Sunday, November 20, 2011

70cm DATV and the future

Here is an interesting excerpt from an articled titled "Earth-shaking ATV, Plus.." by N5EM in CQ-VHF Magazine, March 1999 that I recently ran into.

Digital ATV Is Heating Up!

Since I last wrote about some possibilities in Digital Ham TV (DHTV), several reports of experimentation have been received. As long as there are efforts to make digital ATV a reality , I'll report on the work and keep you informed. One of the best developments is the previously mentioned e-mail re-mailer for DHTV. Check out the Web address for information about reading and posting messages to this list.

For those of you who may not have yet experienced an e-mail list, it is the method of sharing information in the information age . By "subscribing" to the list, you become a recipient of any e-mail message that is sent to the list. Anytime a message is e-mailed to the list, it is re-mailed to every subscriber, all in a matter of minutes. It lets people share ideas and information on a near real-time basis with like-minded experimenters any where in the world.

There are e-mail re-mailers (also called "reflectors ") for virtually any subject the mind can conceive of. Some have only a handful of subscribers while others have literally hundreds of thousands . There are several good e-mail re-mailers for the ATV community. One place to find out about them is at the Houston Amateur Television Society's Web site located at .

Some work with DHTV this month comes from Les Rayburn , KT4OZ, and Tom Askew, KB5IHI. They've been experimenting with video transmission using IBM Wireless LAN PCMCIA cards operating on 2.4 GHz. In their tests, Les and Tom used two laptop computers and wireless LAN (local area network) cards, transmitting Real Media data streams approximately 800 feet and resulting in actual ATV QSOs. Quoting from their test report,

"At 28.8 kbps encoding, it was...possible to have two-way (full duplex) QSOs, but at 56 kbps encoding the stream broke often. The Wireless LAN cards have a rated bandwidth of 512kbps but much of this is taken up by the protocol functions .One-way QSOs were possible at virtually any encoding speed, and high quality video (P5) was exchanged out to our maximum distance."

Not bad for a couple of laptops and a pair of $30 LAN cards. These LAN cards use spread spec trum and are Part 15 devices (they don 't require a license when used without modification). Since Les and Tom plan to modify these cards with the addition of amplifiers and external antennas , they've decided to participate under the Special Temporary Authorization (STA) of the Tuscon Amateur Packet Radio organization (TAPR) that allows the use of the frequency- hopping method employed by the wireless LAN cards in the amateur band s. After having initial success using the Real Media streams, Les and Tom have transmitted MPEG1 streams at distances of up to three miles using the unmodified Part 15 devices. These streams have included pictures, callsigns, and voice in each test.

So, DHTV experimentation is alive and well in the U.S. Other amateurs are participating in the experimentation and discussion, including Clint Turner, KA7OEI, in Salt Lake City, Utah , and Woody Winstead , KJ4SO, in Raleigh, North Carolina. If this interests you, subscribe to the DHTV re-mailer and start learning about the future of ATV.

I don 't want to leave you with the impression that DHTV is something going on only in the U.S. Quite the contrary- digital ATV experimentation in Europe is several years ahead of us. As early as 1996, the Austrian ATV organization had proposed MPEG 1-based digital ATV as the new standard for the 70centimeter band. This was to try to reduce the constant pressure on spectrum-intensive modes like ATV in countries where the total 70-centimeter band is considerably smaller than what we enjoy in most of the U.S. If you would like to read this proposal, you can find it on the Internet at . It's a very enlightening concept.

Ten years or so later, and we sadly aren't much further.

TAPR recently created a DigtalATV yahoo group. From what I gather DATV is pretty popular in Europe. The problem is it will cost nearly $2,000 to do 1 watt QAM Digital or DVB-S.

Not to practical for a one way transmitter in my book. It has been said that Image communications were never intended to be a mode independent of phone.

With that said, and the early experiments using less expensive 802.11 gear to achieve the same, I'd like to re-introduce that idea.

For those not up to speed, a normal 802.11 signal is 20 MHz wide. This is not a problem on 900 MHz or above, since there is plenty of space and little crowding.

For those not aware, if you use Atheros chip based 802.11 gear, half rate (10 MHz wide), and quarter rate (5 MHz wide) options are available using open source drivers.

And even more interesting is that that within the Atheros chip it is possible for licensed developers to enable a local oscillator generation for a direct conversion radio transceiver. This is not an open function, but irregardless, this is how 802.11 products on 900 MHz (Ubiquiti XR9), and 3 GHz (XR3).

And now 420-450 MHz with a module designed by Doodle Labs.

This is perfect for this type of application, as well as a multitude of other amateur infrastructure applications.

You can read more on the history of ATV and HSMM here:

And what other hams are doing with (muti-mode) 802.11 here:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Library of AMBE-files

This has been on my to do list for a long time.

About this time last year, Kristoff ON1ARF wrote some excellent open source software.

You can find it here:

Voice-announcement system on analog repeaters have existed for .. well .. almost forever. D-STAR repeaters, on the other hand, have so-far had this in a very limited way.

The main reason for this is related to the use of the AMBE voice-codec in D-STAR. AMBE-encoders are only available via an external hardware-device (either a chip inside the transceiver or the DVdongle). As this technology is usually not present in a D-STAR repeater, it has up-to-now only been possible to play out a fixed audio-message...

The “dstar voice-announce” package aims to provide additional ways to generate voice-announcement messages on a D-STAR repeater. It is designed to be as flexible as possible, to provide as much choice to the sysops.

By concatenating the .ambe files for “good morning”, “the time is now” “6″ “o’clock”, a complete voice-announcement can be created (also in .ambe format)

Kristoff created a small library of common words using the eSpeek text to speech synthesizer.

I'm not real fond of the voice quality of eSpeak, or Festival/Flite for that matter. So I created an alternate more extensive voice library. Mine contains about 360 words.

Now you don't need a DV Dongle to create system announcements. You just need to install and use Kristoff's ambestream program and download my or his AMBE word library.

You use it like so:

 ambestream -t TEST -v -4 -my KB9MWR -d -p 40000 K9EAM B this.ambe is.ambe a.ambe test.ambe  

Rather than having to specify the path to each ambe word, here is way to use sed to append the full path to the premade AMBE words. In this example I have all my words in /root/words/ambe

 #SENTENCE="this.ambe is.ambe a.ambe test.ambe"  
 SENTENCE="this is a test"  
 # note all forward slashes must be escaped. Just follow the example  
 #SPEAK=`echo $SENTENCE | sed 's/[^ ][^ ]*/\/root\/words\/ambe\/&/g'`  
 SPEAK=`echo $SENTENCE | sed 's/[^ ][^ ]*/\/root\/words\/ambe\/&.ambe/g'`  
 #echo $SPEAK  
 ambestream -t TEST -v -4 -my KB9MWR -d -p 40000 K9EAM B $SPEAK  

Please note if you get an error "Error: could not create udp socket! Exiting!" with Kristoff's program, it would be because ipv6 is not installed or enabled. To correct that see: