[nos-bbs] Local Emergency communications but able to do e-mail if necessary

KV9U mrfarm at mwt.net
Wed Feb 14 21:11:35 EST 2007

Hi Maiko,

I have been giving the questions you ask some considerable thought. And 
while I may not have perfect answers, I will try.

Our local group is looking for a low cost mode(s) that will allow us to 
easily connect digital stations to transmit messages, store messages if 
the operator is not present (simple BBS), and route through the internet 
if you need to. Ideally, this would be an adhoc system, with some 
stations set up to operate from typical hams homes and others for 
portable or even mobile.

I know this is backwards from the Winlink 2000 view that most digital 
traffic should go through the internet unless you need to bridge a 
broken part of the internet. We just don't have that much digital 
traffic. In fact, I queried the folks who have worked with IC for many 
years (one of our hams is a retired policechief/firechief and has had a 
lot of practical experience and teaches the FEMA course work) and the 
indication is that most messages are fairly short and are relatively 
easy to send over voice channels if you need to.

Airmail has the ability, if you have the right equipment, to act as a 
peer to peer VHF as well as a VHF and HF connection to the internet. But 
to do much of that you do need the SCS modem. Based upon the 
documentation you know it is oriented toward the SCS product. It is also 
only able to operate on MS OS. That is not a serious deficiency since 
most hams, particularly the less technical types are going to be running 
MS for now. (No offense to those running MS OS as I do too for the most 
part). But I think an open source and cross platform approach would be 
better for amateur radio.

I don't think that being able to connect to an e-mail server is all that 
important for us. It may be important for those who are trying to act as 
an emergency utility to route large amounts of traffic for a government 
agency. We are not involved in doing that kind of activity but I know 
some are and Winlink 2000 promotes this kind of connectivity. Their 
leader has told me personally that this is one of the big selling points 
if you set up a local server connection and high speed radio links 
between governmental units that will operate when the internet fails. Of 
course this is only between local radio connected locations.

I don't see much growth with Pactor modes, but if you did want to go 
with Pactor 1 you would need to buy a used modem since the new ones are 
so expensive now, relative to the SCS modem. Then you might as well go 
with the SCS product and have the P2 and P3 modes too. The price of the 
SCS modem is not something that enough hams will buy unless they had a 
more functional need on a day to day basis. Only RV/blue water boaters 
need that kind of device, or are at least willing to spend that kind of 
money since they are basically avoiding paying of commercial networks.

Our Section (State) discontinued Pactor and the State Pactor BBS system 
and now use it for the SHARES program. They also shut down the packet 
BBS system a while back. Their preference is to route all digital 
traffic through the internet from Telpac sites. In fact, they are now 
running "nets" with the Winlink 2000 system feeding e-mail to a 
centralized site in a large city. I am not sure how well that works, but 
the person running the net has no practical experience with this kind of 
thing and has never operated HF.

I strongly believe that we need to have more ARQ sound card modes. We 
have a few, but most are weaker signal and slower with very narrow 
bandwidths. That is good for much of the time but we need to have other 
modes which can go much faster.

One possibility is to use the DRM OFDM modes which are a crude form of 
belated ARQ. The advantage is that this exits now and can be used as an 
HF program.  But a SCAMP type of program would be better with the clear 
advantage of pipelined ARQ,  and then you would have the ultimate in 
busy channel detection. Otherwise, PSKmail could be used if we get other 
hams to switch to Linux. I expect to see these modes improve over the 
coming years.

For VHF, packet is fine and actually for local contacts we could use 
1200 baud packet on the upper part of 10 meters higher bands.

One possible direction that intrigues me at bit would be to move toward 
an all HF approach for digital and VHF for tactical voice. This makes it 
simpler for short or long distances on HF. Antennas are a slight 
problem, but we won't be using that much digital unless there is an 
extended disaster to deal with over a wide area. This is very unlikely 
in our part of the country but it could happen. Now on southern coastal 
parts of the U.S., it is actually going to be common and their needs are 
quite different.

