Asterisk Analog <-> digital bridge

Well, I’ve seen some new developments presented over the past number of months with respect to Asterisk and ham radio.  There’s a core bunch of guys who have worked on Asterisk and the app_rpt interface over quite a few years and it’s proven its reliability quite well.  With all of the new digital hotspots coming on-line it was only a matter of time where things became easier to interface from a purely software standpoint.

What does this mean?  Well .. I can take a basic asterisk installation (custom for ham radio purposes) and configure it to bridge, via software alone, to the ham radio digital modes.

My first foray into this is a well-published article from the dvswitch.org folks.  They have a good group discussion going on at: https://dvswitch.groups.io/g/main … I’ve used it recently to ask for help on the basic configuration to get it going.

So, what does this mean?  Well, I have a raspberry pi at home with an analog interface to a 2m radio on 146.475 simplex.  I use it to talk to other asterisk boxes and echo link nodes.  Works well.    With this new option, and using our VA4WAN hosting provider pegboardhosting.ca, I setup a new asterisk instance and configured it to bridge between an analog audio to a DMR format.  Connecting this to the brandmeister system, allows me to talk to other DMR folks in the world with my little local RF node.

With the software configurations, I can deploy a bridge between not just DMR, but also YSF, P25 and others — except not DSTAR.  Unfortunately, the DSTAR bridge requires a hardware solution to augment the software as there’s some proprietary stuffs in there.

So, it will be fun to see how much we can get going locally to offer bridges to the existing analog infrastructure and allow that older technology to interface with the newer technologies.  With our new RF sites coming on-line, we may well see this in the not-to-distant-future.

I’ll leave the bridge up as we test out some more functionality.  If you’re on the DMR English Canada talk group, see if we’re on.

73, Dan ve4drk

Continuing the setup on 601O

Well, as you may recall, last week we had attended a new site and started the installation of pole mounts for new RF units.  We were able to get one pole of two mounted, so today, we had to finish what we started and install pole 2 of 2.  After that, we have to run the feedlines, cables, grounding, mount the cabinet etc etc – so, William was already at WSC getting the radios setup.  At 0600hrs (yes – 6:00am) he was already at the site pulling radios and resetting, flashing/upgrading, configuring and testing the units to make sure they work. Good thing we’re doing that this time around, as there were a few suspect ones that didn’t follow their normal reset procedures, so he left them off to the side.  In the end, we needed four of the 5Ghz units and 2 of the 2.3/2.4 units.  (We’re actually going to start to provide mesh-type services via AREDN and support that option as best we can).

William reflashing/resetting the RF units

In order to flash them, they can take a few minutes to configure as we wait, so, he installed some new batteries into the UPS located at the site!  Talk about multi-tasking eh…

new set of batteries in the UPS!

Getting the units from the top floor into my trunk with the help of one of the guys …

dishes cleaned up and ready to go …

Getting there, we start to make up some mounts so we can mount the dishes.  Colin starts things up and gets things measured …

cuttin’ time …

While Jim gets the mounts figured out with bolts and such …

Jim working on mounts …

Colin and Derek (the young Derek VA4AFK) working on the north mount point:

Colin and young Derek

A nice shot from the upper deck looking out — we can just see our other 60C site in the distance – straight south.

way up …

And looking north to our favorite site … and downtown …

North …

William starting to bolt on the side mount for our 5.xGHz radios/dishes.

mounting the mounts …

and placing the dishes on – took 2 guys – one to hold and the other to bolt, but we have 2 up and ready to receive a cat5 run and radio to insert …

Dishes on mount, mount on mount ..

Jim still working on getting clamps made for the units – now that the south was done, we were waiting for the north pole to be mounted…

work – work – work

Derek shows up with the rack.

good timing …

Jim and Derek haul it upstairs and it’s in it’s place.  So, it was good timing Derek showed up, as I had to leave to be somewhere by a certain time 😉  Still have enough guys to get some more work done.
I was only on the roof for a while, hour or so — it was quite windy and cool/rainy, so the hands certainly got rough after a while and had to warm up.  Luckily, the two rooms are relatively warm (and out of the rain).  More updates later once I know more about what happened.

73, Dan ve4drk

 

Establishing a new (to us) site …

On a cool summer Saturday morning (yes, the leaves are turning and it’s getting chilly out in the morning now) – our intrepid VA4WAN install team heads out to do yet another install.  Instead of just being a VA4WAN installation, we’ve reached out to other groups and are installing two large pole mounts to support a minimum of 2 other RF units  beyond our usual high speed networking system.  At the site will be a VHF unit (the return of VE4WRS from MRS!) and a UHF system (a new home for the local DMR system!)

You may not be familiar with this site.  It has been used by Prairie Mobile in the past as well as some other hams who have had gear up there.  A number of years ago, the site was dismantled and roofing repairs had occurred – then with no return of RF back to the roof.  With our agreements in place, 601 Osborne (re: Fred Tipping Place) will be a new RF environment for our ham group services.   The location is great in the south part of Osborne Village.  As I look across the horizon, there is little, if any, other high buildings around that would contain significant amounts of RF being emitted, so the receive at this site should be phenomenal – being 18 stories high – albeit there may be some shadow to the north from the city centre:

looking north’ish from behind

To mount these poles, we had some experts.  Our two certified climbers, Colin VE4CST, Derek VA4AFK and site expert Rob VE4CA along with jack-of-all-trades Jim VE4SIG who is prepared for almost anything and William VE4VR and myself.  (I’m mostly along to help with the grunt work while the pro’s do their job installing):

workin’ away …

It was great that we had some spare time to chat about various groups and activities and things we can do to help ham radio and keep it moving ahead.  My XYL (Michele) also provided us a lunch bucket of sandwiches, muffins, veggies and water!

