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

2017 Fargo Hamfest, visits to 55N et al

For the second year in a row – wow – I ventured to Fargo – a few hours south of the city of Winnipeg here and attended the rrra.org hamfest.  Usual place is in West Fargo on the Red River Valley Fairgrounds.  They have access to a good sized venue (Hartl Building) which provides ample table space for flea market items and lots of walking space to meet and chat.  Was great to head back – met some old friends and met some that I’ve met on-air but not in face.  I also attended a couple of discussion sessions and managed to talk to other fellow ham geeks.  Always learn something new.  The XYL and I arrived the evening prior and settled into our hotel.  I knew there were other hams from our city heading down but it was getting quite late after dinner, we turned in for the night — as you know, the door opens at 8am and sure enough -there was a line-up to get at that time too 🙂

There must have been a dozen of us Winnipeg hams that came down – what a turnout!  I was able to pick up a unit I had been looking for, so all was not lost.  Others picked up more (heavier) stuff than I.  Some of the antennas looked nice, but a little honda can only hold so much.

I was surprised – for once in quite some time, I actually won something!  A $50 voucher from the ARRL!  Awesome.  I’m already a member and I’ve been looking at getting an updated manual for some time, so this was just perfect timing.

Yup – it’s true!

We also checked out their emergency vehicle they have – wow – looks great and there were some good ideas as well:

Checking out the emergency vehicle setup

General lay of the area:

Great event – would go again – good show guys!

A week (or so) prior to this, a few of us (William VE4VR, Wyatt VE4WDZ and myself Dan VE4DRK) spent a few hours on our main site 55N to replace some items.  Seems the “newer” switch we put in place did not fare well with the on-going power issues at that location.  Half the ports were toast  – so some of the hams/hamgroups that use our services had no service.  So we replace it with a better switch (Cisco) and then time is spent re-routing, identifying and cataloging the connections.

rewiring the rats nest
Our northern tower portion

Recently, William VE4VR also made a run out to our local VE4MAN repeater at Starbuck and was able to remotely configure the raspberry pi Allstarlink node to point to our new switch at 55n.  So, we can get that back on the air and possibly testing more.  He’s been busy – with also running out to our inkster site and reconfiguring the 3GHz system to see if we can get it working better – may have to replace a sector with a dish…

Well, I’ve got more work to do to get my older 6m capable radio on the air with it’s new amplifier and to get my other HF radio setup with a winlink system. I’m already running the packet winlink on 145.01 (yes, you did hear that right) via Werner VE4UA’s VHF gateway.  Am interested to see an HF gateway running as well – hopefully it will work out.

One item I was surprised to see .. I do the odd contesting now and then and then this came in the mail:

2016 Sweeps!

I’m not a power-station, in fact, I have mediocre antennas – so I was tad surprised – where were the rest of you! 😉  Oh yeah – my contest call is VE4EV in case you were wondering….

All for now . until I get more time to write something else up.

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

 

VA4WAN – new ham online

Jan VE4JS is just down the street – he always hears me when I check into the MEPN (Manitoba Evening Phone Net) on 3.747 KHz 7pm local time — more like 2km away, but still relatively close.

He had expressed an interest in our high speed ham net, so with the help of Colin, he secured some cabling and a grid antenna and I gave him one of my high power bullets and injectors.  He was able to fabricate a mount for his antenna and pointed at our new site (60c).  Now, that being relatively close, one would think it would be a decent connection –

looking towards 60c
looking towards 60c

but .. very poor results – only 1 bar on the radio part, so, over emails, I suggest he point it to our main site (55N) which is about 7km away give or take

looking at 55N .. tall building way out ...
looking at 55N .. tall building way out …

— lo and behold – full scale reading on the radio. So, we pick a time where I can come down and help verify his setup.  He’s on-line now — albeit only with about 3Mbps max … hovering around 1.5Mbps on average.  Will have to have one of the guys verify my handi-work on configuration and make sure it’s up to snuff — not sure if he has tree branches too close or not — but his tower is 50′ or so and is just over the tree line in his established area of town (near the river).

night-viewing
night-viewing

So, another member added on — looking to get more hams online.

73, Dan ve4drk

VA4WAN – upgrading member site

One of our founders home site was recently upgraded to a spanking new 15m tower!  So — with that in mind, why not move the high-speed gear to this new tower and get better connectivity — not just one one band, but three!

