Hello everybody and welcome back to the Everything Ham Radio Podcast! In this episode we are going to talk about Echo Station, we talk about some upcoming events/contests and hamfests over the next two weeks and wrap it up with some news from around the hobby!
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Tech Corner – Echostation
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Over the past couple months I have been talking about some of the things that West Mountain Radio has to offer, one of which is the Rigblaster. Over the next few episodes we are going to be talking about different things that the Rigblaster can do.
In this episode we are going to be talking about the repeater functionality of the Rigblaster. Combined with a program called Echostation, you can use your Rigblaster as an interface between a computer and one or two radios to make a simplex repeater, a full duplex repeater, a repeater announcement system or a simplex autopatch.
Full Duplex Repeater
I’m sure that most of you know what a repeater is. If not, listen to episode 34 of my podcast to learn more about them.
What makes this program different is that you don’t have to have all the hardware that you have one a permanent repeater. You still have to have two radios and possibly two antennas or at least a diplexer to take the two radios into one antenna. However you don’t need the cans or a repeater controller
The program acts as the repeater controller and has a bunch of functionality to it. You can change the settings of the repeater using DTMF codes just like a regular repeater. It will handle the identifying with either CW or voice recording. It handles all the timeout times, squelch tail and all the stuff that is normally associated with a repeater.
What about a simplex repeater?
These you might not know very much about as they are not as common as a full duplex repeater is. A simplex repeater is designed to operate on one frequency with only one radio.
When you key up, a simplex repeater will record your transmission and when you unmet your radio it will replay it on the same frequency. These can be pretty useful when you are just to far to make direct contact with someone, but they can be really annoying if you are able to hear the other station directly because then you have to listen to what they say twice! Of course you can always change frequencies in that case.
Some of you may have had the chance to use one of these before, or at least one that is on a repeater. These really aren’t as common as they use to be with cell phone being a lot more common. In case you don’t know what a autopatch is, it connects a radio to a phone line which allows you to make a telephone call from your radio.
A simplex autopatch is even more infrequent because radios nowadays are not built to handle the switching that the radio does to check and see if there is a signal coming in on the simplex frequency.
With a repeater, the receiver is constantly receiving so when or if it receives a signal it will automatically switch to the receiver input on the autopatch. With a simplex autopatch the radio will stop transmitting and check the receiver quickly like once a second or so. This cause strain on the radio and like I said before, most radios nowadays can’t handle it.
This functionality is what I have used this program for mostly. This function allows you to record several different messages and it will automatically play them on a set schedule. Things like net or meeting reminders, reminders for other events, special announcements, etc.
On top of this, the program will listen on whatever frequency you have it on to make sure that the frequency isn’t being used before it makes the announcement. If the frequency is in use, it will delay or even reschedule the announcement so it doesn’t interrupt the QSO in progress.
The program itself is super easy to set up. It is only a Windows program though, so you can’t run it on Mac or Linux. It would be nice if the program could be run on an Ardunio or Raspberry Pi, but it can’t. The program itself is only about 3 megabytes in size when you download it.
You get a 30 day trial period before you have to buy it so you can test it out and see if it is something that you would use. Once you decide to buy the program it is only $19.95 so it’s pretty cheap as well.
After you download and get it installed, the first time that you run the program it will ask you for your call sign. Until you purchase the program you can’t change a lot of the settings other than just basically your call sign and what mode you want, repeater, simplex repeater, simplex autopatch or announcement machine.
Once you have the basic settings set, it’s time to look at your mode settings. Under the repeater tab you can change things like
- How long your repeater can be keyed before it shuts off(time out timer),
- How long your repeater transmits after the user unkeys(tail timer),
- Your courtesy tone(the tone you hear at the end of a repeater transmission).
- Turning the repeater on and off
- Turning the autopatch,if installed, on and off
- Accessing the autopatch or answering an incoming call
- Turning different announcements on and off
- And many more…
On the status tab, you can chose if you want to provide forward patch(outgoing calls) and reverse patch(incoming calls). You can set the time out for any calls that are made or received. You can set you dial rules and determine whether you want to allow long distance calls. Last but not least, you can choose whether you want the phone number read back to the user.
