Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Rants and grants

I have been following the TH-D74 Firmware reversing project. The previous MD-380 project was great, but a lot more could be accomplished if the hardware was more capable. (Bigger flash space etc.) Either way the MD380 project opened the door for the OpenRTX project.

Apparently the few that are working on the TH-D74 project so far are having some dificulty with the Ghidra reverse engineering.

I think it would be benefical for a wider audience to understand the former md380 project... maybe Linux in the Ham Shack could interview someone so others better understand (& appreciate) the motiviations and process (stumbling blocks and all), etc.

I feel there are important lessons that can be learned, especially since manufactures apparently are content with pumping out the same old crap. Props to the folks working on these projects trying creative ways around that problem.

The problem is two fold. Obisuoly a lack of these fine folks; hackers, engineers, or just plain technically oriented folks. Then there are the gadget obsessed folks...

Oh! we changed the color of display and added another 1000 memory channels, come buy our new HT!
(which is really the same crap as the last model).

But then there obviously fools falling for this gimic buying this nonsense. I call them gadget obsessed dimwits. They seem to have more money than brains, cannot put on a connector etc.

Please study and learn to apprecaite the few fine folks that don't play that game. Those who are moving things forward, both past and present players. Ham radio needs their inspiration!

Here is my list on interesting / inspirational people:

Wayne Green, Phil Karn, Bruce Perens, Aaron Schwartz, Richard Stallman, Jason Scott, Cory Doctorow, George Carlin. Some of all time favorite article authors: Doug Demaw, Ray Marston, Joseph Carr, Harold Kinley, Bill Cheek, Don Rotolo, John Champa

Not all are hams, but they all to me thought a bit out of the box. The first guy that I payed attention to, was Phil Karn, since I entered ham radio with an interest in packet radio. Its interesting to learn a bit about the people behind certain things and their logic & motivations to see if you can understand what makes them tick.

To me there has been a lot of stagnation in the hobby lately, so I haven't been overly active. I spent the last half dozen years working with some more fearleess tower climbing folks here in my home state. Our goals were to help "get shit on the air" with as few strings for folks as possible. Getting on towers and working on them has been a big problem here in Wisconsin. A lot of clubs and indivduals don't have the resources for that. We got a lot done.

Now another one of my main tower climbing folks is taking a job out of state, so that is winding down, and I am looking for my next thing to dive into. I have to say sadly there really isn't a whole lot that holds my interests these days.

I like what is going on with the ARDC grants, but I think it will take some time for those funded initiatives to bear fruit.

There are two to me of interest, the M17 Grant, and the Allstarlink grant.

The ARRL Board granted several awards at its July 2021 meeting.

The Board bestowed the 2021 ARRL Technical Innovation Award on Steve Haynal, KF7O; Wojciech Kaczmarski, SP5WWP, and Roger Clark, VK3KYY. Haynal was cited as the instrumental and driving force behind the Hermes Lite 5 W HF SDR transceiver as a fully open-source hardware and software project. Kaczmarski was recognized for developing the open-source digital radio communication protocol M17, leading to the development of DroidStar (an Android application) by Doug McLain, AD8DP. Clark was cited for spearheading a successful effort to augment a low-cost handheld radio for use by visually impaired operators, significantly lowering the cost of entry for such amateurs.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Modernizing Amateur Radio Regulations

Steve, N8GNJ asked me to consolidate my regulatory changes that I think are required to modernize US Amateur Radio.

What I am about to present isn't new. Bruce, K6BP wrote a well thought and researched overview in 2017 in response to a Technological Advisory Council (TAC) on reforming rechnical regulations across all FCC radio services.

Several of the personal radio service rules (Part 95) were subsquenctly.

https://www.radioworld.com/news-and-business/business-and-law/fcc-to-consider-changes-to-part-95-rules

http://www.arrl.org/news/fcc-personal-radio-service-revisions-will-affect-gmrs-frs-cb-other-part-95-devices

And some are still in motion:
https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-374114A1.pdf

Meanwhile there are number of ham radio requests, some even from the ARRL that have gone no where. (Symbol Rate Petition of 2013, and the 2018 Technician Enhancement Proposal). And as Bruce pointed out most of our regulations have been unchanged for 65 years or more.

So here we go:

Our Basis and Purpose MUST be freshened up to relect the educational benefits and purposes for continued justification of spectrum allocation to the Amateur Service.

Our emergency services role continues to diminish (with the advent of FirstNet and Starlink) and the other currently-stated missions of Amateur Radio have already reached irrelevance.

Examples:
Bruce pointed out the context of "enhance international goodwill" was written before direct dialing of long distance calls (transatlantic telephone cables). So, Radio Amateurs were the only people who regularly had casual conversations with people overseas.

He also pointed out that the word "reservoir" is critical to understanding this statement:
"Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts"

The U.S. was at war in Korea as this statement was written, and World War II had concluded less than a decade before. The military had a need for a reservoir of trained radiotelegraph operators who could go to war.