Colin starting the climbing
Colin starting the climbing
Derek assembling units -- while "spot" keeps us company ...
Derek assembling units — while “spot” keeps us company …
William programming/setting up units
William programming/setting up units
Colin mounting pole on new mount structure
Colin mounting pole on new mount structure

 

Cable runs made up, Derek getting the 2.3GHz grid ready to go up ...
Cable runs made up, Derek getting the 2.3GHz grid ready to go up …

Luckily, Derek had a whole roll of shielded outdoor rated cat5 cable – we ran 5 runs of 90′ or so of each, so that used up half a roll or so.  I was even able to practice putting together cat5 ends together 🙂

last antenna being mounted ...
last antenna being mounted …

 

Note – it was getting a tad dark out .. so we had to finish up quickly.   Colin doing the last part of the hardware install on top prior to securing the feed lines.  With all said and done, what’s installed is fairly impressive.  Running radios on the 2.3 GHz, 3.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz spectrum with a nice camera and an extra access point for local usage!  What I initially thought would take 3 hours or so, turned into 6!

Should have triple-redundancy connection on three bands when I get my reciprocating antenna installed on my roof!

Unfortunately, since we were running late in getting all done up at Derek’s place, we weren’t able to run over to William’s place to update his VHF connection.  In the plans I have to make some amendments to my own gear… winter is coming 🙂

Another few are interested in getting started in the mode, so we’ll help out where we can.

73, Dan ve4drk

 

55N work – new structure!

It was going to be a hot day — so, plenty of water was required – not just the heat was making us warm – but the exposure to all this RF up there can give you a sun-burn!

A rather nice addition to our primary location is a new mount point. This location faces south and will aid in getting a better signal through the new built-up hvac systems being upgraded.  Thanks to Derek VE4HAY for securing this new location — it’ll help on a number of fronts.

Meeting at the site was Derek VE4HAY, William VE4VR, Colin VE4CST, Wyatt VE4WDZ, Robert VE4RLK and myself Dan VE4DRK at around 10:00am Saturday.

While I usually try to take pics showing the work that is going on, I was busy running cable and had to leave at 3pm.  Robert had to leave around noon and the rest of the guys stayed till about 6pm.  Lots of work was done.  We were able to secure a new post to the infrastructure and host a 3.4 and a 2.3 sector and a couple of 5GHz panels – one pointing to the VE4WSC site and the other pointing to the 60C site down south.

Our existing tower has quite the number of units on it – to put it all on a single pole will take some work:

existing tower on 55n with all it's gear :-)
existing tower on 55n with all it’s gear 🙂

the new view to the south with the new pole is simply amazing:

exposure to the south
exposure to the south
Colin working on installing the two sectors .. William keeping things steady ...
Colin working on installing the two sectors .. William keeping things steady …

 

Derek bolting things in place ...
Derek bolting things in place …

 

Wyatt doing the fine cat5 cable connectors. All 4 runs in and out!
Wyatt doing the fine cat5 cable connectors. All 4 runs in and out!
Chowing down after a few hours of work - thanks, William for making the feed-bag run!
Chowing down after a few hours of work – thanks, William for making the feed-bag run!
nothin' you can't do with some power tools! Colin re-working the connector slot ...
nothin’ you can’t do with some power tools! Colin re-working the connector slot …
Derek and Colin securing the 5G panels in place .. talk about gain!
Derek and William securing the 5G panels in place .. talk about gain!

While there, we also attached the new 5G woodlands panel to the existing WDR site … it is interesting to look through all the scaffolding gear on top of that building – but hopefully it will be gone soon.

After I had left, a  new 5GHz panel was placed for Inkster and the radio unit for the 5GHz omni was replaced.  If you find yourself wanting to check out a 5GHz connection, point your radio to 55N and give it a try and let us know!

Some further work is required.  We need to secure a 5GHz panel at woodlands site itself and confirm the connectivity of the Dugald Road site – it would prove very useful in the future to connect up the Transcona area.

All for now – more work to be done while we have warm weather.  But remember, we do make house-calls in January!  (reference: http://ve4drk.keizer.ca/?p=182 )

73, Dan ve4drk

 

Play time with more gear :-)

A few more week and some more interesting things to work with over the last while.  The local ham-space held it’s twice-annual flea market – I manned the membership table of the local MRS group – will be my last as I transfer membership duties to another ham – been fun.  I was able to find a used antenna from a local ham – seems I need to do some work on this GAP Challenger vertical as there’s some damage to it.

We’ve been fortunate enough to find some decent deals on some used RF gear to help with our project, so I have to get some to try them out.

A nice Ubiquity Bullet2HP unit (or two), a few RouterBoard with built-in 2GHz RF unit, a nice Ubiquity M3 3GHz unit.