Jim and I made a run out to pick up some odd parts that we needed (once we knew for sure what parts we had to use after final cuts/measurements/etc).  Traffic on a Saturday was nuts with all the construction – what should have been a 20 minute run took almost an hour! Oh well – we arrived back just in time for the crew to make use of the parts.

Colin and Derek doing their thing …

These are very thick and heavy mount poles (thanks Rob!) and took us all to hold it in place while they were being mounted.

Gettin’ ‘er done!

While we were only able to have enough time to mount the one pole, we’re all set to go back and get the other one setup on the north side fairly quickly.

With the new site and moving services to it, it will be a great opportunity to also explore new technologies and services to offer the ham community.

73, Dan ve4drk

New high speed connection :-)

woo hoo .. on a hot Manitoba afternoon, discussions back and forth between William (ve4vr) and myself – we decided (or better yet -he said let’s do it!) to add a node on my QTH to point to our STV 5GHz site.  Time was of the essence – given both had family functions that may just work out to squeeze in this little function of ours.  While we haven’t done much with our VA4WAN project for a while, we’ve been able to get a number of items that are just great additions to our project for linking and end-user connections.

We head out to our closet at WSC and rummage and count the 5GHz devices and choose one that will do the job.   No dings in the dish and looks A-ok from the outside, so we grab that, and head back to his QTH, re-flash it to current firmware, set it to work in the bands we need and grab some tools and  back to my QTH we go.  Grabbing the ladder and putting it up the backside of the house, and William’s already up on top bolting it to the tripod and aiming it at the site:

… so, with this new connection, we get about -56db at best, not bad given the noise floor!


It’s there somewhere!!  Zooming in we get …

Running the wire into the house with the existing wires and plugging it into my nice Mikrotik cloud router, we see that with the current routing/bridging, I have to disconnect the 2.3GHz connection from 55N from the switch until I get the bridging/routing straightened out.

So, up it comes and we check out the speed again .. not bad at 20Mbps up and 20Mbps down on average!  That, with about a 4ms ping time to our provider (les.net) and all is great!

I’ve run the 2.3GHz connection to 55N for quite some time and I’ve always enjoyed the ability for having our own IP address space – and I’ve used that extensively for all my ham projects and gear that’s IP connected.  It just works.  Mind you, my speed has been consistently around 2.5Mbps, so this adds up to a factor of almost 10X!  Naturally, part of this speed increase is because of the increase in bandwidth utilization, but still – that’s a fair amount of speed increase.  This will certainly help with the digital audio I run through the system and remote access as well – so a great addition to the shack.  Thanks William for your help and push to get it on.  Now, we have some more guys to get hooked up to the new(er) connection.
The time is right if you’re interested in getting involved, we have a great group buy going on with some gear that we hope to get on the air for interested hams.

73, Dan ve4drk

 

Some further ham updates

Well, it’s been a “while” again – so I know I’m going to miss reporting on some interesting items – but will get to some I recall off the top of my head – at least I’m remembering something.
There was an interesting snail-mail package I received from BC. Seems that when I worked the BC QP a few months back I had not sent my logs, but did receive an email for me requesting I do so – I found it rather interesting at the time that they had not received one single log file from this province before (ever!), so I decided to send it in, with my low number of contacts.
Earlier a week or so ago, I received the following:

BCQP Cert

Which was completely unexpected!  (Note the low score – I made contacts with only 10 BC stations) … so .. next year .. hop on the bandwagon and listen in for these folks out west – they have a great website:  http://www.orcadxcc.org/   In case you did not remember, I do use VE4EV for my contesting callsign.

I also hosted a local meeting of Radiosport Manitoba – and my XYL made up some nice baggage-tags for our last meeting of the season:

Baggage-tag

Nice … oh yeah, there is a reverse side too with name/address 😉

Another interesting thing that’s happened locally — I’ve previously mentioned I run an Allstarlink.org RF site on 146.475 simplex (127.3 Hz tone).  It’s node is 45427 and is linked to our hub allstarlink.org site (47012) in our local datacenter.  It also supports echolink and is listed in the echolink directory  (node id is 817350) The RF site is on my own house in south St. Vital, but can be heard throughout the city pretty good.  (With continued expansion, we’ll have one at a better RF site soon).

On one of the ham-lists I subscribe to, the creator of the echolink program proxy/relay (PE1CHL – a callsign I recall from the 90’s NOS days running his software version of KA9Q NOS!) he was indicating they were looking for more NA-based echolink relays and proxies to service the local ham community.  (Local meaning NA-based)  A couple of hams in the US fessed up 24×7 resources to support this – including us local WPG ham guys.  Working with my son, Robert VE4RLK, who founded and runs a local internet hosting service here in Winnipeg for the past few years (pegboardhosting.ca), and utilizing his services he’s offered to our VA4WAN group for hosting ham services/sites, we setup an instance to support the echolink usage.

