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

Mark Phillips g7ltt at g7ltt.com
Thu Feb 15 07:11:52 EST 2007

We (in Morris County NJ) have just had a bit of a revelation.

A bunch of us went out and bought into D-STAR on VHF as well as pooled
our money for a repeater.

We discovered by accident that we could send short messages along with
our voice. We found a software package called D-CHAT that allows us to
send both voice and data simultaneously either point to point or through
the repeater.

Email it is not but it does seem that, on the face of it, it would serve
our needs. We need to be able to talk to each other "securely" (a
requirement from our local OEM) as well as send laundry lists of
supplies, personnel, casualties etc.

On V/UHF the D_STAR system allows for a 20 character message to be
transmitted along with ones audio. The D-CHAT software can either send
consecutive 20 character messages whilst one is keyed up or act like a
TNC and control the radio utilizing the entire 4800bps carrier when no
voice is required.

It's early days for us yet but we are playing with it.

I guess what I can learn from this thread is that there is no "one size
fits all" solution. Different OEM's require different services. Others
expect ham radio to replace their entire infrastructure and yet others
think ham radio is a Satanic Cult best handled with sterilized barge


On Wed, 2007-02-14 at 20:11 -0600, KV9U wrote:
> 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:)
> 73,
> 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.
> > </SARCASM>
> >
> >> 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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> >
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> >
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