Wednesday, December 9, 2009

German HSMM Hamnet 2.0

Hamnet 2.0 is a radio based network designed by German radio amateurs, which connects the already available infrastructure of the amateur radio service to each other and will provide a new powerful base for a amateur internet wireless network.

The official launch of the project and the presentation was made on the amateur radio exhibition and conference on October 31, 2009 in Hanover, accompanied by relevant lectures.

Hamnet 2.0 works on the basis of the TCP/IP protocol, so that commercially available wireless routers can be used with no or minor modifications as the hardware. In addition, a separate hardware and firmware for this application was developed. They are using the Ubiquiti WLAN module NanoStation 5 on the 6-centimeter-band (5.7 GHz).

Their situation is probably much like that over here. Sharply declining use of existing obsolete, slow, failure-prone equipment. Due to some displacement by the Internet.

The idea and hope is to support cross services (voice, images, data, video etc.) by using TCP/IP as the base. Use of affordable a technology, and setup something independent from public networks. While arousing interest in experimenting with the new technology, and developing new applications.

They started by establishing a 10 km link between DB0SHA, in Hanover, and DB0UHI in Laatzen in less than 10 minutes. This was done just by holding the units in the air, which yielded a stable 16Mbit/s connection.

They expanded faster than they initially thought. Interconnecting D-Star Relays and linking of EchoLink gateways.

Trying some more DX paths showed immediate success of Hanover to Peine (32 km) using the bare module.

They have since used this technology to replace their 23cm 19.2 k links. And have connected over 9 points, and have others planned.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

73 Magazine Index

The SolderSmoke blog noticed my 73 Magazine index project a few weeks before I completed it.

It was a rather large undertaking, but worth it in my opinion. There is a wealth of timeless information in those magazines. And for many just by taking a look at the index will bring back a wave of nostalgia.

"What a great magazine 73 was! Sure, it was a bit wacky, but it had really wonderful technical content, at just the right level for truly amateur ham radio operators. Take your own walk down memory lane:"

It is part of my effort to point out and promote what amateur radio is really about. I tend to agree with Jorge, KI4SGU's blog comment that "Ham radio needs a spokesman like Mr. Green Again." I hope the ARRL takes note.

While I have been blogging for a while, I have had recent wave of receiving email comments and feedback. I started this blog shortly before the ARRL Introduced the "Fifth Pillar" at Dayton Hamvention 2008.

ARRL President Joel Harrison, W5ZN, announced that the League will expand its identity program to include greater emphasis on technology. Harrison explained that "Ham radio operators, and particularly ARRL members, closely identify with current and emerging radio technology. Today, we are naming 'technology' as ARRL's new fifth pillar."

While I hoped this meant a greater emphasis on the ARRL Technology Task Force or Future Systems Committee, the only thing I really observed was the We Do That Radio website that was launched.

I swapped some emails with Allen Pitts, W1AGP who manages the site after it's launch as it did catch my eye.

Science, Experimentation and Technology .... We Do That!........ with Amateur Radio.

Welcome to Ham Radio in the 21st Century, Your scientific national resource!

The Amateur Radio Service frequency bands are the place on the usable radio spectrum where you as an individual can develop and experiment with wireless communications. Hams not only can make and modify their own equipment, but can create whole new ways to do things.

Learn about cutting edge Ham Radio technology and techniques.

The problem I saw and still see with that site is that it is geared for new hams. I conveyed this to Allen and shortly their after decided to start my own blog. There are plenty of fairly inactive hams bored with the same-old, same-old. I didn't feel the We Do That Radio site is geared for them, so this is my attempt to point out "something different."

Amateur Radio and Linux

One of my favorite magazines Linux Journal, also has a few articles in their January 2010 magazine.

Back in April 2007 on the Texas A&M University Amateur Radio 802.11 Mailing List I made some comments that hams of the past were perhaps one of the earliest adopters of the open source way of doing things. This was spawned from some discussion with another local ham, who happens to be one of my elmers.

Leaders in the ham radio arena who are to busy beating their own chests touting things like they are the "national association for amateur radio."

These so called leaders need to suggest/ lay some general concepts to steer the hobby to the future, or perhaps they have a lack of approach. If I read one more thing about contesting or a home-made keyer, or restoring a boat anchor I'll probably puke. Instead put that in a specialty magazine, and focus on spreading the importance of the open source concepts in the ham radio arena in your monthly distributed membership magazine. Focus on promoting the "right ideas" in that precious well distributed rag. I don't see much of this steering, just a bunch of nostalgic crap. Ham radio needs to promote exciting things and new technology to entice people to the hobby or drag people out of the wood work. Retired people will find their way into the hobby on their own, to re-live the past.. In my opinion, we don't need to have oodles of crap for these people, they will come on their own and that's fine.

Ham radio needs to promote exciting things and new technology to entice people to the hobby or drag people out of the wood work. IRLP is a good recent example. It can take that "magic of HF", and make it portable, as in HT portable. This day in age, a big old HF rig, isn't cool, nor usually an option for most renters or apartment dwellers.

Packet in the 80's & early 90's was enticing, because it was at competing speeds to the internet that was in it's public infancy at that time. The autopatch in the 90's was enticing as cellphone were not yet main steam. Both of these examples happen to fall about the time of the no-code license became available. But many seem to attribute the in-rush of hams in the 90's due to the no-code license scheme revision. That went hand in hand with the these exciting technological things, it was not solely due to the new entry class. If there is nothing "cool," I'd bet you'd have a hard time giving a license away... and that does not insure they will use it! People actually bucked down and learned code, even if they hated it... ask yourself why. It's probably because there was an aspect of the hobby they perceived
as cool/interesting at the end of the rainbow.

New and interesting things in ham radio generally means encouraging experimentation. As experimentation is what brings new modes, and discoveries to the hobby. Not everyone will partake in that experimentation, but if there is a new discovery from those who do, everyone can later "play" with it, when it catches on. Open source, open information, encourages this experimentation

Hams or the past were perhaps one of the earliest adopters of the open source way of doing things.

We acknowledged this was done out of necessity - radio stuff was expensive and out of the reach of a lot of hams. So they invented newer and mostly cheaper ways of doing things. They also came up with better ways of doing things because somebody else would see that idea in print and improve upon it. Of course the technology was rather rudimentary, and there was little way to go but up at that point in radio technology calendar.

We also felt this is not so much the case anymore.

The current demographic of hams is skewed toward old. These people seem to be in either one of two camps. First is the retired person who has "made his fortune" (or at least is reasonably well off financially) and is not worried about inventing ways to do something on the cheap. They just buy an appliance and go from there.

The second group is middle aged and sees ham radio as not only a hobby, but a way to make some bucks. These are the guys that have an economic interest in closed source. They file part numbers off of chips, they cover circuitry in epoxy, and delude themselves into thinking that they will make a nice future retirement income from that "magic" CW keyer that they designed.

They don't do ham radio for the altruistic reasons (although some may have started out that way), it is money for them.

It seems to us that any change in the hobby needs to be political/philosophical. That means a change in leadership of the ARRL as they are the most prominent force in the hobby. This has got to be a grass-roots movement and it needs to start ASAP. The hobby will be gone and replaced by a "Citizen Communication Corps" if nothing is done.

In this Linux Journal issue one of the articles is titled along with some of the same thoughts. "When All Else Fails—Amateur Radio, the Original Open-Source Project"

What most people tend not to think about is the open-source nature of Amateur Radio. While operators most often are seen working in emergency situations, many of the modern conveniences we have today—cell phones, satellites, wireless devices— were developed and tested by radio amateurs.

On page 46 "An Amateur Radio Survival Guide for Linux Users - A getting-started guide for Linux users looking to venture into the world of Amateur Radio" by Dan Smith. This is an overview of common amateur radio activities with information on how to participate using a Linux system and free software.

On Page 50 you will find information on Xastir. An Open Source Client for the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS). Subtitled "Plotting Mars Rover locations on a detailed map, easily done with Linux? You Bet! By Curt Mills, Steve Stroh and Lara Mills.

