Archive for category D-Star Repeaters

Reflector REF034 – Status Update

We’re now 3 months into having our own D-Star Reflector. REF034 was created specifically for the NEFL-Dstar network, but then the idea of the Hurricane Net arose, so we had  the opportunity to use the reflector for another great purpose.

Reflector REF034 is owned and operated by the  NEFL-Dstar Network, but all repeaters and dongle users are welcome to participate. Any groups or clubs that would like to schedule regular Nets on any of the REF034 reflectors are asked to contact first at WB6RTH@ARRL.NET. Following is the “normal” configuration of the reflectors:

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  • REF034A – reserved for FL Statewide ARES purposes – primarily the FL Hurricane Net which is scheduled for Monday evenings at 21:00. At all other times, it can be allocated to ARES related training, subject to being pre-empted if a Directed Net needs to be in operation in support of the Hurricane Net (or Fire Nets, etc as may be appropriate).
  • REF034B – open for us during non-Net timeframes by any users – this is a great testing ground for D-Rats testing and training. If a Hurricane Net is in operation (not just a scheduled net, but a real potential emergency), please vacate this reflector so that a TACTICAL Net can be held on REF034B. The intent would be that affected areas could link together on REF034B in order to have an area-wide communications network, while larger-scale coordination would continue on REF034A.
  • REF034C – is reserved for interconnect of the NEFL-Dstar machines (from Daytona Beach to the Georgia State Line). Other stations are always welcome to connect to this reflector – we always welcome our friends from Orlando, Winter Park, Lake County and Brevard to connect at any time, since this creates a virtual network of repeaters along the I-4 and I-95 corridors from west of Orlando to Jacksonville. During Hurricane Net, this reflector would be reserved for Tactical Nets and traffic.

JAX Beach D-Star Install – THIS SUNDAY

All – we’re going to install the new DSTAR repeater on the JAX Beach site this coming Sunday, 12-Sept-2010 starting at about 10am and continuing until we’re DONE (expect 6-10 hours). This will be a VHF system (yes – I changed my mind on this) and will involve the mounting of a DB-224E antenna.

A number of you have expressed an interest in helping with the install – if you’re available, please send me an email at wb6rth@arrl.net so that we can coordinate resources. I think we will be able to accommodate about 4 additional volunteers beyond the normal contingent, as hoisting and installation of the antenna will require some significant elbow grease.

More details on frequency and call-sign will be posted on Saturday evening. Please bear with me if I don’t respond to your emails immediately, as I will be traveling to NYC starting tomorrow and returning on Friday around midnight.

more tk..

Possible use of Internet Extenders

For the last few weeks, Jason (W4LTL) and I (at Jason’s urging) have been contemplating the use of Wireless Internet extension technologies – usable for moderate range (multi Km). Jason is a network engineer by profession and has worked for such marquis companies as Verizon and MCI, as well as other technology driving organizations. Both he and I have some experience with various types of equipment, but there are a few things are are driving the decision:

  • Reliability – how good is the equipment, can it operate unattended, does it require much human interaction, etc
  • How sensitive is it to interference, from RF and mechanical sources..?
  • How much does it cost – both one-time and ongoing (if anything)..?

We are interested in the technology because it would potentially allow us to place both D-Star and analog repeaters where no current internet connections might exist. In the case of D-Star, this is critical for a functioning Gateway system for connection to our Reflector. In the case of Analog, it’s important in order to be able to control the system remotely via internet versus thru Touch Tones.

We’re looking at a number of systems, but I wanted to share with you just one of them, so that you have an idea of what they are, how they work and how complicated they are. Below is a system from Ubiquit System – the system includes the 28dbi grid antenna, feed point and a single-box RF-ethernet bridge which connects directly to the antenna on one side, and to an ethernet connection on the other. The system is powered over the Ethernet connection (POE), so it’s one very nice, compact package. Overall cost – about $140 PER SIDE, so a full-duplex link would cost less than $300 ONE TIME (no recurring cost). These are point-to-point links (versus point-to-multi-point), so one pair is required for EACH functioning link. We have no idea about frequency, other than they are in the 5ghz range (likely in the ISM band), so we might well purchase a pair and do some experimenting (now you understand why we have test equipment that goes to 6Ghz..!!).

Some of the D-Star guys in Arizona are using this exact system for their Gateway-Internet link over a path of about 40+km, so we know that the technology works.

Here’s the info on the Ubiquiti system:

Above: Ubiquiti system (click to enlarge)

more tk

Florida Hurricane Net – Updates

A reminder that the Florida Hurriane Net meets on your local D-Star repeaters and REF034A each Monday evening at 21:00 Eastern for the purpose of linking systems and users together for Hurricane preparedness and response. We’re only half-way-thru the hurricane season, while most of the worst storms have historically come in the back-half of the season.

The Net was the brainchild of Bob (N6USP), with  participation from Doug (N4FPS) and Mike (WB6RTH) as the primary sponsors.

Reflector REF034A is dedicated to the Hurricane Net in times of emergencies – all other traffic will be moved from this reflector in order to accommodate Hurricane related traffic. As the need arises, REF034B (Bravo) will be dedicated to TACTICAL traffic, leaving REF034C as the North-East Florida coordination/response reflector. All stations are requested to give-way to Hurricane Net Control if-and-when a Directed Net is called.

Following is an excerpt from the Hurricane Net webpage, found at: http://www.floridahurricanenet.org/

Above: FL Hurricane Net webpage (click to enlarge)

KA4RES Maintenance Yesterday

We took down the KA4RES machine yesterday (Sunday) morning at about 05:00 in order to do some preventative maintenance. While we were originally going to do that work later in the morning, nature rudely woke me in the middle of the night, so I looked at the weather forecast and decided to truck on over to the site and take some measurements. AccuWeather said that it was going to rain at around 10am, so getting it done early was even better (don’t want to do antenna testing with storms in the area).

