Field Day 2016

This year we’re putting the “Field” back in Field Day! We will be operating from Elings Park up on the hill where the hang gliders take off. We still have several time slots to fill, so we would really appreciate your help. Operating/logging time slots are only 2 hours long, so it won’t put a very big dent in your weekend plans. Your club needs you! Let’s make this a fun field day for everyone. The plan is to bring the Rover Friday afternoon to the South Park area of Elings. Tom, N6YX expects to arrive between noon and 1 pm. He will take the road that the hang gliders use, then drive through the field to South Park area. We will need a crew of four or more to assemble the antenna and put it on the Rovers mast. The antenna only weighs 60 pounds, but it is about 12 feet long and 10 feet wide. We will test the radio and check digital modes. We should be finished before 4 pm Friday. Tom will arrive again Saturday morning about 9 am. He will work with someone else for the first shift. Shifts are two hours during the day and evening until 9 pm. Other operators / loggers will arrive for each shift. From 9 pm to about 6 am, there will be two or three for the night shift. We will operate until 11 am Sunday morning. The Rover will remain parked from Friday afternoon to Sunday about 1 pm. I don’t expect more than six people at a time. I don’t know how many from the club will be participating. We need at least 16 people for a full 24 hour operation. We need a minimum of 10 for a 12 hour operation. If you can help out with operating, logging, set-up or take-down, please contact us as soon as possible. Post expires at 11:00am on Sunday June 26th, 2016 but will still be available in the archives.

Mesh Network Meets the Telephone

We now have the capability to use VOIP (Voice Over IP) telephony over the mesh network, and even have a functioning PBX system with voicemail installed. It is very simple to use. Some of us have purchased Grandstream 1620 0r 1625(POE) telephones from Amazon or other sources. These  phones are simply office style desk telephones. They run about $50. Others are using “Softphones” which are software programs you run on your computer that lets your computer act like a telephone. You can use either an inexpensive USB headphone/mic, or simply use your build in speakers and microphone. To use the PBX system we must first set up the account for you. We’re all using our callsigns as our extension numbers, so it will be easy to remember extension numbers. For example, to call me at home, you simply dial K6BPM, or to call me at my office, you dial K6BPM2. This make is very simple to use. Setting things up on your end is simple. If you are using a Grandstream phone, you just plug it in and that’s it. If you are using a Softphone, you just need to give it an account name and password, and you’re in. You’ll have all the niceties you’re use to like call waiting, missed call lists, notifications for new messages, etc. If you want phone repairs, Pro Phone Repairs of Albuquerque’s Instagram need to be chekced. Using voicemail is exactly like what you are probably used to using at your job, or maybe even your home. You call in, enter your password, then check your messages. You have all the tools available to you as you do on commercial voicemail systems like recording greetings, message forwarding, mailbox folders, etc. Surprisingly, it all works pretty well! As we get everything dialed in, I expect it will get better and better! If you haven’t yet got on the mesh, maybe this will interest you! – Brian – K6BPM

Packet Radio Upgrades

We’ve recently upgraded our packet radio capabilities here in Santa Barbara. Very popular back in the 80’s, packet lost much of it’s appeal with the advent of the Internet and email. However, for those of us interested in digital modes, packet radio is making a comeback. Unlike out normal HF oriented digital modes, packet lets us communicate with email like messages between users locally, and users of other packet systems around Southern California and beyond. The K6TZ-3 packet station on La Cumbre Peak offers a PBBS (SBPBBS) system for messages and a Digipeater (SBDIGI) for relaying packet messages to other systems. It runs on a Kantronics KPC3 TNC and broadcasts on 145.050 at 25w. It has incredible reach easily reaching other packet stations down the coast of California. Recent modifications were to add KA-Node capability. This allows us to connect to out KN-Node (SBNODE) and connect to other KA-Nodes. You can connect from node to node to “chain” a connection from here to almost anywhere within a reasonable distance. Similarly, others can reach us from remote locations the same way. I also installed two of my own packet stations here locally. They are mostly for fun and have nowhere near the coverage the La Cumbre Peak station has. However, they allow me to have my own mailbox system and people can leave me a message on my own systems. Packet radio is far from dead. In a SHTF emergency, packet capabilities will allow 100% accurate text based messages to be sent quickly and easily. In my opinion, this is an extremely valuable skill to have and even if its popularity is not what it once was, it enhances our capabilities as individual amateurs as well as a club. It isn’t as complicated as it may seem, and is actually fun and challenging. We discuss and operate packet on the Tuesday night SBARC Digital Modes Net, so if you have an interest, be sure to check in. – Brian K6BPM