For a final comment:

As a past NTS operator handling traffic, on CW and SSB, and sometimes 
even as NCS, I know that the motivation for many hams putting in as much 
time as they do, with very little to show for it, is the camaraderie 
that occurs when you have a group that gets together periodically. This 
is not as easy to do with BBS systems or digital networks where you 
don't tend to have the human contact. If you have local hams who get 
together for activities, meetings, and throw in some food and fun, it 
can go a long ways to keeping an organization active:)


Rick, KV9U

Maiko Langelaar (ve4klm) wrote:

> Rick,
> Okay, I just want to get an idea of what you are looking for.
>> We figure that Airmail 2000 could help somewhat as it is seems like 
>> the closest thing to what we need.
> What exact do you want to do ? Why is Airmail 2000 the closest thing ?
> Is it the fact that the email portion looks and acts like any of the
> modern email clients out there ?
> For instance, IF I ran a NOS server on a linux box, and used Thunderbird
> or Evolution or whatever on the same box to send and receive mail via the
> NOS server, and have a CRON task running in NOS to periodically 
> forward to
> other systems, would that accomplish the same thing as just Airmail ?
> That's just an example, I am NOT promoting one software over the other.
> It could just as well be FBB on linux or BCM (Baycom Mailbox) on linux,
> or (yes) Airmail 2000 on windows (Airmail has built in smtp service
> so that a network of computers can send/read email from it on a local
> lan). The others have this too.
>> But only runs Pactor on HF so that makes it almost useless for us.
> If you don't want Pactor, then what do you want ? Is HF packet useless
> to you as well ? Are you just looking at PSK or MFSK ?
>> I had thought that the developer was going to allow the AGWPE to operate
>> through a sound card, but I don't think it can do that at this time.
> What soundcard protocols are you looking at wanting to use ?
>> I won't buy into the technology since it just doesn't have critical 
>> mass.
> I can understand why people are hesitant to put their money into 
> Pactor 3,
> really I can. The price, if anything is a show stopper for myself 
> anyways.
>> Eventually there will be someone who has the skills and who also has 
>> the interest in emergency networking, but we just don't have that 
>> person at this time.
> Are you looking at this list to find someone ?
>> I have asked the developers of some of our keyboard modes if they 
>> would be willing to do this and they say they really don't have an 
>> interest since they are primarily interested only in keyboard to 
>> keyboard casual use of ham radio linking for fun applications and not 
>> for any serious use.
> There are people on this list that certainly have the skills. Being 
> one of
> them, I have yet to be approached by anyone that has asked me to 
> seriously
> work on something like this for them. But I should be careful saying 
> that,
> since the reality of the situation is that many of us on this list are 
> very
> busy people (family, work, other obligations, etc), meaning even if we 
> had
> the skills and experience (which we certainly do), time is very 
> limited, and
> you might get frustrated waiting for us to get things done. If I could 
> make
> a living doing this, that would be a different story of course.
>> Contrary to the other commenters, I do believe that a practical 
>> emergency network is doable.
> I don't recall ever saying that it was not doable.
>> It may be that almost no one is interested in doing it because they
>> don't see the need for it.
> It may very well be that the reason no one is interested is because they
> already HAVE tried *doing it* (over and over), yet only to see politics
> as well as government grant money get in the way of things.
> I mean why on earth use low cost, simple, grassroots ham radio when you
> can buy a ready made DSTAR system for a few thousands dollars, or get
> an HF rig (CONTESTING FEATURES GALOR) for another few thousand bucks.
>> But all we can do is ask since we just do not have the skills to do 
>> it ...
> Again, what EXACTLY are you looking for ? Do you have a white paper or
> something that details what your group wants ?
>> While I admit that most of what we do as radio amateur emergency 
>> communicators is tactical voice, and digital may be such a small
>> part of it that it just is not on the radar screen ...
> That's the reality in my area. So, you can see why one starts loosing
> enthusiam in using digital communications for ARES. On a positive note,
> I still keep trying from time to time.
> Maiko Langelaar / VE4KLM
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