You can set the audio levels both going to the radio and going to the phone call. Under the Logs tab you can see a lot of every call that has gone through your autopatch. On the last tab, Device, you can change the settings of the modem that you are using.
What if you have your system somewhere where you don’t have physical or Radio access to all the time. Echostation has you covered here with two options.
The first option is dial in access. If you have a phone line attached to your system, you can dial in on the phone and use the DMTF commands like you would on the radio to change the settings of your system.
Your second option is a web interface. If you have internet at your site, or maybe a hammer mesh network node with your repeater, you can access the setting of your repeater through Echostation’s built in web interface.
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West Mountain Radio
I would like to thank my sponsor, West Mountain Radio! For those of you that don’t know who they are, they make some awesome equipment that I have had the pleasure of using over the past 15 or so years. They make several pieces of equipment that are so well built and are so useful. Things like the RIGBlaster, RIGrunner and the DC-to-Go Boxes. I talked a little bit about the RIGblaster in my last episode and I’ve talked about the RIGrunner several times in previous episode but today I wanted to tell y’all about their DC-to-Go Boxes.
These are neat cases that you can put a battery in to protect your station’s floor from an unfortunate battery accident, however, they are so much more than that as well. These boxes have a Super PWRgate PG40 and a RIGrunner 4007U or 4008 built into them as well.
The PWRgate provides you an uninterruptible power supply in case you lose AC power it will automatically switch to the battery in the box. This is a perfect solution for a repeater backup and/or event like the upcoming Winter Field Day!
The RIGrunner 4008 provides you with 40 amps of D.C. Power plug over 8 slots while the 4007u gives you 40 amps across 7 slots but it has some extra feature like a digital load meter and USB charging port as well as a solid state push button on/off switch and an automatic shutoff for high or low voltages!
Both of these are mounted to the side of the battery box. All you have to do is drop a battery inside and hook up the leads and you are ready to roll!!
Here are the links for the premade versions of the DC-to-Go boxes. It you can also Custom make one to your own choices!
- DC-to-GO Battery Box w/RIGrunner & Super PWRgate (sku#58513-1381), $249.95
- DC-to-GO Battery Box w/RR4007U & Super PWRgate (sku#58513-1577), $269.95
- Custom make your own!
Ham Blog Spotlight
While surfing the internet this week, I found a really nice write up on a DIY SDR transceiver that I thought was really interesting. The original article was several years old, but the author has done several update articles on it over the past couple years. I really reminds me of a poor man’s Elecraft KX2 to a certain degree. Below is the link to the several articles that he writes about it.
|Run for the Bacon QRP Contest||0100Z-0300Z, Mar 20|
|Bucharest Contest||1800Z-2059Z, Mar 20|
|CLARA Chatter Party||1700Z, Mar 21 to 1700Z, Mar 22 and
1700Z, Mar 25 to 1700Z, Mar 26
|FOC QSO Party||0000Z-2359Z, Mar 25|
|CQ WW WPX Contest, SSB||0000Z, Mar 25 to 2359Z, Mar 26|
|UKEICC 80m Contest||2000Z-2100Z, Mar 29|
|15-Meter SSTV Dash Contest||0000Z, Apr 1 to 2359Z, Apr 2|
|LZ Open 40m Sprint Contest||0400Z-0800Z, Apr 1|
|PODXS 070 Club PSK 31 Flavors Contest||1000Z, Apr 1 to 0400Z, Apr 2|
|Missouri QSO Party||1400Z, Apr 1 to 0400Z, Apr 2 and
1400Z-2000Z, Apr 2
|Mississippi QSO Party||1400Z, Apr 1 to 0200Z, Apr 2|
|SP DX Contest||1500Z, Apr 1 to 1500Z, Apr 2|
|EA RTTY Contest||1600Z, Apr 1 to 1600Z, Apr 2|
|North American SSB Sprint Contest||0000Z-0400Z, Apr 2|
|ARS Spartan Sprint||0100Z-0300Z, Apr 4|
|UKEICC 80m Contest||2000Z-2100Z, Apr 5|
*Information taken from the WA7BNM Contest Calendar
- Texas State Convention (Greater Houston Hamfest) – Rosenberg, TX
- Charleston Hamfest and Computer Show – Charleston, WV
- Fredfest Indoor Hamfest – Frederick, MD
- Ides of March Hamfest – Union City, TN
- M.A.R.K Sulllivan Hamfest – Sullivan, IL
- Midwinter Madness – Buffalo, MN
- Springtime OARS Club Hamfest – Mount Vernon, MO
