot in case a national lockdown occurs so travel comes with some risks. I suspect at some point we’ll see some state/regional lockdowns around some of our major cities. I really don’t want to think about what it would take to go “national” in scale and the damage that would be done.

The 7-land QTH is in a high traffic tourist haven with considerable supply chain risks, so probably not the best place to be in something like this. A friend’s QTH in S. Idaho has less traffic this time of year, but also considerable supply chain risk. We have open invitation to a friends place out on the reservation and frankly that may well be the best 7-land safe haven for something like this if it mutates again or everything really derails.

 

Seeing too much fear out there. For my American readers…. Prepare, not panic.  Buck up, this is America and we WILL get through this.  In the words of Sootch “Be Strong, Be of Good Courage. God Bless America, Long Live the Republic!”   #LetsRoll

 

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.


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

Inbox ?s Frequencies, 80 Meters?

November 5, 2018

Apparently starting blogging again after several months of being scarce results in a rash of inquiries. Since I have a rare Monday afternoon off after unpacking the car and running errands this morning I’ll tackle a couple things.

Frequency wise nothing has changed this year other than the addition of APRS to the six meter port of the Jonesville node. Below should make a good quick reference:

BPQ32 Node KYJVL - Jonesville, KY EM78PP 
Port 1: 441.0500 MHz 9.6k   (primary user port)
Port 2: 145.6900 MHz 1.2k   (user port)
Port 3: 223.6600 MHz 1.2k   (user port, low speed linking)
Port 4: WAN            (intrasite Canopy/VPN links)
Port 5: 28.1480 MHz USB RP  (user port)
Port 6: 50.6200 MHz 1.2k    (user port, APRS Digi/Gate)
 
NODE = K4KPN-4
BBS  = K4KPN-1
CHAT = K4KPN-13
RMS  = K4KPN-14

Some have asked if there will be an 80m RP port? Maybe a temporary one next Fall, but it will involve whether or not some spare gear becomes available. I’m not going to go “buy” gear just for an 80m port because it’s not going to be a viable band at the future site. Problem revolves around space constraints, local noise floors (80 is nasty there), and control op privileges.

10 meters may have to be it for HF depending on who eventually takes over daily control op responsibilities of all K4KPN gear. The two most likely future control ops are still “techs” so that plays into things – I’m doing some nudging LOL. The trustee/control op questions will be part of the decision making on what bands move to the future site. Technician class licensees can both use and be control ops of that 10 meter robust packet port above so NBD there.

 

WA4ZKO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Fall 2018 6m APRS and Misc Update

November 2, 2018

Figured I’d take this “downtime” evening in 4-land and toss together a quick update on the 6m APRS system and a status report. Note that I have several draft blog postings that I’ll try to finalize in the coming weeks. Sorry for the lack of posts, but get used to that being the new normal on here due to other priorities. Hey, you get what you pay for 😉

Well hopefully everyone had a good summer. I wound up being back-n-forth bi-coastal more than originally planned but it’s all good. It stresses the XYL at times, but like I remind her “we’re healthy, we have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, we can pay our bills, job security is not a concern, and we’re ahead of the game on retirement plans so let us realize just how blessed we are.” We recently got in from a nice Fall trip up in New England. We were a bit late for peak Fall foliage color in the inland areas, but there was some spectacular color along the coastal areas.

We stopped in 4-land for a quick work project and I needed to absentee vote this year. A longtime friend and former co-worker is running for Judge Exec and his Chief Deputy is running to fill his shoes as Sheriff. We also have a somewhat interesting statehouse race.

So I just cast what may be my last vote as a Kentuckian. The other half is an official Wyomingite so we’re heading back west this week so she can vote there. Plus we both need to get a pile of work done before holiday hustle and bustle arrives.

Hey where the heck did 2018 go to? Current plans are Thanksgiving in 4-land, then another extended family Christmas in the Idaho mountains, followed by New Years Eve in Wyoming. Hey the snow is piling up on the mountains so holiday mountain grandeur and fresh powder to play in = yes please!

Hopefully during some of the holiday downtime I can get the blog and some other ham radio documentation projects caught up for the locals. No guarantees though LOL.

Okay, moving on to some status reports….

6m APRS:

K4KPN-6/-4 was moved from the Jonesville tower site to the Jonesville “East” tower site (my personal tower) in early September after some coverage testing. The east site has a lower noise floor (better receive performance) and still meets coverage needs into the three tough to cover EMCOMM relevant locations we keep that port around for.

The K4KPN-6 6m APRS Digi/I-gate remains on the air 24×7 on 50.6200 MHz using 1200 baud AFSK and no changes are currently planned.

KI4WEF recently got his home Outpost PMM terminal on the air again from the new home he is building. He’s on a temporary 6m antenna till he finalizes how he’s going to setup his new station. His station is also beaconing an APRS compatible beacon so we have another 6m APRS station on the air.

I haven’t had time to confirm the details but scuttlebutt is 6m APRS is being used in some of the Marine Corps Marathon events. Cool eh?

 

Packet and Repeaters:

Most all the packet gear has been shifted over to the club callsign.  I just got the coordination for 444.4250+ repeater switched over to the club callsign and will reprogram it’s ID when time allows. This is all part of an evolving plan to move things over to the JFD tower site and let Greg, Lonnie, and Mark manage it once we fully retire out west.

There has been some talk about making 425 dual-mode analog/FUSION or analog/P25. The reasoning will be explained later on. It’s currently on the air from Williamstown in low profile test mode as I need to finish tweaking it. Current plans are to relocate it back to its primary site at JFD once some antenna and feedline repairs are completed there. ETA on that move = good question, probably going to be next Spring.

 

Node/BBS/RMS Shutdown plans:

Several have understandably asked if these systems will still be around in a few years. First off I’m not going to guarantee anything. I have plans but I can’t predict the future. It is just just a hobby, we don’t charge a dime in dues, we do what we do for the love of packet radio. Several silent keys and folks moving off for work/retirement reasons have left KYPN and packet activity in N. Kentucky at a fraction of what it used to be. It is what it is.

Actual local utilization will drive choices on what remains. Rack space and site integration issues at the future site will also play a role. There’s not going to be room for everything there so if I was to hazard a guess? The 10m RP, 220 1.2k, and 441 9.6k ports will be what remains. For those wondering what packet gear to invest in? There’s your answer 😉

 

2m APRS:

The K4KPN-15 2m APRS Digi/I-Gate is scheduled to be turned off January 2020. It is at a location where I lease space for my day job. I’m slowly extricating myself from my KY obligations and will not need that space come 2020.

I don’t have any free site that would accommodate K4KPN-15. Hopefully some others will step up and run some of the local 2m APRS infrastructure.

K4KPN-15’s days are numbered. Plenty of notice has been provided.

 

30m RP APRS / K4KPN-10:

While there are no current plans to shut down K4KPN-10 I am looking at moving it to a site near the VA/KY border. This is where one of my day job clients has a spare HF antenna and some rack space.

I’ve had the VA site patched into the WAN loop since July. I’ve been playing with both IP and stream feeding a spare modem on the remote radio there into K4KPN-10. Results show very little difference in NOAM and S. EU coverage and a slight improvement on the N. EU path. So that’s looking like an option I may explore further when time allows for me to run more tests from out west.

 

Well I’m beat and we want to hit the road early so that’s enough for now.

WA4ZKO


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