RFgear RFgear2

… and more to come — some of these units have some rather nice features to visualize spectrum usage – will be interesting.

Another fun item was a recent tower-destruction resulted in a small piece of hardline being offered up – I put my hand-held next to it to give some form of context — this is hard stuff …

hard-line anyone?
hard-line anyone?

this was some form of commercial broadcasting … would have been interesting to see 400′ of that tower coming down!

Another fun thing to work on is to resurrect the ol’ TNC and put it into good use.  A friend put up a dual-channel radio on 145.01 and I am putting together this little unit to get “back” on the air on AFSK 🙂  brings back memories:

TNC anyone?
TNC anyone?

why not provide a separate back-up to our 2.3 GHz unit (10Mbps) with a 1200bps 145MHz unit … will be interesting to see in operation.  Next will be 9600FSK data-radios 🙂

73, Dan ve4drk

 

 

Been a while … lots to say (or not) …

Been a rather long 3 months since my last update on my radio happenings.  After a while things keep on getting busier and busier, so in the end, I will have to pass on some of my current activities to others to take on,  such as the membership chair of the Manitoba Repeater Society, so I can focus on the items that need more attention from myself.  A good few years doing what needs to be done in support of the society – learned alot and met alot of very knowledgeable people.

When I get the chance, it’s always fun to take things apart — assuming we can get all the pieces back together again.  Following that line, I had a loose connector on my APRS VHF tracker unit.  This is a rather unique integrated device – it combines a GPS receiver (SiRF 4) with an ATMEGA board design, a 1 watt VHF transceiver, bluetooth, thermometer and sdcard storage into one small package about the size of a pack of smokes.

at510 description
at510 description
pieces
pieces

 

All good – back to normal again and connector reseated 🙂

 

On another front – our local digital group has a member that does not have direct line of sight to our main site, so with the help of another member, he rigged up a couple of connections to bounce-around and get what he needs :

connectivity ...
connectivity …

One of the benefits of having our VA4WAN system operational is that we get to support the local radio groups needs, such as the senior’s need for telephony and internet access.  Once it was open again, we were able to go in and help give it a good cleaning, and analyze at how we can wire-up the rooms with their own VoIP phonesets – to do that Derek was hunting around to where the lines came in and found the junction in the back room — wow – this has been around a while:

old-style to new style ..
old-style to new style ..

Thanks to Les from Les.Net for all his assistance, support and provisioning over the past while.

During the Christmas break, I was also able to have some hardware vacate the house.  I don’t have the same need for a rack full of servers and switching gear, so my son was able to re-purpose the rack and network gear, servers, etc to good use – part of the gear below:

gonzo ...
gonzo …

My Mikrotik router had issues — apparently with bad ‘caps’, so Colin was great enough to re-do the caps one evening – he certainly knows how to do this and has quite the experience.  So, better working unit now:

caps gone wild ...
caps gone wild …

Sad news this past while, one of our founding members of Radiosport Manitoba, and our treasurer, recently passed away.  Ed Henderson VE4YU, a very well-known and well-respected radio amateur, contester and all-round nice guy.  During the most recent contest, our group all gave out “Ed”‘s name as our contact exchange.  Ed always had a smile on his face.  73 Ed.

73 Ed VE4YU
73 Ed VE4YU
VE4YU
VE4YU

 

Our local guys Dick VE4HK and Cary VE4EA spent a lot of time organizing and taking care of his items.  When it was placed on the swap and shop, I was able to purchase some of his gear – all in excellent top-quality shape.   I now posses his TS590S, RS30M, paddles and studio mic.  It’s already making a significant difference in my experience —  I am now operational on HF digital 🙂

gear
gear

On one of my coffee trips to the usual joint, Jim and I were joking about how many handhelds we have .. so, we decided to bring (most) of them …

woo hoo
woo hoo

different digital radios, mult-bands, etc … quite the collection.  In the end, I ended up selling about 4 over a month … guess I don’t really need 3 digital radios 🙁

Spring is in the air and it’s time to re-group and identify what we need to get done on our VA4WAN project to continue building it out.  We had another group session with Derek VE4HAY, William, VE4VR, Colin VE4CST  and myself Dan VE4DRK (I keep on taking the pictures) …

decision time
decision time

One thing we want to do is assist more hams to get on the air with the VA4WAN system and expand it’s coverage to serve more groups and provide services.  A local student was asking for assistance so we were more then happy to help and were able to donate a 5GHz antenna for him to try out.  Now, we’ve been having issues (off and on) on our 5GHz omni on our main site, so this didn’t work out too well for him — so William put together a 2.3GHz station to get him on the air — a few days later and his call shows up on the system 🙂  We’ll also be fixing up the omni to ensure it’s working properly as well.