Immediately upon activating the proxies, it started seeing usage.  Once the admins verified the reliability, it was also added to the relay listings.  That really started bringing in echolink traffic.  After a couple of weeks, it is bringing in 30GB+ of network traffic.  It’s actually handling traffic from all over the world! (One of the nice features of pegboardhosting.ca is that there are no data caps or limits!)

One of the more recent interesting items with allstarlink.org is the added functionality of providing transport/gateway services for analogue/DMR/DSTAR/P25 systems!  With some added software (and with an added hardware piece for DSTAR), we can bridge the various modulations and inter-tie these systems together – now that sounds awesome – time to experiment again.  Certainly, the technology is new(ish) and can have growth pains, but hey, that’s what this hobby is all about – experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t – cool.

Speaking of brandmeister – I was on my DMR radio with my zumspot hotspot in DMR mode connected to brandmeister network and was talking to a ham near Ottawa on a local Yeasu Fusion repeater – now that was cool and seamless!

I’m running quite a few ham-systems on my local 2.3GHz VA4WAN connection – I really need to move to 5GHz and utilize the higher bandwidth – -latency is getting to be so-so – not bad, but it could be better!

Anyways, time to move on and get back on some more projects I’m interested in.  (SDR’s come to mind!)

73, Dan ve4drk

and a week later …

more good ham stuffs arrived lately – seems I’m getting a few things looked after and getting more in the mix.  Earlier this week – while I was away for a bit – a package arrived at the door and in it was a nice new 5v 6 line usb charger – each with 2.4amp!  woo hoo – that will take care of my continuing saga of power adapters/splitters for all these raspberry pi and other types of wall-wart units.  I might be able to plug in some other stuff!

saving plugs

this guy can power 6 raspberry pi’s and ancillary devices.

I’ve been following some of the digital interfacing modes recently – those that work with pi’s and the like.  I do have a mini-dv unit – which has sketchy programming interfacing at times – but I’ve seen some other types being produced within Canada.  Bruce VE2GZI has been producing a digital interface board and now a hotspot unit with a 10mw transceiver on it that fits onto a pi gpio interface.  So, I decided to pick one of these units up and check it out.  Seems I’m not the only one interested in it – he’s been hit with a deluge of orders and has to rework the process to ensure smooth operations.  But, I was earlier on in the order process so I was lucky to get one of the units sooner than not.  Arriving in the mailbox one day was the following:

package contents

a kit with a raspberry pi zero w (wireless) and a pre-populated sd-card with the pi-star software on it and the digital iterface rf unit with antenna.  This unit is a 70cm unit with 10mW output – so, nice to use around a local setting.  I will have to solder the gpio interface connector to the board – but wanted to at least get the unit up and running and check out the features – so I turn to a spare raspberry pi 3 and hook it all up.  Getting it onto my 44.135 local network on 2.3GHz and it’s all working fine.  I configure my settings, location, call, dmr id etc etc and hook it up to the local dstar repeater in town to check it out.  Lo-and-behold – audio coming through – so that’s cool.  Now I have to program my DMR radio as well .. as this thing supports not only DSTAR, but also DMR, Yaesu system fusion as well as P25!  So, more programming and setup to do, but it’s a functional system and will certainly open things up by being able to connect directly to a system/repeater.

Those that have an interest in running a pi zero wireless as a remote operation node and/or mobile on cell data, can certainly do it as it’s very very low power consumption – you can even run it off a battery for a long time!

More to come on that – once I get more tested and checked out.

In the meantime  – if you’re interested in these units -check out Bruce’s website at :  MMDVM Website and the Zumspot link itself is here:  ZumSpot

zumspot info

For those interested in taking existing analogue radios and making them perform digital miracles – check out their MMDVM board that attaches to a pi and provides this really really innovative function: MMDVM

What really makes all this “tick” is the great software produced to support all these new digital modes.  The ‘pi-star’ software is very very cool and is the software that allows you to control the units and interface boards.

wow – what a dashboard!

Now, this stuff is cool.  Not only do you get an easy-to-use dashboard, but you can also log into the pi and reconfigure what you want and automate what you want – that’s the great part about these units is that it’s so configurable it makes your life more fun for being able to image all kinds of cool interfacing.

Ah well – get your unit(s) while you can – with all the hype these days, there’s bound to be more and more and more interesting developments with computers and RF.

a shot of what i was playing with off and on over the day:

playing around

73, Dan ve4drk

 

Continuing ham “stuff” …

Well – been another month since doing any type of update and there’s been quite a bit of interesting things going on – so I’ll touch on a few.

First, you recall from a prior post that I attended the Fargo hamfest hosted by RRRA group.  (They have a decent setup with lots of space and interesting items.  I even attended a number of their presentations – which I found to be of interest).  One of the surprises from that hamfest was that I actually won something — a 50$US certificate from the ARRL!  Well — I wanted to pick up an updated edition of the ARRL handbook and the timing was pretty good – the 2018 edition was on pre-order!  And – if you pre-order, you also get a free namepin for ARRL members – which I am.  So, in the mail today came an early Christmas present 🙂

Early Christmas present!

The other neat thing is that I never really understood how the US had their numbering (call zones) setup — so this little extra little piece of paper in the book certainly helped!

