Friday, March 27, 2015

Getting Started with AREDN

**** DRAFT ****

You've read enough of the documentation about AREDN that you're ready to give amateur radio mesh networking a shot! Well welcome aboard! This guide will give you some basic information about getting your first nodes up and running. There are a number of links in the contents below. Please read them all...they are all important!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Using COTS with AREDN

I've always been fascinated with wireless communications. I'm the kid that had all of the CB radio walkie-talkies torn apart on the toy room floor. Last year I really got hooked on QRP...I've made a number of 5W CW contacts, along with tons of 5W PSK31 QSOs. My latest adventure involves these two new acronyms - COTS and AREDN.

COTS stands for Commercial Off-the-Shelf equipment. And AREDN stands for Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network. I'm taking network equipment that was designed for commercial use in the 900MHz, 2.4GHz, and 5GHz bands and using it with a different firmware set on our US amateur radio frequency allocations. 

AREDN is the new kid on the block in this arena...a group of developers that had been working the the Broadband-Hamnet/HSMM-Mesh team started off on their own. They are developing some features that aimed at improving the manageability, stability, and flexibility of a mesh data network built using Ubiquity Networks COTS gear. 

My fellow Central IL ham friends and I have just completed a successful installation of the WX9WX Raspberry PI based D-STAR repeater. While doing this install, I found two very large 800-900MHZ antennas abandoned by Nextel. I have this disease...I can't let an antenna lay around unterminated. So I'm off on my next quest to build a data network using the AREDN firmware, focused initially on a 900MHz backbone. 

So far? So good. Flashing the first device was a piece of cake. Another ebay purchase yielded some nice 900MHz yagi antennas, and another has another device on the way. This should be fun! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

K1N - The ham stuff was easy

I'm not a big gun DXer at all. My HF station consists of a KX3 and a windom up 40 feet in the trees. But when Craig, K9CT and Jerry, WB9Z from the K1N Navassa Island DXpedition came to town I made sure to clear my calendar. I was fortunate enough to work them on ssb from KE9UA's house and then again on CW with 10W when my replacement KX3 arrived. Meeting them in person was a treat, and hearing about their adventure was inspiring.

There were just under 40 hams in attendance at the local steakhouse in Normal, IL last night, ready to swap stories and hear all about K1N. I knew we were in for fun when Craig started the evening with audio from their side of the pile-up. I'd listened to some audio from DXpeditions before...but nothing like this. It was just a wall of noise...and every once and a while a few letters could be heard. CW was just as bad - like a continuous tone with a few blips - nothing sounded like letters to me. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What happens to your gear when you die?

How's that for a title? I'm helping a widow sell her late husband's ham gear. Things are going quickly as a local ham bought most of the newer gear based on recent sale prices from eBay and the swapmeet forum. Had she not reached out to the local club, it's likely she would have sold thousands of dollars of gear at a yard sale for pennies, or simply sent it to recycling.

This got me to thinking...does my wife know who to call to dispose of my gear should something happen to me? While probably not high on the things to do list if I pass suddenly, it sure would be a good idea to have a list of hams I trust in a folder for her.

There are some great hams out there - I met another one over email this week who spends hundreds of dollars a year to provide data services for other hams. But there are also crooks and thieves that would rob a widow blind. Do your significant other a favor...leave behind a list of hams you trust.

Friday, February 27, 2015

When Good Caps Go Bad

I've been helping out the guys in Springfield, IL get the W9DUA DSTAR gateway back up and running. We were successful reviving it after some Linux magic and Google-foo I performed a few weeks ago. We did notice that the server would reboot occasionally. Weird, but hey this is amateur radio not public safety.

After a few more hiccups it was time to investigate. Steve, K9CZ brought the server to me to take a closer look. After putting it on the bench and doing some more testing, I got to the point where I could scare it into a reboot on demand. Nothing in the logs, memory was properly seated, Dell diagnostics all passed, and reverting the last OS patch didn't help.

Hmmm....looking around some more...I found these four capacitors on this Dell SC440 motherboard. Yep, they are toast. Something bad has happened in this server's past. I yanked the hard drive and have it in a new machine now...after some more testing it should be back up and running by the weekend.

When capacitors go bad, bad things happen.