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Ham radio is a great hobby. There is an unlimited array of interests in which to be involved. My endeavor here is to share what I’m doing and learning in the hopes that others will discover the joys of “hamming.” My main blogging is over at Musings of Captain Justice.

Also known formally as the Amateur Radio Service, ham radio is the ultimate geek hobby.  From the days of Marconi, Western Union telegraph and other primitive forms of communication, amateur radio now melds radio, computers and space satellites; and in addition to voice and morse code communications, includes digital modes of email over the airwaves and the equivalent of instant messaging.

I was a ham years as (WB5IUT) and had let my license lapse. I am now (thanks to the ‘vanity’ callsign program) KA5GIL.

Beware-Of-Ham-RadioMy present equipment includes a mobile VHF/UHF rig (which is what hams call their radio — a Yaesu FTM-350) and a base/portable/mobile HF/VHF/UHF rig (Icom IC-7000). My antennas at the base station include for HF, a 20/40 meter trap dipole and a G5RV, each suspended at about 35 feet. The base VHF/UHF antenna is a simple J-Pole.

The antennas for the mobile include a 5/8 whip for VHF/UHF and Hustler center-loaded antennas for the HF rig. That setup is under construction at the moment but is just around the corner.

So what do hams actually ‘do’ with the hobby? The answer is too voluminous for a single website and these answers will be forthcoming.

http://captainjustice.net/2010/02/11/solve-all-the-pathology-in-america-today/
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Why use digital ham radio?

Amateur “ham” radio is just for old guys, right?

Well no, not at all. Even out here in the boondocks — the Highland Lakes of Central Texas — we have guys AND gals and young-uns as well as old farts. Granted, there are more old guys than of the other combinations but that’s changing. Continue reading

Digital modes — a new passion

It’s not that I don’t like actually TALKING to people, but the ability to make contact with modest antenna systems and very low power has its own appeal. I have a digital page here where I will place more detail about the mode and the programs I am using. Continue reading

Hurricane spawns tornado in Bertram, rips up flea market in park

(re-posted from my main website) Just as the stream of evacuees from the hurricane that hit the Gulf Coast on Saturday was hitting the outskirts of Marble Falls, a tornado touched down near downtown Bertram.  Continue reading

Amateur Radio Emergency Services Simulate Tornado Response

“When All Else Fails … Amateur Radio Works”

As severe thunderstorms gathered in Concho County to the Northwest of the Highland Lakes, the National Weather Service issued warnings for McCulloch County.  Hams in McCulloch County were activated at the McCulloch County EOC and their weather spotters were dispatched.  Thunderstorm watches soon ensued for Llano and Burnet counties which resulted in activation of the Burnet County Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Continue reading

UI-view replacement coming

APRSIS32

Click on the thumbnail for bigger image. This is APRSIS32 which is undergoing rapid development. For all the details or to download the program go to the Yahoo Groups page.

Right now I’m running it only on the internet … sees same stuff that aprs.fi does. I have also connected two different GPSs to it and that worked, putting my position out via the internet. It can ALSO be connected to a radio in iGate mode. Have not done that yet.

The author, Lynn, KJ4ER, has the goal of replacing all of the best functions in UI-view which is good since it is no longer fully configurable. I suggest giving it a try and keeping in touch with the progress.

Packet: SignaLink USB on Windows 7 netbook

(resource links at the bottom)

My primary objective in getting the netbook (HP Mini 210 HD)was to move all of my ham radio programs to it for (a) the (mostly) ham dedicated computer and (b) the portability. It has the DXlabs suite with rig control, logging, psk31 and all that DXlabs has. It also has EchoLink (www.echolink.org) and the programs related to the TinyTrak4 TNC ).

Next was to make the psk31 work through the SignaLink USB device (SL) ), and then Winlink using the AGW Packet Engine and Paclink from Winlink.org . Psk31 was easy. In DXlabs WinWarbler I just picked the SL soundcard and it immediately worked.

Next for AGWPE. I had used it on the other computer so was quite familiar with setting it up and creating a “port” for the soundcard. I referenced the additional instructions from Ralph Milnes relative to the SL. Then I set up Paclink that I had used often and voila! Nothing. I could receive and decode packets, but could not transmit. The PTT on the SL was never triggered.

Then I installed the (free) AGW Terminal program (tcp version at which generates a packet directly to AGWPE.

"Ask QRA" icon

Diagnosis was done by using the AGW Terminal program.  Clicking on the “Ask QRA” icon (it’s the little tower ?) generates a packet to AGWPE each time you click it.

Using it, I could see the packet generated on the AGWPE monitor screen, and the little AGWPE modem icon in the system tray transmit indicator would light up.  So I knew a signal was going somewhere.

Audio Playback

So (this is a Windows 7 computer) I opened the audio playback devices page where I could see all of the audio devices.

When I clicked “Ask QRA” I saw where the packet was going — to TotalRecorder! As I clicked “Ask QRA” in AGW Terminal I could see full bars on the TotalRecorder device.

TotalRecorder is a fantastic audio program  that has its own drivers that apparently can intercept playback audio for processing. It was catching the Packet and not letting it get to the SignaLink. I merely disabled those drivers, deleted and redid the AGWPE port and, it works!

An oddity is that my psk31 program did not have that problem (WinWarbler from DXlabs). My guess is that it addresses the SL directly and AGWPE addresses it in some fashion that allowed this interception.

Interesting, frustrating, and mildly educational problem. The solution probably would never apply to anyone else, but maybe the diagnostic steps will.

Bottom line is that the SignaLink USB works great. For about $100 you can do everything digital and need only one USB connection to your computer.  It has it’s own soundcard so you offload that processing from your computer.

SignaLink USB

From all of my research, it appears that  having TX at 9 o’clock and RX at 12 o’clock with delay (DLY) full counterclockwise works well as a starter.

In psk31 you have full, gradual control on power output with the TX adjustment right on the front of the device — no more messing with Windows sliders.

Links

SignaLink USB / Win 7 issues specifically

Great overall soundcard page: http://kc2rlm.info/soundcardpacket/1signalinkusb.htm

Msg 7875 in SV2AGW group:  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SV2AGW/message/7875

Msg 7879 in that same group:  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SV2AGW/message/7879?threaded=1

Both of those threads discuss the problem at length.

Soundcards generally

Good Yahoo Group for AGWPE Pro: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/agwpe_pro/

Another AGWPE group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SV2AGW/

AGW Packet Engine Pro:  http://www.sv2agw.com/ham/pepro.htm

AGW Terminal program:  http://www.sv2agw.com/downloads/agwtermTcp.zip

SignaLink USB:  http://tigertronics.com/slusbmain.htm

Soundcard packet tips:  http://www.kc2rlm.info/soundcardpacket/

Packet-specific

Paclink software:  http://www.winlink.org/ClientSoftware

Paclink setup instructions: http://98.243.25.192:81/nren/winlink/paclink.pdf