Some good reading in there for sure – nice sections on SDR’s and DSP’s .. so will be a fun read to re-read the material – maybe even re-learn a few basic things again.

I’ll be looking at offering out my older ARRL handbook(s) – preference would be to those who just recently got their licence in the last class – so if you know of someone who just got their licence and they’re interested, let me know – or, someone else will get a early Christmas present too.

A couple (few?) weeks back, we held a session at the VE4WSC site where Colin VE4CST assembled a rather nice setup for doing bench-tests of OSPF routing with Mikrotik routers.  That was attended by those who have an interest in supporting such functions, learning new things and applying their new-found knowledge in support of our VA4WAN high-speed network project.  What a great session it was – was good to see a number of guys make it – I learned a few things!

some of the guys getting schooled
more schooling

Thanks again to Colin VE4CST for taking the time for putting this on.

So, I was able to get 3 of my Mikrotik routers to this learning session (yes 3, I go nuts over routers I’m told) and changed a few configs on them etc … (I have more, but they are in use).  William mentioned that there were some good buys on ebay for some of the Mikrotik routers – and a version of the RB2011 that has wifi built-in – so .. on the step one day was a box with you know what in it!

New (to me) Mikrotik wifi router. (With POE in/out! )

So I’ve got that configured up – just have to finish a last couple of items and it’s online.  Weird, though, that while it has POE in/out, it is also HARD-wired to an AC brick – oh well, guess I can’t lose a power plug that’s hard wired in.

I was interested in getting better wifi for the house and William mentioned he has a spare Cisco wifi access point.  Wow, and POE to boot!  Mind you, these POE’s are 48v, not the irregular 24V Mikrotik stuff.

New (to me) Cisco POE AP!

But, hey, along with that, there was an older router/switch that had POE out – and it was 48v, so heck, why not.  I had a 48v POE camera and had picked up a nice Cisco IP Phone from one of our ‘suppliers’ and viola!

POE switch with POE phone and POE camera. Things are going POE these days… but I really need to upgrade my cameras…

To finish it off, re-run a cable to my 2.3 GHz VA4WAN highspeed net and away I go.

The last item I’ll mention today is a rather interesting project.  You recall a number of us have been working on a digital linking experiment with the Allstarlink project – these folks have created an interface to control repeaters via the asterisk PBX system – way cool!  So, this basically provides a means to run a controller via software and run a repeater (or two or three or four) all on a small raspberry pi for example.

We’ve purchased the DMK URI usb to radio interface boards before and still use them – but for experimenting with new radio interfaces, it would be cool to work with less expensive items – such as USB audio dongles – which I picked up a bunch of them for about 3$US a piece – not too bad.  So the fun part is to hack them up and interface them to a radio (or two).  Seeing William VE4VR had some surplus maxon data radios – nice little units – we just had to do something with them.  Enter Walter VE4VB – and we get the USB FOBs and the radios to him and viola – he’s hacked up the USB FOB’s and created an interface for the data radios to operate analogue.  I’ll pick up some 5v regulated supplies from him and we’ll make this a test to link the two units via digital connection and run it as a split site repeater – one unit RX at one location, another TX at a different location – all hooked up via our high-speed VA4WAN network ..

USB FOBs with MAXON radios!

sounds interesting to experiment more with these guys.

To tie these guys together, we will need some computing power – so enter the raspberry pi 3 — I was able to pick up a couple from a local supplier while on black-friday special!

Raspberry PI’s ready to go to work!

There you have it.  Besides having some interesting times with 6m MSK (meteor scatter) these days, I’ve dabbled in some contests (sweepstakes) and had fun doing ham stuff.  Helping out guys do a few things is always fun too.

Well – one more thing – we have a nice site at the VE4WSC Winnipeg Senior Citizens Radio Club and provide the group with ham internet and telephony services – courtesy of Les.Net (who is also a ham!) and we have a fair bit of gear there.  So, with me getting up there in (almost) retirement age – it was a chance to join a group that is doing some interesting things for the community at large.  I must say – there’s some cool projects on the go and I, for one, would love to see the resurrection of the satellite operation – especially with such a resurgence in ham sats these days – would be cool.

So, there’s lots to do with ham these days – problem is finding the time to do all the fun stuff – but that’s part of the fun itself.

73, Dan ve4drk

60c new gear to install

We’ve had the 60c site up for about a year (you can see it in the prior postings) and while we’ve had a few ups and downs with the site over the period, it still is a great site with visibility to other sites to help create our “ring” around the city and providing redundancy in and out.  So, with the purchase of some new gear to hopefully get phenomenal data speeds to the site, we had to go up.  Meeting at the site Sunday morning at 8am was Derek VE4HAY, William VE4VR, Jim VE4SIG and Dan VE4DRK.  We hauled up a bunch of gear, took some older gear down  – which means we have  been able to standardize on a number of components which we’ve been able to accumulate over the past while, both from purchases and generous donations of gear.

It was a ‘tad’ cold and with a wicked wind, made it even colder.  Gloves were the order of the day for me!  (thanks Jim for the spare set).

We ran a number of new lines for some new gear, and configured up some mounts:

Jim working his magic on the mounts …

Derek and Jim mounting panels:

mounting another ….

New high(er) speed radios!

