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

KV9U mrfarm at mwt.net
Fri Feb 23 15:25:50 EST 2007

Very much appreciate your comments, Maiko,

Having been one of the more active packet users (Sysop)  in the past, we 
had a local MSYS BBS to handle H routing of messages for our area and 
then major links to other areas with node stacks to move between 1200 
and 9600 baud linking. But even when we had those systems, I don't think 
we had any way of routing traffic to the internet mail system. All of it 
was internal H routing. We could never get enough hams interested in 
TCP/IP to move in that direction.

If we had packet TNCs now, we could digipeat through them and use them 
as a sort of manual internal mesh network. And if they were supported by 
Airmail 2000, you could use this product, or some of the alternative 
products. I know that attached mail is a big issue with Winlink 2000 
folks and they believe that you must have this capability to be really 
useful. Our local EM Director does not have any interest in e-mail 
capability at this point, but it would be nice to have it anyway if 
there were some way to get paths into the internet that would be working 
when the local wirelines fail again (even for short times of a few hours 
to a day typically from cut fiber).

The philosophy of the packet networks was to use mostly RF but, as you 
say,  tunnelling and alternative wireline if you had to, in order to 
make it practical to use. In fact, there were those who were very 
opposed to this because they felt that this would cause others to decide 
not to make the effort to connect via RF paths. But realistically, they 
had no choice but to take a pragmatic approach to routing some things 
with wireline. Some hams really did not undertand this and actually 
thought everything was being done by RF only paths. There was a 
secretiveness by the Sysops to insure that even interested hams did not 
know much about how the system worked. They even resented sharing node 
stack frequencies. Winlink 2000 takes the philosophical position that 
you should always use the internet unless you don't have the internet 
and then you should use RF as the backup. Their view is that this is 
standard emergency communication procedure.

And while one of the main reason to build RF-only paths is for emergency 
communications, I never want to tell someone that I have an alternative 
way of communicating if their wireline system goes down, unless it does 
not use wireline. Unfortunately, the former ARRL President,  did just 
this in the most public forum you could imagine, the U.S. Congress. I 
was appalled and embarassed. If he had really spoken truthfully, he 
would have said we use the same internet as the one that failed, but we 
may be able to bridge the broken part. This has caused some hams to have 
a distorted view of what is really being done based upon comments I have 
received from people who have actually criticized me when I explained 
how the system works.

The reason for such a focus on the SCS modem is due to the decision to 
discontinue using  the Clover II and faster systems from HAL from the 
Winlink 2000 system with no other options available. There are an 
increasing number of HF PMBO's no longer allowing any more Pactor 1 
connections. Only P2 and P3 have the high speeds that no other equipment 
can duplicate at this time. Connect times are limited and I have heard 
30 minutes per 24 hours is maximum. During emergencies, they will allow 
appropriate stations to use Pactor 1 and have more time, but if you have 
not been using this on a regular basis, it may not work when you need it.

I am one of those who strongly believes that you need to have a system 
in place that not only is designed for emergency use, but also is used 
frequently for other practical uses. I just don't see this happening on 
VHF and higher frequencies due to the short distances on these bands. 
Especially with portable equipment.

In terms of platforms, the Winlink developer has indicated that he does 
not have that much expertise to be able to do cross platform work and is 
not very impressed with Linux even though he has tried it. Because of 
the secretive nature that they feel they require, they do not have open 
programming efforts unless they have needed to borrow from open source 
(such as RDFT). They released the beta of SCAMP two years ago, which 
used the GPL'd modulation, but perhaps they are not required to share 
the source code on a beta? Otherwise, the SCAMP source code would have 
been made available with the two breakthrough features of busy channel 
detection and pipelined ARQ. And for reasonably good signals this mode 
is superb.

Because Winlink 2000 is not really a commercial product, there probably 
would not be the normal market response. They do have other products 
that are used in different areas, but I am not sure if there is much 
money involved with Sail Mail and some other possible government use. Of 
course I could be wrong.

Digital voice on HF is not a useful mode for weak signals or to correct 
noisy conditions since it requires a fairly high S/N ratio to work 
adequately without dropping out in the very narrow bandwidths we use on 
HF.  Analog SSB is superior in most cases, and unless the laws of 
physics changes, or we find some new breakthroughs in compression, it is 
likely to remain so. The voice quality and signal strength of the free 
WinDRM software program seems to be about as good as the AOR boxes, some 
say it sometimes appears to be better than the AOR.

It is interesting that even though the internet replaced most of the 
packet infrastructure, it is really the internet that allows us to have 
some level of contact, albeit not the same as direct personal contact, 
to further some of the goals of amateur radio and many other things of 
interest. It would take many years to share this information through 
periodicals and conferences. I am thankful for that.