We were surprised to receive a nice donation from Walter VE4VB for a sector antenna – will be good to put  more in operation:

sector!
sector!

Over the past while we’ve been able to secure a significant number of 3.4GHz cards as well as some 2.3GHz bullets and miscellaneous items – like Router boards/enclosures etc .. so work needs to progress now on building the sites up.  Speaking of sites, we’ll soon be preparing to set up the site on Dugald road and provide coverage to the eastern part of the city fairly soon.  To top it off, we’ll also be installing the MRS test system for radio linking via VoIP — a great opportunity.

I was also able to upgrade my 9 port router to a more recent 10 port router a RB2011UiAS-RM – which also has gigabit ports to boot!

RB2011
RB2011

I’m really impressed with these routerboards and Mikrotik controllers — they are very impressive in what they do.  I still have some networking setup to accomplish on it to integrate the various networks in the house now, a few bumps, but it’s coming along.

The last thing to write about today is the meet up we had this past Saturday, April 2.  Radiosport Manitoba in conjunction with the Winnipeg Amateur Radio Club, co-sponsored a day long session called “Discover the HF experience” — in which esteemed radio amateurs local and remote are brought in to discuss all things ham radio and what’s going on today.  We were able to bring in Tom VE3CX as well as Gord VE6SV and remotely  have both W1VE and Doug K1DG do presentations.  Locally, we also had Ed VE4EAR and Leor VE4DXR also give presentations.  All in all, we had a great attendance at the event — almost 50 from what I was counting and packed the room quite full.  Was great participation from all members of Radiosport Manitoba in assisting with the event.  Thanks to Cary VE4EA for coordinating what will hopefully be a most impressive annual event.

Discover the HF experience
Discover the HF experience

During these winter months, it was not good for my antennas again!  This time, two of my coax cables got chewed up by rabbits!  So – -after discussing with those in the know, I’ll be looking at enclosing them with some wrap and burying them under the ground — at least worms don’t have big teeth!  So my RF experience as of late has been diminished and I really do need to run more cable — time is ripe.

73, Dan ve4drk

 

55n here we come …

We had an ambitious schedule to get a number of things completed in this last visit … 1) replace server, 2) replace injectors, 3) replace nano with sectors and bullets, install the 5GHz dish, setup more cable, replace switch with newer MicroTik routers etc …

A number of us, VE4CST, VE4VR, VE4CY, VE4WDZ, VE4RAI and myself VE4DRK gathered a bunch of goods and set up on to the top of our main site at 55N Sat morning.

parts, parts, parts .. some assembly required ...
parts, parts, parts .. some assembly required …
.. even more parts
.. even more parts

We worked on putting together the one RF unit in an enclosure and sealing it up … replacing the servers and getting the UPS’s installed with new batteries:

servers being worked on
servers being worked on

and putting sector antennas together:

new sectors!
new sectors!
panel assembly
panel assembly

they are to replace the nano’s on the top of the tower:

tower to be worked on ...
tower to be worked on …

 

So, while I was only there for a few hours, the rest of the guys stayed a few hours later and continued on with the RF hardware installation on the tower … with those new sectors installed the signal strength will be awesome!

And once the 3′ 5GHz antenna is installed pointing to our Woodlands site we’ll have a remote system up as well — good stuff!

We’re also putting up links to support the remote connectivity of the MRS repeater systems in neighbouring areas.

More to come as they transpire – but a great start to upgrading the system …

73, Dan ve4drk

High speed cow – take 2

High-speed cow - take 2
High-speed cow – take 2

If at first you don’t succeed … this was the outcome of that first try — more time.

Was expecting a few hours to complete the setup, but it turns out it took all day to do what we had to do 🙂 🙁

On Sunday, Colin VE4CST and Dan VE4DRK met Jim VE4CY on the way to the Woodlands site where we started to verify the setup and ensure it’s working.

Working on the mounting for the UPS and ancillary plugs as well as getting the new batteries installed in the UPS, all was looking good.

UPS setup
UPS setup

Well — we ran into a few issues along the way — took a lot longer than expected- we had to build our own mount which was interesting.  Thank god for “step bits”!

Step bits!
Step bits!