Starting on page 56 of this issue, an article titled "Rolling Your Own With Digital Amateur Radio" by Gary Robinson. He points out that Amateur Radio and open source are a heavenly match.

Amateur Radio operators are generally free-thinking individualists who don’t mind getting their hands dirty to get something done right. Many of us do not think twice about buying a brand-new radio for hundreds or even thousands of dollars and popping the lid on it to see if we can modify it to make it better. You do not have to look hard to find myriad articles on how to modify different pieces of Amateur Radio equipment. So, it is not surprising that we might feel the same way about the software we use.

Open-source software and Amateur Radio are a natural fit. Few operators ever would buy a piece of radio gear if it came with a license that said they could not modify it, and it’s natural to see why a lot of us navigate toward open source in general and Linux in particular.

I encourage you to pick up this copy at the newsstand if you are not a subscriber

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tinkering & Innovation

About this time a year ago I wrote about the same thing. I pointed out that you cannot sit back and expect the big ham manufactures to come out with new technologies. As that is what we are supposed to be doing.

John Hays, K7VE was recently interviewed by Computer World magazine. The article has a good theme on Reviving innovation in the hobby.

Reviving innovation

Decades ago, amateur radio operators were on the forefront of scores of technological innovations, including television, digital communications, solid-state design and cellular networks. The hobby's roots trace back to radio pioneers such as Guglielmo Marconi and FM-inventor Edwin Armstrong.

But in recent years, as many potential new hams were attracted to computers, the Internet and other technologies that they could explore without passing a licensing exam, some veteran hams worried that ham radio was at risk of gradually sliding into stagnation and was perhaps even on the road toward technological irrelevance. Over time, many old-timers worried, experimenters would gradually be replaced by hams more focused on the hobby's operational aspects, such as restoring antique radios and providing communications services for community parades and other charity events.

Other hams, however, believed that the hobby was actually entering a new era of innovation, one driven by the same type of people lured away from ham radio by advancing digital technologies. They reasoned that a streamlined licensing system, capped by the FCC's elimination of Morse code testing two years ago, would, over time, revitalize the hobby. This would happen by attracting technically skilled innovators who were interested in more than merely tapping a telegraph key.

Whatever the reason, a budding corps of innovators is now working to restore at least some of ham radio's past glory, focusing on projects ranging from satellite construction to power-line communications to testing long-range Wi-Fi links. "Ham radio provides the broadest and most powerful wireless communications capability available to any private citizen anywhere in the world," says Allen Pitts, a spokesman for the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), a national association of ham radio operators based in Newington, Conn.

And along the same lines the Wall Street Journal just had an article on how Tinkering is making a comeback amid the economic crisis.

Occupying a space somewhere between shop class and the computer lab, the new tinkerers are making everything from devices that Twitter how much beer is left in a keg to robots that assist doctors. The experimentation is even creating companies. With innovation a prime factor in driving economic growth, and corporate research and development spending tepid, the marriage of brains and brawn offers one hopeful glimmer.

Engineering schools across the country report students are showing an enthusiasm for hands-on work that hasn't been seen in years. Workshops for people to share tools and ideas -- called "hackerspaces" -- are popping up all over the country; there are 124 hackerspaces in the U.S., according to a member-run group that keeps track, up from a handful at the start of last year. SparkFun Electronics Inc., which sells electronic parts to tinkerers, expects sales of about $10 million this year, up from $6 million in 2008. "Make" magazine, with articles on building items such as solar hot tubs and autopilots for robots, has grown from 22,000 subscribers in 2005 to more than 100,000 now. Its annual "Maker Faire" in San Mateo, Calif., attracted 75,000 people this year.

Amateur radio operators find themselves hooked on do-it-yourself technology

Minikiewicz said through the years, his interest in the hobby has been centered on the keen sense of accomplishment one gets out of building a radio from the tubes up that allows the builder to travel -- through radio -- to distant places.

"That's that whole other element," he said. "You're accomplishing something on your own. You're not just plugging it up."