Sunday, January 10, 2010

VOIP / Asterisk / Phone Interfacing

For nearly a decade I tinkered to my hearts content with various applications and packet radio. I learned an immense amount about TCP/IP. From DOS based NOS packages, which lead to ethernet networking the shack, later to Linux.

Well, I have been tinkering with Asterisk for about 6 years with the same enthusiasm. Much to my surprise, I learned that one of the original founders of our ham technology club has man of the same interests. So much love that Mike Kassner has the vanity callsign, K0PBX to reflect that.

When it comes to interacting with other people not in the hobby, messages (sometimes emergency) are relayed person (ham) to person, and the second most common way is by telephone.

As a mater of fact, telephone communication is probably the largest part of non-face to-face communication.

So like a good ham, being knowledgeable in how the telephone system works and is changing is always beneficial.

With some quick research you'll learn that SIP has become a widely adopted defacto protocol. You'll also learn that an open source Linux based application called Asterisk is a very powerful tool that many hams are playing with.

I was most pleased to notice that the second edition of Jonathan Taylor, K1RFD's VOIP book does elude to a whole new world using Asterisk and app_rpt.

In my opinion, the ham radio tie-ins are just starting.... What a perfect time to get jump on board and help develop something new. - You'll find an immense amount of tinkering ideas here.

Southeastern Asterisk Radio Networks - Digital Amateur Projects Association (DARPA).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

EmComm & AMSAT's Geostationary Satellite

A very interesting overview of AMSAT's phase IV Geostationary Satellite and the possible emergency communications implementations is in the Fall issue of CQ-VHF.

As you can tell I don't have a lot of love for Emcomm, but here is something that actually makes sense. A high speed multi-media capable, geostationary satellite.

AMSAT has recently begun negotiating with INTELSAT to get amateur radio communication payloads “piggybacked” on commercial geosynchronous communications satellites. This would be a first for amateur radio. It would allow earth stations to have 24/7/365 communications over a very large area using small fixed antennas. A small dish antenna would be able to access voice communications and text messaging. A larger dish antenna could provide access to video and high speed data. Because this has obvious value for emergency communications, AMSAT hopes to get considerable funding for this project from emergency communications agencies.

Hams are well acquainted with radio coverage problems while providing emergency communications. The high frequency bands suffer from hourly to daily propagation challenges. VHF and UHF simplex channels have limited geographic coverage. A repeater improves coverage while restricting all operations to its fixed channel pairs. Most of our current operating modes offer voice communications only. If data is transmitted it is supported at low rates such as 300, 1200, or 9600 baud.

I hope this gets some backing from the ARRL ARES directors. I honestly don't understand why and how all these recommendations come down the EC line to promote stuff like WinLink. They should all get behind something like this that makes sense, and help promote development and deployment of terrestrial HSMM networks.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Is amateur ARES / emcomm ‘a waste’?

This is a quick cheesy remake of a speech I have at a local club meeting. I didn't expect so many other bloggers to pick up on it.

Emergency communications has been part of ham radio from it’s inception. Yet we need separate entities (ARES/RACES) to help promote it? Why not separate entities to help advance this hobby?

“Do we need to keep maintaining an inefficient, overly-political, antiquated, bureaucratic emcomm-specific radio organization? No. Amateur radio operators have always been willing to help in times of true emergency, and that won’t change if ARRL didn’t have its grubby little hands all over it. ARES-type emcomm as we know it could use some restructuring and attitude changes. When all else truly does fail, agencies will still want us, whether we’re trained in ICS or not, and whether we’re ARES or not.” --- Kevin K0KDS

What you're seeing in an influx of people who have no interest in technology or experimenting.

CB is back. Remember the 1970s?

We have a generation of "communicators", people who pick up a cell phone or microphone and want to communicate (talk).

The underlying technology is of no interest to this generation.

Citing the need to grow the hobby, the entry criteria have been overly simplified. We now give a ham license in every Happy Meal sold.

The end result is the need for ARRL to create reason for people to become hams, Public Service.

Ham radio is nothing like it used to be, and will never again be a platform for experimenting and technology seekers. ---- [Callsign removed by request]

In the January 2010 issue of QST on page 9 the “It seems to Us” editorial by K1ZZ is about just this same theme.

It’s titled “Not an Emergency Radio Service?” And references a FCC Public Notice DA 09-2259 that states “While the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communications service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications, is one of the underlying principles of the amateur service, the amateur service is not an emergency radio service [emphasis added].”

Here are some other peoples blogs on my video:

Just to clarify, I'm not totally against it. Just recently locally I've noticed a huge emphasis on it. In my opinion there are other ares that we should be placing a much greater emphasis on. In other words, if you enjoy dedicating yourself the the drills and so forth, fine... just try not to take it to seriously.

From what I have seen the real thing never compares to a drill. Fortunately in the area I live in the last real emergency was the Weyauwega train wreck of 1996.

While lots of local hams responded, what stands out the most is that we were not wanted by the local emergency coordinators and other officials.

So building a good relationship with these guys can't hurt. It's even better when it helps you obtain access to tower sites. But please let it stop there.

In all the house bills that recognize Amateur Radio for emergency communications it is noted that we do this "as service to the public at no cost to taxpayers."

Yet I read about FEMA grants and other federal and state taxpayer assisted money being awarded and spent on various amateur radio installations.

This is the kiss of death in my opinion. And I obviously do not condone this.

I entered the hobby at a time when it was still ahead of consumer technology.  This is what brought me to the hobby.  I am not sure if I were to first learn about ham radio today, if I would be interested.

When I first entered the hobby, I participated more in the public service aspects.  It made sense to me.  I now view the commercial and consumer infrastructure as stable, and therefore have curtailed those activities a bit.  Perhaps on the other side of the coin, when I entered the hobby my technical abilities were less developed.  Either way, I generally view time spent in the hobby these days most productive when it is focused in the learning/technical and personal betterment arenas as opposed to the public service aspects.

Perhaps this is because I am adopting the old fear that if ham radio continues to loose status as a technical activity, we might also lose the privilege of operating on the public airwaves.  Logically the public service arena appears self sufficient now, unless some sort of major catastrophe occurs.  While on the other hand, the technical arena could use all the focus it can get to help foster new exciting ideas and developments in turn helping the hobbies growth and continued acknowledgement as a contributor to the technical art.