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 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.

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.


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.

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 where 6 meter AFSK packet 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 / BBSJAC is a test/dev node and BBS at my Wyoming QTH. The Dry Ridge site is linked to it thus you’ll see those nodes/applications showing at times. Please do not leave messages on the WA4ZKO-1 BBS, again it is a test BBS for now.  Please leave all messages on K4KPN-1 (netrom alias BBSNKY) unless instructed to do otherwise.


FAQ #6 – Is telnet access available?

Answer:  Yes, but it will be considered on a case by case basis. Those within VHF/UHF range will be required to have a functional “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 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 considerable commercial grade backup power on stand-by.

The K4KPN-1 K4KPN-4 K4KPN-13 K4KPN-14 systems are at another 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 (few minutes) battery backup. Normally it will be shut down during an extended power outage. It should NOT be counted upon for emergency uses.


To be continued….


K4KPN-10 Robust Packet I-Gate / Digipeater Update and APRS-IS Gotchas

May 26, 2018

K4KPN-10 has clearly benefited from the combination of antenna system repairs and noise floor (NF) reduction work at the site last Fall. Performance is back to what one would expect from it.

For those that ask why Robust Packet? One word….performance. Below is a screencap of what the 30m RP APRS world looks like from the Kentucky gate’s perspective over a few days.


K4KPN-10’s view of the 30m Robust Packet APRS world. Why RP? One word….Performance.

Around 25 to 30 of those stations on there have been heard direct on RF at some point. Single hop stateside coverage is easy. Europe is in to some degree nearly every evening and EU mobiles are often heard. Even the challenging polar path over to RT9K-15 is in there at times.

I’m hesitant to use APRS-IS for serious coverage analysis since it doesn’t begin to reflect everything heard on RF, especially on HF. Regardless K4KPN-10’s “heard” and “heard by” data is interesting:


APRS-IS perspective on RP HF APRS stations heard by K4KPN-10 so far this month.


APRS-IS perspective on RP HF APRS stations that have heard K4KPN-10 direct so far this month.

Yes some of the soundcard modems will do good work on 300 baud AFSK for single hop HF APRS and some occasional DX can get through. Some can do even better with bit fixing. The problem with bit fixing (guessing) is it breaks spec and can easily cause corruption if done too aggressively even on APRS. Thus why we so often trace corruption on the VHF APRS feeds back to soundcard modem equipped gates. Even with bit fixing the limitations of 300 baud AFSK become apparent over long haul DX paths.

Where Robust Packet shines is it uses Pactor-III like modulation that allows error correction without breaking spec. RP offers good noise immunity and deals with the multi-path on long haul DX packets better than a typical AFSK modem can.  Since RP uses space and power efficient dedicated hardware it is also well suited to stand-alone portable/mobile tracker uses without the need for a PC/laptop.

Robust packet is a mode and hardware built from the ground up for improved performance on HF and well suited to HF APRS. DX reception is not occasional, it is commonplace. I admit to sort of taking 4,000+ mile APRS DX as NBD till one of the HF AFSK guys sent me a “holy $#@$ what are you using that hears across the pond nightly” email LOL.

For those asking “where is K4KPN-10 hearing RT9K-15? Oh it is in there on RF, but due to his gate configuration it’s going to be difficult for stations other than a few lucky EU gates to ever get credit (APRS-IS perspective) for hearing him.


RT9K-15 being heard direct at K4KPN-10.

Well here is an opportunity for a good lesson on the flaws of assuming APRS-IS gives a complete picture of what is going on at the RF level.

It is important to realize that APRS-IS does dupe checking. If I-Gate A and I-Gate B hear the same packet only one of them can get credit for it from the APRS-IS perspective. Which one gets credit? The first one that gets that packet to APRS-IS. The one with the lowest latency to the APRS-IS system.

If you run an I-Gate or home APRS system on both IP and RF you can easily screw yourself with bad timing values. The RT9K-15 I-gate is doing something that will make it very hard for coverage analysis via APRS-IS. It appears to be aggressively beaconing to APRS-IS every few minutes? I’m told that it is heard often in EU, but rarely does an EU gate get credit for it in the eyes of APRS-IS. This tells me it is probably making the 2nd mistake of beaconing to APRS-IS and RF at the same time. This means even if another gate hears his packet on RF then it’s unlikely outside of internet congestion on his link that another gate can decode that packet off RF and inject it into APRS-IS before his internet beacon gets into APRS-IS.

Another problem this creates for APRS-IS analysis is it throws the packet counts off on the above pages. A good example is it shows a monthly total of 5 packets for DF1CHB /AM.  He was in direct on the eastern USA I-gates for hours earlier this morning, but also hitting EU gates so NOAM will only get occasional credit for gating him even after dozens of packets gated in. Tonight he is airborne over Serbia and K4KPN-10 is hearing him direct like clockwork on 30 meters:


DF1CHB /AM over Serbia and coming in on 30m robust packet almost as if he’s a local on VHF LOL.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a complaint towards APRS-IS. It’s just how the system works and how it has to work. It’s just important for APRS operators to understand that APRS-IS doesn’t give you the full RF picture due to the necessary dupe checking going on. This is especially true on HF where the same packet can easily be heard by multiple I-Gates hundreds or thousands of miles apart.

Also noteworthy that some stations run beacons marked “RFONLY” or “NOGATE” paths. A properly configured I-Gate will not gate those beacons into APRS-IS. This is another gotcha if you’re trying to get a full picture of RF level activity via APRS-IS based systems and apps.

Recommendations based upon lessons learned here if you are interested in getting decent coverage analysis via APRS-IS?

  1. There is normally no need for an APRS station to position beacon on their internet port (APRS-IS) more than once or twice an hour unless it is moving. Serves no useful purpose for fixed stations and it only adds to the cumulative load on the APRS-IS system.
  2.  I-gates should consider beaconing on their internet port at a rate of just under 60 minutes.
  3.  Avoid beaconing via RF and internet ports at the same time.
  4.  If you are not moving, then you don’t need to be pounding the heck out of the RF side either. 2-3 RF beacons an hour from a fixed station is more than enough to keep you on most maps and fresh in APRS-IS for messaging/gating purposes if you are in range of an I-Gate.