Because of the distances often involved in networking, I  find HF to 
have the most potential when things get the most difficult. My planning 
concept is perhaps different than many others because I work from worst 
case scenario rather than typical expected scenario that seems to be in 
the limelight at the moment.

In closing, there are two items of HFdigital interest - the new ARRL 
request for comments on an open HF Digital Protocol and the new ALE ARQ 
mode installed in Multipsk.


Rick, KV9U

Maiko Langelaar (ve4klm) wrote:

> Hi Rick,
>> 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.
> Sounds exactly like the packet radio networks and systems that many on 
> this list have been using for the past 20 years. That's exactly what you
> are describing here at first glance.
>> 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 ...
> I wouldn't call it backwards. Ironically, alot of the packet radio 
> networks
> from the past 10 years have opted to use internet anyways to forward 
> between
> systems (using axip and/or axudp tunnels over the internet). Why ? Too 
> much
> distance between systems, and a lack of desire (or money perhaps) to try
> and build a pure RF network. I mean why spend tons of cash on radio stuff
> when the internet is free (cheap cheap cheap). I'm trying to be funny.
>> We just don't have that much digital traffic.
> Same here.
>> indication is that most messages are fairly short and are relatively
>> easy to send over voice channels if you need to.
> Same here. I guess the reality is that voice is the choice.
>> 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.
> For peer to peer VHF, so does Winpack, or PR4WIN, and countless others.
> For VHF and HF connection, so do NOS, FBB, and other systems.
>> But to do much of that you do need the SCS modem. Based upon 
>> documentation
>> you know it is oriented toward the SCS product.
> This is the part that puzzles me. Why do you think it is so oriented
> towards the SCS product. Do the LATEST versions exclude all the other
> modems ? The Airmail client I use has allowed me to use an MFJ, a KAM,
> a DXP, and of course the SCS. I'm sure the PK232 is in there as well.
> Sure, the focus might be to spend the most time on the newer modern 
> products, but I am able to use my *older* tncs still with more or less
> little problems.
>> It is also only able to operate on MS OS.
> And probably there's not much one can do about that. That's the platform
> of choice for the developers. Of course, by doing this, the developers 
> have given you the freedom to choose :-)
>> But I think an open source and cross platform approach would be better
>> for amateur radio.
> I am guessing that the WinLink developers simply are not interested in
> that approach. They have every right to do it the way they want. The so
> called market out there will at some point determine if they made the
> right decision or not. Isn't that the way all products work ?
> If you truly want an open source approach, then ditch WinLink and/or
> the AirMail stuff, and look at the alternatives, some of them below :
> * The newer generation of software like PSK-Mail (which looks like some
>   are touting as an alternative to WinLink 2000). I'm sure there is alot
>   more other stuff hidden out there as well.
> * Or the older generation of software like the NOS and FBB systems, and
>   whatever else people still run.
>> I don't see much growth with Pactor modes ...
> Comments noted. To me it's a tool, I don't care if it grows or not.
>    *** Any connectivity is better than NO connectivity ***
>> 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.
> Sounds to me that someone has already decided what to do then :-)
>> 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.
> With all due respect, this is the wrong mailing list then.
> I am certainly excited about some of the past sound card modes, for 
> example
> Thomas Sailer wrote sound card modules that I've tried in linux NOS 
> (kiss interface). It is SOOO cool, and I'm sure things will get even 
> more exciting.
> I would certainly add these modes to NOS, problem is alot of this sound
> card software has limited to no API to interface with (please jump in if
> anyone has more accurate information). I thought about this over a year
> ago believe it or not. I guess one needs to colaborate (or try to) with
> the soundcard authors (a sutle hint to myself).
>> PSKmail could be used if we get other hams to switch to Linux.
> I spent a bit of time last year, seeing how PSK Mail and similar
> software did this. The idea was to see if I could use the API used
> by PSK Mail within NOS. Anyways ...
>> 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.
> Being that voice is so desireable among agencies, one of our senior ARES
> people complained that voice is great, but HF voice with tons of noise is
> just useless. Enter a new product from AOR communications :
>   http://www.aorusa.com/
> Perhaps this is one way to sell digital to the voice people, in 
> particular
> the HF SSB modems (look under products / other ):
>      ARD 9800 or the ARD 9000 MK2 Digital Voice Modem
>> 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.
> Yep, I agree. I miss our old WARP group coffee days.
> * (Winnipeg Amateur Radio Packet)
>> This is not as easy to do with BBS systems or digital networks ...
> Amen !
> Maiko Langelaar / VE4KLM
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