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.


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


K4KPN-15 APRS Digi/I-gate Outage

November 15, 2018

Update 11pm local: 

  • K4KPN-15 has been back on the air since around noon local time.
  • The Dry Ridge site lost its primary internet feed due to an extended power outage impacting an upstream distribution facility. The site was quickly failed over to a backup connection via the inter-site Canopy WAN. Another good test of “Plan B” procedures and resources. Also a reminder of the dangers of using the internet as your backbone minus a lot of redundancy.  What is your Plan B and C?
  • Also a good lesson that just because you have generator power doesn’t mean other adjacent 3rd party systems will have the same. Don’t be lazy, plan accordingly.

 

—- original post —-

K4KPN-15 is temporarily down due to widespread ice storm related power outages in the region. As previously noted that site has no backup power nor is it considered a priority site for power/service restoration.

The Dry Ridge site (K4KPN-10) remains online even though it has transferred to generator power twice in the last few hours due to the controller not liking the input power quality. Guessing the grid feed there is just barely holding on. Well at least we have our first real world storm induced test of the recently repaired transfer switch 😉

The Jonesville East site (K4KPN-1,-4,-6,-13,-14) has alarmed a few times due to power fluctuations, but all gear there remains fully functional with the UPS systems handling those brief brownouts/drop-outs. Security cameras show significant icing on the antennas and trees there, but I have seen worse.

Obviously expect the usual signal degradation from iced up antennas. Remember that depending upon the design and band involved, ice accumulation tends to degrade antenna efficiency and drop the resonant frequency to varying degrees.

Talking with my Dad and friends there the predicted “trace” of ice turned out to be considerably more than just a trace. A client said the sounds of limbs cracking and transformers exploding started around 1am and intensified into the early morning hours. Judging by the reports and outage maps the Cincinnati area is dealing with the impact of a serious ice storm.

Judging by radar the freezing rain is almost out of the area. Once that stops and the temp stays above freezing things have a chance of melting off. Telemetry shows 32.2F at K4KPN-4 and hopefully that will start climbing soon.

Welcome to Winter 2018-2019. While snow and power outages are commonplace here, it is odd hearing about 4-land nuisance snows and a nasty ice storm during the Fall months. Makes one wonder what else Mother Nature has in store for us when Winter officially arrives.

 

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


K4KPN System FAQ

June 1, 2018

This is a work-in-progress….

FAQ #1 – Any other HF bands than 10 meters?

Answer:  Not at this time. We may add 80/40 or 30/17 meters in the future, but that is a big maybe at this time.

 

FAQ #2 – Why only 10 meters, why not a lower band?

Answer:  The 10 meter port’s primary purpose is to provide an additional coverage option for local fringe locations that even the 6 meter 1200 baud packet port struggles with due to noise/distance etc.

Remember 28 MHz behaves very much like 30 MHz VHF-Low with propagation characteristics well suited to the hills and valleys common to our coverage area. 10 meter Robust Packet fills the need.

We are not offering lower bands at this time due to the main HF antenna the site is dedicated to remote HF/VHF station use and that takes priority for now. A future site may allow for a 30/17m port, but no scheduled date of availability or guarantee on that.

 

FAQ #3 – Why Robust Packet, why not one of the soundcard modes?

Answer:  We have not found soundcard modems to be reliable enough for 24x7x365 use at a remote site. It is one thing if the system is down in your basement or over in the corner of your hamshack, but modem evaluation criteria changes when the system is miles away at a tower site. We also wanted a mode/modem that was suitable for BOTH interactive use with packet applications (BBS, Chat server, etc) and message transfers. Lot of the other modes are okay for message transfers as that was what they were designed/optimized for, but often poor choices for interactive connections.

Robust Packet is hardware modem based and gives us an excellent mode for interactive access and plenty of message transfer speed for our particular needs. It also works well with weak noisy signals, has considerable immunity to multi-path, and often works in fringe locations where the 6 meter AFSK packet port will not.

 

FAQ #4 – Is DX use of the  6 or 10 meter ports allowed?

Answer:  Yes, but please yield to any local users on QRG.  The 10 meter port beacons every 10 minutes to help detect band openings.

The 6 meter port beacons an APRS compatible beacon every 5 minutes to help detect band openings. The 6m port also functions as a WIDE1-1 APRS digipeater.

 

FAQ #5 – What is WYJAC, BBSJAC, etc?

Answer:  WYJAC (WA4ZKO-4) / BBSJAC (WA4ZKO-1) is a test/dev node and BBS at our 7-land QTH. The Dry Ridge site is linked to it over a private network, thus you will see those nodes/applications showing at times. It will also allow migration/expansion of the KYPN packet network and applications later on down the road.

Please do not leave messages on the WA4ZKO-1 BBS as it is just a test BBS for now.  Please leave all messages on the K4KPN-1 BBS unless instructed to do otherwise.

 

FAQ #6 – Is telnet access available?

Answer:  Yes, but it will be considered on a case by case basis. For now it is restricted to those with access to the inter-tower KY<>WY VPN LAN/WAN network. Those within VHF/UHF range will be required to have a functional and actively used “RF” packet station before telnet access will be considered. The goal of the packet BBS is to provide a RF only messaging system, not breed laziness and apathy towards having effective RF access.

Yes having a Winlink RMS gateway on the system kind of conflicts with the above LOL. It is secondary to the conventional packet systems. Trust me, it took some convincing for me to even offer it, especially on VHF/UHF.

The K4KPN-14 Winlink gateway is on “probation” as far as I’m concerned. If it’s not used then it will eventually be turned off. If it becomes a PITA in terms of admin or abuse then it will be turned off. Many said they wanted it, now we’ll see if that was just talk and how it will be used 😉
 

FAQ #7 – Does the KYPN systems have backup power?

Answer:  The K4KPN-10 HF RP APRS I-Gate/Digi is at a secure tower site with backup power options.

The K4KPN-1 (BBS), K4KPN-4 (Node), K4KPN-6 (6m digi/I-gate), K4KPN-13 (chat svr), and K4KPN-14 (RMS) systems are located on a private tower site near Jonesville. This site has short term battery bank backup in place to allow it to stay online till manual transfer to an on-site generator.

The K4KPN-15 2m APRS I-Gate/Digi is located in Williamstown. The station has very limited battery backup. Normally it will be shut down during an extended power outage. It should NOT be counted upon for emergency uses. Also note current plans are to decommission it in January 2020.

 

To be continued….

WA4ZKO