Derek and William mounting/adjusting ,,,

With the cramped area we have for the control devices/injectors etc, it was difficult for William to get it all back in with all the extra feeds coming in, but it was done … The suggestion is in to re-work the mounting/storage of the controlling gear as space is always becoming an issue.

So, with all that, we still need the 2.3GHz sectors to be mounted – we seemed to have lost (and re-found) a sector end cover as well as we need to re-set the mounting based upon the new mount point dimensions.  Who knows if this can be done  before the snow flies.  Until then, we need further work at 55N to ensure the other side of the link is tenable and working.

The one nice item was that the ring connection to Transcona has an awesome signal!  Which may imply we have further tweaks to do to the other connections to ensure they are optimal.  Redundancy and connection to ‘out-west’ ie: the west part of the also city moved along with a back-haul established out west – at least at one end of the link.  A panel connection towards the UofM will provide ham service to the local hams and groups at UofM, and hopefully a redundancy option.  More to come …

Either way, connectivity gains were had and we are better ahead to continue offering service and redundancy on the VA4WAN network – continuing to grow.

It’s great to provide connectivity to various sites and various ham groups and individual hams – it would not be possible without the great support we’ve had over the past while from our supporting groups.  The old addage is also very true – “use it or lose it”  If you’re interested, look us up and join up … lots of cool things to do.  (with this exposure to the winds up top on a cool day, I’m not sure if I’m ready for the winter or not …)

73, Dan ve4drk

VE4CNR/IRLP, POE voltage upgrades and another contest …

Quite some time ago, the MRS repeater, VE4WRS, had to vacate it’s location due to changes in the site contracts of our sponsor.  That was a great location for an amateur radio repeater – and it was the repeater that operated a local IRLP gateway.  While there are a few of these gateways around town, this was was great as it had great coverage and it was on a repeater and not a simplex node. It has been in the list of things to do for the MRS – Manitoba Repeater Society for a bit, I was asked to help get this back on-line.  While I’m not a member of the exec, but am a paid-up member of the MRS (you should too:  Join/Renew MRS today!, I always enjoy helping out where I can.  So, I arrange to pick up the gear from Dick VE4HK from the storage bin, take it home and ensure it’s reconfigured and up to date, gets registered and gets a new node number IRLP 1504 @ VE4CNR .  Testing it at my home with my interface and radio – it works great!  The new site has physical access available around 9-5 and is in the ENE part of the city.  With me living in the SE and working in the SW, it’s not the easiest place to get to during normal working hours.  After having a few difficulties with interconnecting the radio system to the controller, we get Yuri VE4ACX involved and lends a hand.  We agree we need to make a visit and I take a day off work and we agree to meet up early in the morning (early for some anyways hi hi) .. and meet at the site.  I setup my laptop and we work on getting it all hooked in:

 

ve4cnr with va4wan

One of the reasons we can provide the IRLP system access there is that we have an already established connection to our city-wide VA4WAN amateur radio high-speed network!  You too can join/renew: Join/Renew VA4WAN!

VA4WAN dugald site – high-speed network

The work that was previously done there easily facilitates a connection to it.  Plugging in the ethernet cable and the bits start flying by.

Diagnosing a few items, the issue comes to light and a change in connection is done and then, viola, audio comes back in larger than life!  Running a test with some local (and remote) systems shows that the audio is awesome and gets good reviews by those with better ears than mine.  (Back in my younger years, I do recall a few times forgetting to wear my ear defenders/plugs during firing of the 105mm howitzers.  Only takes once (or twice) to remember hi hi).

The computer was left at the site and the rest of the goods was put back into the storage locker at the site:

 

storage
storage

I had not been to this site before – the rest of the guys put up our VA4WAN access to this site prior.  So, we have two backhauls – 1 to 55N and another to 60C – for redundancy.  There’s still work to be done on network reconfiguration etc, but, hey, it’s there.

back-hauls

there’s also a local 2.3GHz connection for guys in the area.  (It’s kinda wayyyyy up there, so I’ll highlight it a bit):

local 2.3GHz 270degree sector

and finally .. as we put our gear back in our respective trunks, Walter gives me a present to take back … the test gear we used for our AllStarLink connection at his site will now be repurposed for the remote Winkler site (VE4TOM), so I’ll set that up for programming – just waiting on a local static ip from their config out there.  AND — he was able to modify the voltage on this POE switch to provide 24v to support all our POE gear!  That is awesome – and will certainly help out and be used for our site at 55N!

re-purpose the RPi and URI and new upgraded voltage for this POE switch!

So, all-in-all, that was a good morning out.  Then out to coffee we go to see the rest of the coffee crowd.  Thanks to Walter VE4VB and Yuri VE4ACX for their fine work as always.