They went through that iron like butter!  We also eventually found the spare drill battery 🙂

mount to be
mount to be
mount 'be'
mount ‘be’

A rather nice job fabricating this mount – and Colin even had rust protection spray paint, so Jim gave it that ‘pro’ look –  great job all around.

antenna 'not to be'
antenna ‘not to be’

Let’s face it, it’s now October — in Manitoba — it’s getting chilly, especially up top the 100′ silo where Colin spent a lot of time mounting etc., but we ran into some stiff wind and moving this large ‘pizza-box’ size flat antenna up with shorter-than-expected rope up the side was just not going to do it – so we just ensured the Microtik router was up and running and plugged into the antennas and away we go — except — we had to fill up a couple of tires with air  as it seems we ran into (over) some nails and one tire was completely flat and the other down to 20lbs.  Lucky enough we’re on a farm and the 5ton service vehicle was close by to fill us up before we headed up and make it back to the city.  (Thanks guys!)

But, the fun continues, as on the way out we try to connect to the 2.3GHz omni – it is so weak it is hardly reachable!  Something is not right — we scanter about looking for signals etc but can’t find any and back-up back to the farm yard and connect back to the unit from the south facing directional antenna and Colin does his magic and re-connects the wireless card with the right antenna port 🙂

Ola’ there we go and we can hear it pretty good down the road — Jim was ahead of us a bit and was already climbing his tower by the time we rolled by …

Jim VE4CY tower climbing (nice SteppIR by the way!)
Jim VE4CY tower climbing (nice SteppIR by the way!)

…so we tried a regular nanostation to see how it would perform – Ola! again we have a weak signal!  Not bad for a 7 mile or so run.  We give Jim the coax, grid antenna and Colin instructs on how to create the mount/etc and Jim will have a nice setup for his shack.  Luckily, Jim has iron working equipment and can fabricate his own goods to mount the antenna on.

antenna to mount
antenna to mount

An expected 4 hour job turned into an 8 hour plus job as events unfolded …  thank goodness my XYL sent sandwiches and munchies/water 🙂

we’ll be there soon …

73, Dan ve4drk

High-speed cow!

Well – it’s been a while since I was on a farm operation :

High-Speed Cow
High-Speed Cow

… but that’s where we were bright and early Sunday morning – I dropped by Colin VE4CST’s QTH at 0730hrs and we met Jim VE4CY as we passed along and headed up the 7 mile ride to the site.  Arriving at about 8:30am from the trip from the ‘peg to a farm operation out in Woodlands area which is about an hour north-west of the city from my area – we started the operation right away.

This is a great site in the area as it has a 100’ large silo with an existing RF infrastructure established which we are able to tag-along with and install some amateur radio RF connections.   First on the list was to install the 2.3GHz and the 5.9GHz dual back-haul grid antennas and the 2.3GHz omni.  Colin scaled the silo and Jim followed and Dan stayed on the ground.

Silo Scaling
Silo Scaling

Then looking from the homestead …

Way-up!
Way-up!
way-up-from-homestead
way-up-from-homestead

and from up-top:

dan-from-afar
dan-from-afar

After Colin setup the mounts and antennas way up, and Jim and Dan ran the cable through the barn into the control room (remember it’s a barn, so cleanliness is not the order of the day) — Colin setup the router and the wifi cards …

route and wifi
route and wifi

Colin was able to install the box and finishing up a few things on the way down:

finishing up
finishing up

We have a few more things to do with it – so it’s not 100% yet but another trip planned and list of things-to-do should cover it – we’re already gathering up pieces that are required to complete the job and spend another half day up there.

We will also be installing a larger 3′ dish on our primary site to  provide the feed for this site – will be interesting to see how well it performs with the dual back-haul.

Was just shy of 6 hours spent at the sight and I don’t know if it was the fresh air or what, but man, was I tired — slept like a baby last night.

73, Dan ve4drk

New 2.3GHz access site installed

This was the wrap-up and finalization of a site that Colin had been working on for a few trips.  It’s located in the St James area and has decent visibility/height to serve those around it.  Derek VE4HAY, Colin VE4CST and myself met Isaac at the Bread plant.  We were able to finish tacking up the long run of cat5e cable to the mount point.

Derek drilling holes for mounting
Derek drilling holes for mounting

 

Colin finished installing the new MicroTik router and wireless cards into the enclosure that houses the flat panel antenna.  Also along with that was a nice 12dB 2.3GHz omni antenna.

