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


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


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