 

Now – onto my last item of the day — contesting.  Yesterday was the NAQP SSB August contest.  Conditions were so-so going into it and they stayed that way – not too good.  But, I was able to put in a few hours and made shy of 100 contacts, so not too shabby for me!  I was equally surprised how well 40m turned out – had some great contacts on that band and it turned out I made more than on 20m.  I did not hear any VE4 stations on there – quite a number of the contacts I made thanked me for the VE4/MB section mult.  For me, 80 was so poor, I had trouble hearing anyone, and 160 was non-existent.  (read need bigger antennas!) Now to my other task today – submit the logs – they only give you a week to get them in.  Oh yeah, in case you don’t know, I use VE4EV as my callsign when operating contests – so if you hear me, drop by and say hi.

score – or so I think

73, Dan ve4drk

summery days …

I’ve heard about this one mode before – a couple of local hams do sailing on our big lake and make a run way up north now and then.  They use HF (mostly 80m I hear) to check in and get updates to the weather, pass traffic etc.  VE4DXR and VE4ESX both utilize the bands to stay in contact with folks ‘back home’.  Leor was using some mode that I had not really heard of before – winlink.  It’s a messaging system that can utilize different mediums to exchange messages with other hams – be it HF, VHF or regular internet technologies.  The interesting thing on this is that the winlink system has grown to be more of a fault-tolerant, redundant, multi-mode communications hub for store/forward of traffic.  Seems it also has it’s place in the ham emergency communications arena, widely used as a backup communications mode for a number of emergency and relief agencies.  So, timeliness, another local ham VE4UA had been running his local packet bbs system (since the days of yore) and it was really not getting any usage from what Werner was indicating, so he was thinking of re-purposing the gear to be something more useful.  Others got wind of the information and mentioned about setting up a WinLink system for EMCOMM – so he decided to repurpose his gear for that local mode, and was looking for some trials.  Me, not being active on packet (since the days of yore as well), decided to take my trusty Yaesu FT1500 mobile and MFJ 1278 and the cable I got provisioned to me by another local ham (VE4VR) to set out and try this new mode.  Within the hour I was able to get software downloaded onto my trusty core2 dual processor machine running win10 (another gift from VE4VR) – (which by the way HAS A DB9 SERIAL PLUG! yes!) – got the registration completed and offered the winlink team a donation for their fine work they do, hooked everything all up and away I go — the current meter on the power supply goes to  8amps with the 50watt output of my radio – hooked up to my dual stacked 5/8 on top of the house and I get a FULL SCALE reply back from Werner’s system.  Soon enough, I figure out the software and send/receive messages galore on packet winlink.  Interesting.  I’ll have to try scaling back the power a bit – we might have a better RF connectivity  than I had anticipated.  Looking around a bit at the winlink system, there’s no real HF gateways in the RF dead spot of the prairies – maybe there is opportunity for a local group to establish an EMCOMM HF gateway and serve the locals sailing up north and beyond! hint hint …

Seems our national news picked up on a story emanating out of the east coast – where it appears someone decided to slice up a couple of strands of fiber-optic cable servicing the WHOLE REGION.  Hmmm – so much for redundancy there!  The word was that most forms of communications were cut – cell, internet, etc.  So the local ham groups had been put on alert for setting out to provide emergency traffic passing.  Although the service was restored fairly quickly, it did highlight some pressing issues that need to be reviewed.  The local news of the area:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/amateur-radio-atlantic-canada-bell-phone-outage-1.4236756

and our local news a little ways back:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/ham-radio-enthusiasts-keeping-old-technology-alive-1.1397214

Interesting that there was only FM discussion, no HF discussion – but, there you have it.

It’s summer time and is great to be out on my  bike again – the XYL and I took a ride out to the local park and enjoyed the ride and the relaxation of the park.  While on the way I happen to spy a few antennas here and there, so thought I’d add a little item on ‘spot-the-antenna’ … whom are these:

which one(s) are our ham antennas 🙂
this one is an easy one – on the way to the park
no idea whose this may be – but there are other hams on the street I know of…

seems I keep looking up when riding around, trying to see who has what kind of gear in the air.

Some other cool things are happening with the ham geekdom these days.  Expansion and refinement of our local high-speed network VA4WAN has progressed a bit further.  The guys spent a fair amount of time organizing and then spending the ENTIRE DAY on top of the building in what must have been the hottest day of the year!  Contrast that with the coldest day of the year here:  http://ve4drk.keizer.ca/?p=182

More work done on the networking (hardware wise) and cleaning up the connections.  Fiber connection will be replacing the current copper connection to our friendly ham provider les.net, who continues to offer us his inter-bits!  An addition of another camera on the south, and hopefully some more 3GHz gear running will help smoother the connectivity out a bit.

Our Dugald road site connection is also in operation – after a slight downtime at the interim site at 60C due to power issues.  (So, now i have a small project to take the thermometer William donated and hook it up to a pi to start registering what the temps are in that enclosure a bit more.  More to come on that later.  With the inter-bits back on-line at Dugald road, I reconfigured the IRLP machine to be a new node to replace the old venerable VE4WRS system.  Thanks to Walter VE4VB for the use of his repeater (VE4CNR) to host this system.  It is currently connected, but we need to pay it a visit to get the one-way audio corrected – I’m sure it will only be a few minutes to figure it out – or we have some bad hardware to replace on the computer system.  Either way, having a reliable repeater with our ham connectivity will be great.

I’ve re-programmed my DMR radio again – trying out another local DMR system – seems there’s some growth in them thar’ hills – William was able to setup a 2.3 system to give to Shaun to get his system on the air and we got the DNS registered to have it updated as well, so will keep an eye on that front.

Seems I have more uses for radio than I have cable for – so I’m in search for some decent RG213 or 9913 or LMR type of cable.  Looking at the shack, I currently have 6 radios in constant operation!  and of course I want to put more on-line too – so – more cable is in the works.  If you know of a source, drop me a line — i’m good @ RAC.

Enough for now – time to get on with the day and have some more summery fun.

73, Dan ve4drk

 

Winnipeg Digital Repeater Group AGM

Wednesday July 29, a number of us met at the Sals on Leila to hold the annual general meeting of the Winnipeg Digital Repeater Group.

Quite a number turned out for this AGM.  There was no topic per se, but a review of last year’s notes and new business was quick and that was it.

There are 2 newbies on the exec – Derek VE4HAY is the new vice president, and Dan VE4DRK (that’s me) is the new membership chair.

This will be a good tenure to take for a year or so — help out a bit as I also currently handle the MRS memberships as well.

Also of note – the WDR group is also now merged up with the HSMM digital group – which is great, as we have similar interests and uses.

Here’s to a good year ahead!

73, Dan ve4drk

VE4WRS IRLP

Well, a week or so ago, we rounded up a couple of network gurus and headed back up to the site to ensure we get the networking setup properly.

Accompanying myself, was our host Ed VE4EAR, William VE4VR and my son Robert VE4RLK.

Sure enough – as soon as they were in and we pointed out where things were, it was evident what the issue was … so the box that I thought was just in dumb adsl model mode was actually in router mode and we were running PPPoE over PPPoE or some such .. so, fun .. was fairly easy to get things back setup properly and it’s been working just fine since.

The repeater is getting a good workout with all the IRLP connections and we’re able to monitor the system better now as well.

Robert and William figuring it out
Robert and William figuring it out

Our receiving antenna is at the very tip top of this tower – barely visible !

Great antenna
Great antenna

Thanks for all your help and time guys — and so it goes …

73, Dan ve4drk

Sierra Radio Systems controller

You may recall a previous posting http://ve4drk.keizer.ca/?p=145 where I discussed the local repeater group getting a funky new repeater controller.  Well, it is finally hooked up to a repeater and is on-line on our local 44/net.

It has some nice interface options to the repeater controllers which will be fun to experiment with and see what is possible.

I’ve worked with administering an IRLP system and setting them up -so some of the concepts are there, but in a much grander scale — this unit is rather nice.

Looking forward to implementing new VoIP/RoIP connectivities

73, Dan ve4drk

MRS AGM

The Manitoba Repeater Society held it’s AGM Thursday April 23 at the Norberry Community Centre — our usual place for holding the AGM in the past while.  A good attendance of almost 30 members attended which allowed the exec to provide updates to finance, membership and technical updates as well as the current state of the repeater network — expansion efforts, as well as discussion on settings up a working group to discuss options for ROIP – radio over IP.

Certainly will be interesting to discuss.

73, Dan ve4drk

Meeting VE4VJ up close …

While I was able to see the VE4VJ/VE4WPG site up close and personal on a previous visit on the roof, I had not been in the machine room where the RF gear is located – except for this last Sunday where I accompanied Yuri VE4ACX, Dick VE4HK to the Richardson building at Portage & Main in Winnipeg.

I didn’t realize the close quarters that the gear is setup in — mind you, we don’t need alot of room to host the RF gear.

The UHF repeater VE4VJ is being taken out of service to tune up the RF & audio.  Also – the two link radios are being brought in for Yuri to tune as well — almost like getting the oil replaced in your car – just not as often 🙂

Repeaters
Repeaters
RF gear
RF gear
RF gear ...
RF gear …

 

It will be back on the air in a week or so after Yuri does his magic … it’s a great repeater and site.

73, Dan ve4drk

d-star …

well, i am a digital guy by heart – been working with computer since way way back .. (punched cards anyone?).  I’ve heard of this mode before and I’ve never really looked at it much before.  So, in order to understand more about it, I decided to try it out — and picked up a used ID31A (UHF d-star) radio.  It has conventional analog UHF mode as well as the dstar digital mode.  It is interesting to see the data-format used — will prove interesting as I move into using more of an integrated RF/digital mode and seeing what this protocol can do.  Naturally, one can replace the payload with whatever codec one needs — I’m interested in seeing if this codec2 can play well with the other options out there — will see.

73, Dan ve4drk

d-star (oldie)
d-star (oldie)

Repeater controller – cool

I’ve been lucky enough to work with a group that is dabbling in some interesting technology.  The MRS (Manitoba Repeater Society) – are working with Sierra Radio Systems with their beta RoIP device.  An rather interesting set of components compliments this setup.

A nice backplane to host the expansion cards.  A hosting ratio CPU board, a couple of radio interface controlling units and a new beta interface board.  This spiffy little guy is a unique merging of tech – it uses a beagle board (black) as the primary computing platform – which in itself is quite the unit for experimenting with! add a custom codec chipset and away we go.  The idea here is to provide a means to control the repeater systems remotely, automatically, scheduled events etc as well as providing a back-channel of VoIP connectivity to the main repeater systems.  All with standard open-source components/software.  I’ve got a fair bit of background with using/administering asterisk servers, so this is a nature interest.

IMG_20141101_121930

New beta VoIP board
New beta VoIP board

 

I’ve got the unit up and running and on-line.  Will be very interesting to get this interfaced with the spare repeater Derek VE4HAY has and test this new mode out!