- Titusville Tailgate – Titusville, FL
- Utah Digital Communications Conference – Sandy, UT
- JSARS Hamfest by the Shore – Toms River, NJ
- April Fools’ Fest – Noble, IL
- Columbus (Indiana) Hamfest – Columbus, IN
- Hanging Judge Hamfest – Fort Smith, AR
- LARCFest – Longmont, CO
- Lincoln Trail ARC’s 38th Annual Hamfest – Elizabethtown, KY
- MRAC/MAARS Swapfest – Milwaukee, WI
- Portsmouth Radio Club Hamfest – Portsmouth, OH
*Information taken from the ARRL Hamfest Calendar
The Daily DX Marks its 20th Anniversary
The Daily DX, an e-mail, subscription-only newsletter edited by Bernie McClenny, W3UR, is celebrating its 20th anniversary on St. Patrick’s Day. The e-mail newsletter covers DX, Islands on the Air (IOTA), and contesting news from around the globe.
“It was 20 years ago today that 100 beta testers received the first issue of The Daily DX,” McClenny said in the March 17 edition. Of his 65 charter subscribers, 38 are still on board. “Since then, more than 15,000 Amateur Radio operators from more than 200 countries have experienced The Daily DX and The Weekly DX. I’d also like to thank KE3Q, Rich Boyd, who helped produce the idea and actually came up with The Daily DX name!” Boyd continues his association with The Daily DX, editing many of the Monday issues.
“To the subscribers, thank you for your financial support and input. Without it there would be no Daily DX,” McClenny added, also expressing appreciation to the newsletter’s contributors.
Well known in the DXing community, McClenny also is the contributing editor for the “How’s DX?” column in QST (ARRL has no association with The Daily DX).
Nevada ARES Team Honored
Washoe County, Nevada, ARES was among the disaster response groups honored by the Washoe County Board of Commissioners on February 21. A Board proclamation recognizes the efforts of these groups in two recent disasters — October’s Little Valley Fire and January’s floods and blizzard. The commissioners said that the region relied on a multi-tiered emergency response system to protect lives and property during the two emergencies. Other agencies honored included the American Red Cross, Washoe County Citizen Corps, Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters, and The Salvation Army. A video showed how County staff responded to the extensive flooding in January that caused millions of dollars in damage. — Thanks to John Bigley, N7UR
ARISS Deadline Looms to Accept Proposals to Host Contacts with Space Station Crew
The deadline is April 15 for schools and formal or informal educational institutions and organizations — individually or working in concert — to submit proposals to host Amateur Radio contacts next year with ISS crew members. Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) anticipates that contacts will take place between January 1 and June 30, 2018. Crew scheduling and ISS orbits will determine the exact contact dates. Proposal information and documents are on the ARRL website.
To maximize these radio contact opportunities, ARISS seeks proposals from schools and organizations that can draw large numbers of participants and integrate the contact into a well-developed education plan. Each FM-voice contact lasts about 10 minutes — the length of a typical overhead ISS pass from horizon to horizon.
Scheduled ham radio contacts with ISS crew members allow students to interact with an astronaut or cosmonaut through a question-and-answer format. Participants and the audiences alike can learn firsthand from the astronaut or cosmonaut what it’s like to live and work in space and to learn about space research on the ISS. Students will be able to observe and learn about satellite communication, wireless technology, and radio science.
Because of the nature of human spaceflight and the complexity of scheduling activities aboard the ISS, organizations must demonstrate flexibility to accommodate changes in contact dates and times.
To help organizations prepare proposals, ARISS offers 1-hour online information sessions, designed to provide more information regarding US ARISS contacts and the proposal process, as well as provide an avenue for interested organizations to ask questions. Attending an online Information Session is not required but is strongly encouraged.
Contact ARISS for more information.
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Until next time…
73 de Curtis, K5CLM