New SDR HF Radio at Club Station

The club station now has a brand new computer and a FlexRadio Flex 3000 SDR (software defined radio) up and running and on the air. Unlike traditional radios, the Flex has no knobs or buttons. It is completely software driven and has all the features (and then some) of the high end radios from the major manufacturers. The Flex is hooked up to a computer running Windows and uses sophisticated, but easy to use software to control everything. In addition to regular SSB/FM/AM operation, we also have seamless digital operation for whatever modes we want to operate. Our first test used JT65 on 15m and we quickly logged QSO’s from the Czech Republic, Belgium, France, England and Germany. The screenshot on the right from shows signal reports from stations that heard K6TZ from all over the USA, Europe, South America, and even South Africa. Great DX is easily accomplished from our “noisy” club station. If you have never operated an SDR radio, you are in for a great experience. The display shows a wide area of whatever band you are working using a panadapter and waterfall so you can see all activity at once. This graphical representation of the band lets you find and tune activity quickly and easily. This new radio is available for members to use during regular club hours, Tuesdays 7:30 pm to 10:00 pm and Saturdays 9:00 am to noon. Come on down and check it out! If you are interested in reading the user manual and learning how this exceptional radio works, it is available for download here. Post expires at 3:40pm on Tuesday December 1st, 2015 but will still be available in the archives.

March Club General Meeting

At tonight’s club meeting, ATV & Digital Modes Net controller Brian Milburn (K6BPM) provided SBARC members with a glimpse of the fun that can be had on HF with digital modes.  By tunneling into his shack computer, Brian was able to project his own software defined radio (SDR) on the presentation screen at the meeting for a live demo of JT-65.  JT-65, originally designed for Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) communication, has become tremendously popular on the HF bands for its ability to perform under extremely poor conditions.  Those in attendance seemed intrigued by the prospect of being able to work stations around the world to fatten their logbooks even under the most dire band conditions. Although Brian’s SDR setup is quite impressive, one doesn’t need to spend a lot of money to get on many of the numerous HF digital modes, including JT-65.  Even many older HF radios support computer interfaces such as SignaLink and RigBlaster, which are more than adequate for dabbling with free digital mode software like Fldigi and WSJTX. Listen to an audio recording of Brian’s presentation from our audio archive: Post expires at 7:39pm on Friday April 17th, 2015 but will still be available in the archives.

Come to the March General Meeting March 20, 2015

It is almost that time of the month for the monthly Club Meeting. This month our presenter will be Brian – K6BPM. You may have heard Brian doing the Weather portion of the Reg Dawe Memorial Cuckoo net on Wednesdays and Fridays, or as net control of the ATV Digital Modes Net on Tuesday evenings. He is also one of our board members this year. Brian will be speaking on using Software Defined Radios (SDRs) and digital modes. He will be demonstrating these live, on-the-air, so all of us can see how these thing work and why operating digital modes is becoming so popular. So be sure to attend. You will be guaranteed to walk away with a better understanding of how easy digital modes are to use. We will be meeting at the normal place, Goleta Union Schools Admin. Board Room – 401 North Fairview Avenue – across the street from the public library. The meeting starts at 7:30 but come early and socialize! Post expires at 1:00am on Saturday March 21st, 2015 but will still be available in the archives.

Digital Voice Modes Explained

Below is a link to a YouTube video from Ham Radio Now dated March 3, 2015. This video features an interview with the inventor of FreeDV, a digital voice mode we often discuss and operate on the ATV Digital Modes Net.  The video runs about 70 minutes, but if you are at all interested in digital voice, it is extremely interesting. They discuss the current “state of the art”, new hardware products, and research into new VHF/UHF modes. The last 20 minutes or so are particularly interesting as they discuss a new implementation of TDMA in ham radio VHF/UHF communications that has the potential for completely redefining how repeaters work.