73, Dan ve4drk

CQ WPX Contest, RSMB Meet, Canada Day Contest, MARM fest, WPG Digital Rerpeater Group, etc

Well, I have some catching up to do on the posting front … it seems there have been some activities which I have not updated on in some time.  Summer months meant it wasn’t as busy on the posting front, but we’ll change that.

May 24-25 I participated in the CQ WPX contest — I think it was my first time submitting scores for that, but I neglected to note that.  Regardless, it was fun and I logged in quite a few contacts.  I did receive my results back — was behind VE4VT, VE4YU — good luck next time to me 🙂

June Radiosport Manitoba meeting (http://rsmb.keizer.ca) had us meeting at Cary’s VE4EA’s household in my ol’ stompin’ grounds in Garden City part of Winnipeg.  It was great to see Cary’s setup and tower.  Of significant interest was the presentation by VE6TL on solar analysis.  The presentation was great and I only wish we could have more of that – it was a great learning meeting.  Jim VE4SIG also attended as he is organizing the 2014 WARC Field Day and RSMB will be operating the contest stations.  A great turnout as usual, VE4YU, VE4EAR, VE4EA, VE4GV, VE4DXR, VE4XT, VE4DRK with guests VE6TL, K7MKL, W6NF/VE4SNA, VE4SIG, VE4TTH.

Almost forgot to mention the June field-day!  Wow – what an event.  There was great support from a number of fronts and it was great to operate in – my first time at that.  I was able to work quite the pile-up with Yuri’s home-brew 40m loop antenna 🙂  It also performed quite well on other bands as well, go figure.    The 40m vertical array was sorta up – some issues, but the 40m vertical was still solid.  Of also significant note would be the conditions we had to work through.  I wasn’t around in the wee hours, but I did hear that Jerry VE6TL did have his operating tent and rigs fall on him during a vicious wind/rain storm.  I think we will be looking for solid structures to operate from in succeeding years – -a trailer may be in order.  I will certainly look forward to spending more time at field day next year!

July 1st makes it Canada Day contest day!  and I was able to work the contest at least for a while.  Will see how the results tally up.

August 16 was the MARM fest.  It’s a great organization and was celebrating it’s 25th year of MARMfesting.  A great achievement.  Unfortunately this may be the last official MARMfest in Austin, but will see.  There’s still a great time had by all who attend and have some eye-balls with those we’ve met over the air, but never in person.  The semi-annual MRS meeting was also held there with a presentation on the current status of the repeaters and linking system and more memberships were brought in – a great time.

Some of us local folk have been interested in supporting a high-speed ham-only digital network on our 2.3GHz bands for all ham groups and hams to use.  It is operational.  The local Winnipeg Digital Repeater group had it’s meeting on September 3 and William VE4VR and I attended to discuss options and plans for integrating the high-speed network.  In the end, it’s a great opportunity, so I also joined that group to support their efforts.

Upcoming events include the Sep meeting of the RSMB at Ed VE4YU’s home and hopefully some more contests.

I’ve been able to aquire an older TA33 Mosley tri-band beam — it’s a good size, as well as a 48′ self-supporting dmx tower – which will hopefully find it’s way to my QTH in short order.  Work is underway to re-do the landscaping, so will see where the tower goes.  Will see if there is time to put it all up prior to the snow flying, but that’s another challenge.

Regardless, I have also received a couple of satellite dish and their mounts to use on mounting a pole to support my 2.3GHz HSMM node – now that I have the outside-rated cable, will see how well the path works between my QTH and the node in Osborne Village.

73, Dan ve4drk

 

 

VE4WRS …

This is a VHF repeater located on top of the Radisson Hotel in downtown Winnipeg – and is run by the MRS group (Manitoba Repeater Society).  Today, I was part of a group who went up to ensure the COS was operating and that it would work properly with the IRLP setup on that site.   We confirmed all is good with the network/etc and started logging state changes in the controller as Yuri probed the controller and did the soldering to wire it up.  After reviewing some online documentation on the controller pins/etc, we were able to isolate the proper connection – and viola – proper DTMF recognition on the software side 🙂

Our little group consisted of Ed, Yuri, Derek, Robert and myself — only took about 2.5 hrs to complete the operation …

Some pics of the work site below:

73, Dan ve4drk

Yuri and Ed
Yuri and Ed
Derek and Robert
Derek and Robert
Yuri, Ed and Robert
Yuri, Ed and Robert
Yuri and Ed
Yuri and Ed
Yuri and Ed
Yuri and Ed
Yuri soldering away
Yuri soldering away
lower section of the tower on top of the hotel ...
lower section of the tower on top of the hotel …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit to VE4VJ/VE4WPG

(Note I put VE4VJ first — I like that repeater more than WPG 🙂

Anyways — Had the chance to visit the top of the Richardson Building in downtown Winnipeg to assist in putting up a high-speed digital link to another intermediary — unfortunately, where the tower was located (on the far-side of where we were going to) and the angle was too steep (only on the other side of the block) – the link would be untenable. 🙂

So – looking for another means to put that into operation — there is always more than one way to skin a cat … more to come I’m sure …

Oh yeah – some pics from up high — great location though.

73, Dan ve4drkIMG_20131227_084916 IMG_20131227_084907 IMG_20131227_084928