Recently in Amateur Radio Category

Cherohala Challenge 2012

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115 miles up the dragon and across the Cherohala Skyway. Sounds like a great ride for a motorcycle. This past weekend, over 300 people did it on bicycles!

I was one of the volunteers to provide support for these riders. I was one of six from the Blount County Emergency Radio Services group that volunteered. If you've been on this route, you'll know that very little of it has cell phone coverage, so our radios come in handy for communicating with the organizers of the event and the riders who have problems are happy to see us pull-up behind them to offer them support and gear.

This ride is particularly challenging for the ham radio team. The terrain makes communication difficult; we have to setup a temporary repeater and even then have spots where we cannot communicate with the officials at the start/finish line without relaying via some other ham on the course.

2011 was the third year for the APRS Golden Packet event.

I, along with AJ4HV and K4RTW worked the station at Clingmans Dome - the second station in the event path.

Operating Location at Clingmans Dome for the 2011 Golden PacketAJ4HV and K4RTW arrived around 9:30 AM and secured a parking spot for their truck and camper. (Precise location - when you enter the parking area, it becomes a one-way road and forms a loop; we circled around that loop and parked near the exit of the parking area.)

I arrived around 9:50 and was able to make contact with both Roan Mountain and Springer Mountain using my mobile radio on 445.925.

By that time, AJ4HV and K4RTW had the operating position inside of the camper all setup and they were beginning to set up the mast for the antennas.

I delivered two four-element beam antennas that were provided by Hugh, W4VAB. We put these on the mast and pushed them up....about 20 feet.

Station at Clingmans Dome for the 2011 Golden PacketThe radio setup was a Kenwood TM-D710 (provided by AJ4HV) running stand-alone, but connected to a PC for logging purposes. I used a terminal program (PuTTY) connected to the TM-D170 to capture the log:

By 10:51, all of the setup was complete, and I sent my first message to Roan Mountain. It was successful and ack'd.

After things were up and running, we decided to setup a second station to capture the packets and display things on a map. Unwilling to change the setup that we had with the D710, I brought out a netbook running AGWPE, APRSIS32 and AGW Monitor and connected it to an HT (IC-V8) using a sound-card interface. This worked well to show us where things were without changing the digi setup or adding any packets to the frequency. The log from AGW Monitor is also available:

Radio Equipment at Clingmans Dome for the 2011 Golden PacketThe B side of the D710 was used for voice contact on 445.925. I would also occasionally walk to my truck to send out updates from CLNGMN on 144.39 and would sometimes talk to the Roan/Springer from there (which makes me wonder if the beam antennas were really necessary).

I did not have good luck with the CQSRVR, although several attempts were made.

I did not make note of the time, but around 1 I think, we also talked with a group that went to Lookout Mountain. They were unable to get any packets to transmit, but were able to copy us on both voice and APRS.

So all-in-all, it was an easy day for us; Murphy stayed well to our north. We did have two or three rain showers pass - one of which was heavy (around 3pm), but the camper provided great shelter and we operated in comfort.

Thanks to AJ4HV for providing all of the equipment and to W4VAB for the antennas.

This was the best year so far, I hope next year we can pull it all together.
View at Clingmans Dome for the 2011 Golden Packet

This week I've been playing with setting up a Linux WinLink 2000 RMS Gateway.

I started with what I believe was a standard Ubuntu distribution.

I installed the following additional packages via Ubuntu's installation tool:

Then I configured ax25 on that computer to have one port ("radio") which is
setup as -11 @ 9600 baud with a paclen of 255 and a window of 2.

radio -11 9600 128 2 145.050 MHz (1200 bps)

The TNC was in KISS mode on ttyS0. I used the kissattach command to attach the TNC on /dev/ttyS0 to the
"radio" ax25 port.

/usr/sbin/kissattach /dev/ttyS0 radio

Then I downloaded and installed the latest version of rmsgw (version
2.0.2-111) following the installation instructions that they provide.

Then I altered the ax25d.conf file so that when someone connects to the
station -11, the rmsgw is launched. (Directions in the rmsgw setup.)

I also altered the ax25d.con file so that is a running the "node" software to which I have done very little customization.

I then installed digi_ned and configured it as a very simple digi (only responds to it's call).

I also installed the beta release of ldsped which is similar to AGWPE for Linux.
This setup is very simple, it's a binary distribution, and the customization is minimal as well, so this went very smooth.

The settings that I came away with after much testing were PACLEN of 128, WINDOW of 2.

It's not the best setup in the world with the TNC in the TS-2000, but it does will get relocated to another Ham's house and setup with a KPC3+ although with some of the issues that we've seen, he may revert it back to running Windows XP.

Open GPS Tracker

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Here's a web site that describes how to make a GPS tracking device using a GPS Module, a custom board/processor/firmware and a specific cellular phone.
Open GPS Tracker: How it works

The tracker firmware interfaces with the phone and sends the location using SMS.

Java DTMF Decoder

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This application detects DTMF "touch" tones and presents the relative magnitude of the component frequencies. And it's written in java AND runs on my computer with no modifications (that seems rare with downloaded source).

I'm planning to participate as part of the communications team to support the
3-State 3-Mountain Bicycle Ride this Saturday. The ride will start/end downtown Chattanooga (Finley Stadium).

They have 3 routes, 100 miles, 62 miles and 25 miles.

More to come...

First on my list is Argent Data Systems.

Argent Data Systems produces the OpenTracker+ and Tracker2 series APRS devices. They also stock a variety of other products for amateur radio operators and electronic hobbyists.

Next would be RPC Electronics

RPC Electronics offers a wider range of products, mostly data and audio cables for APRS and packet radio. They also offer simple serial communications testing and monitoring tools.


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During the evolution of Amateur electronic gear the power source has evolved around the automobile standard of 13.8 volts . And typically the tolerance has been set at + or - 15%. This is OK if the engine is on. One further complication is that the specification does not include the cable drop of 1 to 2 volts.
So when the engine is turned off the battery drops to 12 volts. Now 15% off of 13.8 leaves only 11.7 and another volt drop for the cable leaves 10.7 volts to run the radio. The radio is not specified to run at this voltage.
So what is needed is a car type power supply, just like at home that always puts out 13.8 volts. Hence the Electronic Battery Booster. Now if you take your radio out of the house and put it in your car it will give the same output, just as if it was connected to the power supply in the house.

GPS Gate infor from WA8LMF

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The best application for splitting ports is GPSgate from Franson Software.

This utility can split the incoming data stream from either a physical
serial port or a virtual com port created by a USB-to-serial dongle into
almost any number of virtual com ports that other programs can then use.
It can also convert to/from TCP/IP so that a com port source can be
distributed over a LAN via TCP/IP. On other PCs on the lan, copies of
GPSgate can then convert TCP/IP back to virtual com ports.

In addition, GPSgate can convert Garmin proprietary binary format coming
in on USB, to standard ASCII NMEA on multiple virtual com ports! This
allows you to use just about any Garmin GPS, even those without NMEA
and/or serial outputs, with almost any program that can use standard
serial NMEA data.

GPSgate is available in two versions. A lite "Express" version that
spits a single input, real or virtual, into just two virtual outputs is
USD $13. The "Standard" version that can split multiple source ports
into any number of outputs is USD $40. If you "split" a virtual
comport into just one new port, you can create the equivalent of the
1-port-to-1-port bridge utilities described in 1) above.

You can run multiple instances of GPSgate Standard on a single machine.
For example, you could have one instance splitting a GPS from a physical
port for use with multiple mapping programs. At the same time, a second
instance could be joining a soundcard soft TNC to an APRS application
like UIview or APRSplus.

Real world applications that I have used:

I routinely split the single physical COM port on my Panasonic Toughbook
mobile laptop to feed GPS data into UIview, Visual GPS, MapPoint,
Delorme Topo USA, and Precision Mapping at the same time. GPSgate is
set to load automatically each time the computer boots.

Using a second instance of GPSgate on the same laptop, I have
intercepted one output of the first instance and converted to TCP/IP. I
then distributed the IP NMEA stream via ad-hoc WiFi to a second copy of
GPSgate running on a second laptop in the back seat of the car, where
several more mapping apps were running.


Stephen H. Smith wa8lmf (at)
EchoLink Node: 14400 [Think bottom of the 2M band]
Home Page: --OR--

Freedom Input Ltd - Home

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This site has some neat stuff for smart phones including the "Freedom Mini GPS" It's a bluetooth GPS unit.