Antenna, feedline and duplexer  tested fine – there may be a problem with the Polyphaser, but I was not able to check since I didn’t have my Polyphaser tester with me (wasn’t about to go into the Van at 04;30 in the morning – I’m afraid of the dark and of creepy-crawling critters).

Will check the output power and performance of the receiver pre-amp on the next go-round.

Jason is working an issue with the Gateway computer – it appears to just lose the ability to connect/disconnect on occasion. We’ve been noticing both a high packet loss problem, as well as a potentially errant ethernet card – but no conclusions yet.

More tk

Repeater Coverage Plots – Coming Next Week

As most of you know, we have always used our RF Coverage Analysis software (TAP, from Softwright) as we evaluate sites for the DStar Network and the analog repeaters. We have been users of TAP since 2002, originally  for our commercial business, then gradually introducing it into our amateur endeavors. TAP is used by many of the largest Cellphone companies, as well as by the US Government (they are the largest customer of Softwright).

We will soon be posting the coverage analysis on the NEFL DStar Blog so that all can see what both individual repeater coverages are, as well as aggregate coverage of the network. These will be PNG files (raster files), but we will also post KML files and the associated supplementary files, so that you can open Google Earth and be able to overlay the coverage on the Google Earth displays. We already have these capabilities – and have been using them for many months, but we just decided to release these to the blog.

Expect that in the next week (probably during Labor Day Weekend).

D-Star Default Reflector Linking

About 10 weeks ago, I put a very crude method of insuring that the gateways were all linked to REF034C, so that we had a fully-connected network of repeaters for the NEFL-DStar Network – and I do mean VERY CRUDE. Every hour, on the half, I issued a link command to connect to REF034C (same as issuing REF034CL in the URCALL field, if you were doing it on the RF side).

Crude, but it worked – if the gateway was already connected to ANYTHING, it would simply respond-back with “Link Already Established”. If the link was idle, it would connect to REF034C and respond with “Link Established”.

There was a downside – every hour, on the half – you would usually hear “Link Already Established” – quite annoying. Okay – it’s functional, but certainly not elegant (hey – I TOLD YOU I was a Linux knucklhead..!!).

It’s only been a couple of weeks since Jason Price (W4LTL) graciously took over the management of the D-Star Gateways for us. It has been a big relief, since he is a Unix/Linux professional by trade, as well as being a sponge to all things D-Star.

Well, Jason has changed all of that. Wednesday evening, he developed a method of actually checking for the link status – then if idle, it would link to the default REF034C – if active, it would just terminate QUIETLY. He tested it late Wednesday evening and has it working now.

Following is the email exchange from that night..  KUDOS to Jason… this is GREAT STUFF..!!!!

Above: “Linker” – explanation of how it works (click to enlarge)

JAX D-Star Status

For those of you in the Jacksonville Beach and downtown, here’s an update of our current status:

  • the Big JAX tower site (500-foot) has been delayed – I have not heard from the station engineers yet, but all components are ready to be deployed (we purchased an additional DB-224E for this site).
  • the JAX Beach site is nearing installation. Scott has helped us finalize the contract for the roof-top site and I have already signed it. Site is ready for installation. Steve and I will be finalizing the RF equipment this coming weekend – this will be a D-Star Full-Duplex Hotspot on UHF. We’ll release details as soon as they’re finalized.
  • We will need a crew for the JAX Beach site install – there will be antenna work, feed-line runs and equipment installs (Steve Finger will be the point-man for the equipment install). If you’re interested, please contact me offline or via email

Welcome Jason Price – DStar Gateway Manager

there should be a MasterCard commercial that says, “getting the right help, at the right time, for the right job – PRICELESS”.

Such is how I feel about recruiting Jason Price to be our lead D-Star Gateway manager for the existing Linux-based gateways in the NEFL D-Star network. As you all know, no single person can do everything – especially when there’s RF equipment, antennas, feedlines, test equipment AND the computer equipment and software necessary to provide Gateway services for D-Star. Jason is a career Unix/Linux software and network engineer – so he does this for a living (unlike me, who only dabbles and barely “get’s-by”).

Jason has already updated all three gateway servers with the latest CentOS updates. He has full ROOT access to all the servers as of 48 hours ago and has already been active in making sure that we are up-to-date on all systems for operating system and security patches.

Please welcome Jason to the team – this is a HUGE relief to me and allows me to focus on other parts of the project. We’ll have similar support requirements on the RF components, antennas, etc – so more “shedding” of responsibilities to competent, trained and professional-level folks will be most welcome in the coming months.

You might remember my comments from early this year – that I wanted to have the maximum number of people involved in the design, installation, maintenance and repair of our repeater systems – that it should NOT be in the hands of just one person (regardless of who “owns” the equipment). Multiple maintainers means higher availability and greater reliability, greater knowledge sharing, greater teamwork. All good thing – but people with big egos and the need to be the single-source-of-knowledge need not apply.

Did you catch the ARRL ARES E-Letter..??

here’s the URL: http://www.arrl.org/ares-el/?issue=2010-08-11

there is mention of:

  • the first Flagler ARES Net in over a year – on 147.300 on Wednesday eve at 19:30
  • the NE-FL D-Star blog (this information)
  • the Bike MS-150 event for North East Florida on October 2-3
  • Depiction software and how we’re using it for planning of the Bike MS-150 event, as well as our overall ARES planning efforts.

Rick Palm (K1CE), the editor of the ARRL ARES E-Letter and former executive at the ARRL in Newington, is a dear friend to this group. He is a huge supporter of both ARES and D-Star.