New MicroTik board - lots of growth
New MicroTik board – lots of growth

 

Wasn’t too hard of a job, but took a few hours from start to finish – when all was said and done, Colin did the last bit of setup on the router board and away we went:

Setup
Setup

 

It’s position looks quite good for the local area — will have to make sure we get more hams active on it.

 

shot from a-far
shot from a-far

This site, and other remote sites like it, will be well-served when our new sector antennas come in – at that point, we can make a trip to our primary site and replace the antennas and adjust the frequencies – maybe even reduce our usage of the spectrum a bit.

73, Dan ve4drk

 

Hide an antenna

Well .. it was great to get on the air no 2.3GHz earlier in the month.  Had to have the antenna moved to the front of the house so as not to get interference from the roof.  Not too close though so it’s totally visible .. good thing it works pretty good as the XYL did not know where it was located as she couldn’t see it.

I had to take some pics to show here where it was:

Find the antenna
Find the antenna
side pic
side pic

So – I can’t complain – if the XYL can’t see it very easily – all the better 🙂

73, Dan ve4drk

New router OS – literally

In further support of the 2.3 GHz project, I decided it was time to learn the ins and outs of our current router we use to link our units all together — that would be the MicroTik line of routers.

So, William had a few spare units the group wasn’t using yet, so I popped by and he gave me a “black box” — inside was a sturdy black metal box with lots of holes in it 🙂   Further interesting was the stuff that was inside those holes … nine (yes, 9) ethernet ports in this little box!

Now that's a router!
Now that’s a router!

While I do have a nice 24 port Extreme Networks switch in the rack downstairs, this little guy will be useful in linking up my 2.3GHz RF unit into the rest of the network.  Along the way, I’ll familiarize myself with the inner workings, routing, firewalling/etc with this puppy .. lots to learn I’m sure .. but having already used the web-based admin section on another MicroTik router, I get the gist of it .. just gotta learn the itty bitty details.

73, Dan ve4drk

New install and also on-the-air!

I’ve know Cary VE4EA for a couple of years now – mostly regarding contesting.  He is getting much more into remote-station operating and VoIP in a big way now it seems, and had some issues/questions to work out, so we were chatting a bit one day.  I mentioned that he should join our little group and get involved with our 2.3GHz highspeed data project  so, he bit and joined up.

Discussing with the rest of the guys, Colin chimes up that he can do the install that day – just needs a spare RF unit.  Wow …. well, I had a couple in my basement  but was heading out for the monthly MRS exec meeting that night.  So, I left them on my door-step.  After coming back from the meeting, I check the MicroTik routers to see if Cary had made it on yet – not yet, so I email Colin asking how are things with Cary .. just as I get it sent, I see Cary’s callsign pop upon the MicroTik!  he’s on the air.  Mind you, it’s after 10pm at night now .. and from what I understand, Colin was working in a light-restricted time of day – but was able to get him operational.  Now, the aiming needs to be adjusted and possibly a better antenna to ensure the signal strength will be adequate — more to come.

ve4ea 2.3GHz antenna
ve4ea 2.3GHz antenna

So, once all done, Cary can do his remote ham operating and Ham VoIP over the group’s 2.3GHz data link.   Nice.  Another addition to our active user list.

73, Dan ve4drk

2.3GHz – and on the air

It was a nice day and lucky for me Colin VE4CST had some spare time to come to my QTH and install (properly) my 2.3GHz radio on the roof.  (I say properly, as my installation mount was not up to spec).  After installation, it was determined the model should be upgraded to provide better signal quality.  Being about 8 km away or so from the main site, a good antenna at the frequency is great.  So, after all was said and done, installing mount, radio and running cable, splicing etc I have a nice 10Mbps RF connection over ham radio frequencies 🙂  Gotta love that!  Our spectrum utilization is quite narrow at this point in time – we didn’t want to over-use the allocations just for us, just in case.

We needed to get to visit Walter VE4VB’s setup and verify some items.  It had been intermittent it seems.  So, we head on out towards his QTH – but on the way we need to have a bite to eat, so we stop in at a local east-indian restaurant — nice break.

Getting to Walter, we find him eager to see what we were going to do.  Colin remembered the angle of the unit mounted to the tower would need to be adjusted, so a hunt was on for spare parts in Walter’s garage — we eventually find some useful tubing on the side and proceed to cut it down to size.  Colin heads on up the tower and replaces the existing radio with a new(er) one and re-aims the unit.

 

Colin scaling Walter's tower - replacing RF unit
Colin scaling Walter’s tower – replacing RF unit

Next, we had to re-wire the rj45 conneector to spec and re-work his router to ensure it’s all setup.  After a bit of time, we figured things out and got them arranged just so.  So, now, it’s a stable connection with full time connection for his ham functions.