Bruce pointed out the word “education” doesn’t appear in §97.1, and there is no tie-in to the oft-promoted need to educate young citizens in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).

This second part is my own hot button topic since data is my fotre.

"§97.305 through §97.309 spell out a limited set of modes, modulations, and digital data codes which Radio Amateurs can use on the air. They date back to the analog age, and limit innovation because they do not permit the use of modern modes and modulations in the Amateur Service"

I've written before on how I feel its just plain silly that we classify our transmissions by how we use them (what we convey) and that defines what rules apply. i.e Digital voice modes, while all ones and zeros don't fall under the data rules, the fall under the voice rules. I've also harped about how the fast scan amateur television rules let video modes occupy 6 MHz or more (actually no bandwith limit), while data is limited to 100 KHz.

And its dumber that just all that. Now that FreeDV is starting to become more common on HF, its classified as a voice mode since that is what is being conveyed. So its required to be in the voice segments, not the data, etc.

Regulation based on the bandwidth of the transmission, rather than the modulation type and mode is overdue folks. Its the only thing that makes any sense.

I'm partial to the 2.8 kHz below 30 MHz proposal, and no maxium bandwidth or data rates above 30 MHz.

Whatever you wish for please keep in mind that is almost next to impossilbe to get the FCC to change anything for Part 97 and takes decades to do so. We'd be best off with as few rules as possbile and just implementing more gentlemans agreements. It's not like the FCC does any active enforcement anyway.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Linux in the Hamshack

I think this podcast has been around since about 2008. Or thats about when I first learned of it. Russ, K5TUX (like the penguin) is one of the main co-hosts.

In the grand scheme of things I think this podcast is serving an area that the ARRL isn't by promoting collorabative software development. Years ago a lot of collorabative hardware projects were thanks in a large part to the now dying print media. Wayne Green's, 73 Magazine, as well as other technically oriented publications like Ham Radio Magazine, provided a platform to show the general ham populas what some talented folks were working. Others would use and build upon those ideas, and that is a large part of how technology marched forward.

Since the fall of of the previously good publications and transition to other information descimation methods like the internet, that leading force with all its subsribers has changed. With the ARRL's latest introduction of another watered down publication, I had hoped that meant some of the more intermediate topics would make QST, and the begginers stuff would be shifted to this "On The Air Magazine." Well folks, sadly that hasen't happened, and I think its time I throw in the towel for my ARRL hopes. The time spent checking perodicaly to look at the QST editorial is likely a waste. Instead I encourage you to focus that time in other place and with other ham oriented organizations and causes.

"Linux in the HAM Shack is a podcast designed to help amateur radio enthusiasts to migrate to Linux and Open Source from Microsoft or other closed-source software. Our goal is to provide a sound foundation in Open Source and demonstrate how it can help amateur radio operators participate in many of the best parts of the hobby."

So here are some of the LHS podcasts that I have bookmarked as they fit my mostly VHF/UHF interests:

Episode #138: Being David Rowe
https://lhspodcast.info/2015/01/lhs-episode-138-being-david-rowe/

Episode #206: Hamlib
https://lhspodcast.info/2018/01/lhs-episode-206-hamlib-deep-dive/

Episode #242: FreeDV/Codec2
https://lhspodcast.info/2018/08/lhs-episode-242-freedv-codec2-deep-dive-2/

Episode #310: DMR
https://lhspodcast.info/2019/11/lhs-episode-310-dmr-deep-dive-2/

Episode #340: Hamlib
https://lhspodcast.info/2020/04/lhs-episode-340-hamlib-deep-dive-redux/

Episode #343: YSF and WiRES-X
https://lhspodcast.info/2020/05/lhs-episode-343-ysf-and-wires-x-deep-dive/

Episode 393: DUDE-Star
https://lhspodcast.info/2021/02/lhs-episode-393-dude-star-deep-dive/

Episode #396: M17
https://lhspodcast.info/2021/03/lhs-episode-396-m17-deep-dive/

Episode 399: OpenRTX
https://lhspodcast.info/2021/03/lhs-episode-399-openrtx-deep-dive/

Episode 403: MVoice and MRefD
https://lhspodcast.info/2021/03/lhs-episode-403-mvoice-and-mrefd-deep-dive/

Saturday, March 27, 2021

DudeStar (DroidStar)


I like this project as it finally provides a way to retrofit an existing analog rig to do multiple digital modes.  It and its user base should show potential manufactures what the community wants.  

Sadly what seems to get the most interest is the DroidStar app.  But that is okay too, as I see that helping fuel attention to the underlying software vocoder performance issues.  I am hoping sooner or later someone with the software skills will step forward.

And for the app, I do think this makes more sense than having to buy multiple digital radios and a "hotspot", to effectively talk (maybe 10 feet over RF) over the internet on these modes.