On the way out, we were treated to some of his “buckets” of tomatoes he seemed to have grown — thanks Walter – and thanks Colin, for all your hard work!

73, Dan ve4drk

VA4WAN planning …

So, it’s been summer and everyone has lots on their mind (beyond working on radios all the time) — so it’s been a while since we’ve worked on some of the core features of the system, so it was time to have a meeting of the minds to go over what we have to do and how to get it done and etc etc …

Having a long list to go through, it only took 2.5 hrs to review, discuss, hash-out etc to ensure we have a priority list of items to get taken care of.  Naturally, there was the meeting after the meeting to discuss other stuff … I stayed behind and Derek treated to scotch while we chatted, along with William.  Colin had to run right around 9 — but it was great to get the guys into a room to figure out what where we need to go and do to keep momentum moving on the projects.

Sites, bands, routing, access, servers, collaboration server and the like were all discussed.  So, a good meeting was had to ensure we keep this moving.

73, Dan, ve4drk

VA4WAN – continued progress and enhancements

Last Sunday William VE4VR, Colin VE4CST, Les VA4LES and myself headed up to the location of our VA4WAN high-speed networking site.  Had to re-establish some good weighting on a unit outside and ensure it was strong enough to withstand the high winds like we had a week prior.  Good thing it was built like a tank – no damage!

Since we were up there, we had to re-organize things 😉 … so, all the RF units were re-organized on the tower – here’s Colin doing his thing:

Colin working hard ...
Colin working hard …

The rats nest of PoE injectors was just that — a mess, so we had to do something .. re-org a bit better.  I think we need to invest in a good multi-port PoE injector unit for this site — sure would help keep things neat.

A new router-board unit with a metal box to help keep unwanted stray RF out of it was also installed – will help no doubt.

Our new 5GHz link radio and antenna was installed to point to our soon-to-be-new multi-connection point.  That will offer us dual BGP routing to our network from two major net connections .. wowser!  fun times.

Took a lot longer than expected – over 6 hrs 🙁 but we’re in a better position now than before.  A wee bit more work on things and it will be even better.

Today, I spent a hour or two working on a local ham’s nano station to ensure it is connecting properly to our network – so it’s line of sight and works like a charm 🙂  Happy days.

73, Dan ve4drk

VE4WDR, HSMM, and CQ WPX

One of the groups I belong to is the VE4WDR – Winnipeg Digital Repeater group that runs and operates the local D-Star repeater.  I joined the group last year and picked up a hand-held dstar radio to try out the modes and understand more of the protocols – how we can use it/leverage it /etc …

Well, the computer that runs the internet-gateway services for the dstar system crashed a couple of weeks ago, and while it was attempted to resurrect the machine, it was DOA and not recovering, so a new server was procured – thanks to William VE4VR on his server-grade rack-mount unit with redundant supplies/etc.  After getting the software CD’s /downloads, I was able to get the server back in operational state – running in my rack in my basement.

So, we finally get a time where a group of us can scale the bldg at the site and install the new server.

After getting the old server out (a pc-based desktop housed inside a rack-mount enclosure), we needed to put the (larger) server in a different spot — higher up.

Plugging in the power and the ethernet cables, it came up just fine and started it’s registration process to put itself on the routes.  A little while late rand viola, we were back on-line.  Now Garth VE4GWB was working hard on figuring out the free-start g2_link new software – so there’s a bit of new stuff to figure out, but at least it’s back on-line and more secure.

Attending the fix was VE4GWB, VE4MAB, VE4VR, VE4DRK, VE4RLK and his S.O. Laura.

I was able to spend a few hours spread over a couple days to try my hand at the CQ WPX contest.  I didn’t quite make my deadline on getting my new antenna up, so I didn’t put in much time (nor effort) — so my score shows — I think I made around 140 contacts — so, just played around.

The other item that I was able to get tested out was my ubiquiti radio on the 2.3GHz amateur radio spectrum.  After setting it atop my 20′ pole, I was able to get some connectivity — albeit only at a 1.5Mbps rate .. so I do need more height — mounted to the pole above the house should do it 🙂  will see.

On the bright side, Walter VE4VB was ale to get connected to the network as well — he’s only a couple of km from the site, so it appears he has good coverage, but might be slightly obscured from equipment on top of the bldg and off to the side .. will do further tests to figure that out.

73, Dan ve4drk

 

VA4WAN – continued progress

A large contingent of hams scaled the 55 Nassau building last Sunday.  Accompanying us was our ISP provider Les from les.net (who coincidentally happens to also be a ham) and with us was a large external enclosure and some new RF gear — a spanking new Air Fiber 24GHz unit!  So the point of this visit is to replace the existing link with this new hot one.  With one radio already setup at the base and this one being installed, the speed will be over 1Gbps duplex 🙂

Switching gear/etc
Switching gear/etc
The Air Fiber ... first dish on the right-side
The Air Fiber … first dish on the right-side
William, Colin, Derek (and apparently my thumb) working on the rack
William, Colin, Derek (and apparently my thumb) working on the rack

 

one switch, two switch - small switch, big switch
one switch, two switch – small switch, big switch

SO – how fast can this this transfer data?  How about 800Mbps sustained!  Now that’s quite a data feed for our little radio setup – and that’s without tweaking the configuration.

We have more work to do on the network configuration/management end of things, but it’s all good working forwards.

The effort now is to bridge this connection to remote points of the city and outside to provide services to hams and ham groups.

Stay tuned!

73, Dan ve4drk

VA4WAN – back at it!

Woo hoo!  It was a cold wintery and very blustery day (for being up 40 some stories) in downtown’ish Winnipeg.  A group of us, comprised of Derek VE4HAY, William VE4VR, Colin VE4CST, Robert VE4RLK, and Dan VE4DRK headed up the site to reset the link radio to our ISP Provider les.net.  Now that Les is operational in his spanking new data centre (very impressive to say the least) he and Colin were able to setup one end of the RF connectivity to our repeater site.

It was brutally cold – anything not covered up was freezing in minutes, so we had to have ‘warm breaks’ to get warmed back up before going back outside to the tower again.

William enjoying his fingers getting frozen… removing the older RF unit … Derek pointing the way …

Derek pointing the way "Land (RF) Ho!"
Derek pointing the way “Land (RF) Ho!”

 

Installing the new(er) RF unit … different operating band … less interference.  William, Derek and Robert.

Keeping on with the install... trying to stay warm near the vents
Keeping on with the install… trying to stay warm near the vents

 

Colin in the background working hard running grounding lines and ensuring a great setup.  Robert in the foreground.
Colin in the background working hard running grounding lines and ensuring a great setup. Robert in the foreground.

 

It’s funny how my outside pictures that far up look like they’re in the stratosphere – the hazy blue look to it.  It really was that cold up there though!

We were greeted with a visit by our ISP provider Les VA4LES who graciously provides our connectivity.  A good site survey and more discussions on what options are available and we’re done.  Derek and William stay behind a bit longer to configure up some of the networking setup.  A little while later, Les re-routes the BGP routing for our local portion of the net 44.  .. and we’re online!  From my DSL connection, I’m getting under 20ms RTT to our RF link – simply awesome!  Great job by all and there is more to be done to enhance the service offering to all the local ham groups and operators.  Lots of RF and computer and networking to work on, but it’s all coming together now.

Lots to look forward to implement …

73, Dan ve4drk

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

New roof-top venture …

In support of the HSMM 2.3GHz digital project in the city, there were a number of us who got together to revamp the position and setup of the tower and antenna layouts on top of the building.   The building is about 40 stories high in downtown’ish Winnipeg and has a impressive view!

Looking North (eastward/westward)
Looking North (eastward/westward)

The day was a Saturday – it was cold — there was wind — we spent all day up there – about 9am-6pm.  Still towers were taken down and re-assembled – Harm VE4HAZ:

Assembly - Harm VE4HAZ

 

 

One guy working – 3 guys watching 😉  I jest – all had a good day of work.  Derek VE4HAY (at least his feet), Harm VE4HAZ, Ryan VA4MAC and I honestly forget the callsign of the guy in the middle with the touque – sorry about that!

Work work work ...

 

 

We even had time for a bite to eat – which was great considering how long we were up there.  Colin was able to not only get us some food stuffs, but also used the spare left-over cash to buy a needed UPS and battery for the controlling networking gear in the room!

Colin VE4CST, William VE4VR

Lunch time - note the new UPS + battery!
Lunch time – note the new UPS + battery!

The wind was biting hard, especially when you were higher up – and had no gloves on, right Derek?

Derek VE4HAY
Derek VE4HAY

In the end, we have the units up and operational with one trunk link installed on one end – rest to be installed on other side of the link a couple of miles away.  Networking is being configured and routing is setup – we just need that last link up to push it the rest of the way!  Soon — soon …

73, Dan ve4drk