Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Hamshack Hotline


Hamshack Hotline is a dedicated Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) network that is free to amateur radio operators around the world. The purpose is not to replace traffic carried over RF, but augment it when conditions are poor or otherwise busy.

Originally conceived by John Rogers, K1WIZ, Hamshack Hotline is a network exclusively allocated to Ham Radio Operators. It has been widely used by Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Operations Centres and individual operator's shacks. Apart from voice calls, Hamshack Hotline will also support the faxing of documents.

The age-old cry of "its not real radio" does not apply here. We all use a telephone when we can't raise our fellow operator on the radio and this system is simply available to do just that. We are experimenters in communications and any system whether it be RF or landline or a combination of both does have an appeal. VOIP will never replace radio communications but it will enhance it in many ways. Telecomms, and Internet are integrated into many commercial radio systems so why not ours? Hamshack Hotline provides another dimension in the hobby.

The Hamshack Hotline will support links to RF Repeaters and Gateways - Allstar and Echolink systems immediately spring to mind.

Hamshack Hotline has its own phone directory which lists individual phone numbers and a list of bridges that link into RF systems. It is not just a one-to-one system as it is possible to set up conference lines. Some of these may be closed and for  members only although there are many which are open and welcome all to participate.

Hamshack Hotline is made up of three networks:

HHUS - United States

HHEU - Europe

HHAP - Asia and Pacific

There is an additional Experimental Network HHX

All of these networks are integrated so the operation is worldwide.

Supported Phones

Support is provided for various VOIP phones, some of which can be purchased for as little as £25.00 but considerably more if purchased brand new. CISCO SIP (Session initiation Protocol) Phones are used on this network and the following are compatible:

CISCO SPA-514

The Cisco 514 phone needs to be connected to a router via an Ethernet cable. It can be powered by a Power over Ethernet supply or alternatively can be powered with a 5V plug in unit. Some phones will only allow the Power over Ethernet connection

   CISCO SPA-525G2

The Cisco 525G2 phone may be connected via Ethernet or WiFi. If using on WiFi, it will need a 5V power supply. The phone can also be connected via a Power over Ethernet unit. 

Other Compatible Phones include:

CISCO SPA-112

CISCO SPA-303

CISCO SPA-504

CISCO SPA-514

CISCO SPA- 941/942

Be advised that second-hand phones may have been locked into a system and will need to be UNLOCKED and RESET before they can be used on any other system. This is generally stated in their description but if it is not you may encounter difficulties setting it up.

Obtaining personal Hamshack Hotline Number

Go to this url and fill in the requested details open a new ticket with a new line request

 https://apps.wizworks.net:9090/open.php

All fields should be filled in. The MAC Address will be found on the underside of the phone and must be copied correctly otherwise the system will not interface.

The process of registration may take up to 48 hours before you receive an email.

Once you have received your confirmation Email Follow the steps below:

  1. Connect the phone to the internet.
  2. On the router, find thu Intenet> Network Security> DMZ
  3. Enable DMZ for phone Remember to go back in to disable DMZ after it is installed. Note: Some security is disabled while installing the phone. 
  4. A set of 4 green signal strength bars will appear if the WiFi Connection is sucessful.
  5. Using another device such as a Laptop or mobile phone on WiFi connected to the router, type in the IP address you found in Step 2 into the x.x.x.x part of the url http://x.x.x.x/admin/resync?http://apps.wizworks.net:2443/spacfg-$MA.cfg (The phone will reboot and Hamshack Hotline will configure it for you)

So here is my phone following the connection to the system. It was ready to use straight after reboot. The unit next to the phone is an "Attendant Console" (sidecar)on which one can program up to 32 speed dial settings. The green LEDs show that the phone is connected and on the Attendant Console the Green LED is showing that the listed line is active.

By Typing in the phone's IP address into the url box, it is possible to access all the set-up functions of the phone. Be advised - if you don't know the consequences of changing any of the funtions, it is best to leave well enough alone in case you brick the phone!

Whilst it is possible to contact users on a on-to-one basis, it is possible to set up a conference (Bridge) area for your own club and group (a Conference Area where several can join at once). This will allow individuals to dial up the conference and they will be issued with a PIN number to dial in before joining the conference. Some conferences are open, but, the majority are dedicated to individual groups and may only be joined by invitation. 

So give a few Practical Uses for this system

In the shack it can be used as a hotline to a fellow radio operator. Many are the times when you want to test out some equipment and there is not a soul to be found and this will provide a one touch access to organise a sked. 

How many times have you initiated a call on the Landline and found yorself still chatting after two hours about a project and associated ideas. The cost of the call can be expensive!

A superb system for EMCOMM. Set up your three independant base stations and link all three to Net Control via Hamshack Hotline. There is many an occasion where net control can save air time by speaking direct to a base station in the field. It will aid the tactical side of the operation to leave the main controller deal with the emerging situation over the air whilst expediting the more mundane tasks over the Land Line.

What about the resilience of the system will be heard in the background. Well this really is only a system to augment the operation. The primary operation in EMCOMMS is handled over the air but much of the non-urgent traffic can be handled through this system. If the proverbial does hit the fan, then this system will provide another means of one to one traffic handling between the localised net controllers. they can pass anything of relevance over the air as required or directed. 

How reliable is the Internet or cellular network? In the majority of cases the internet and cellular network is excellent and providing communications during sporting events in Connemara is hardly going to overload the system. Used wisely, and with the usual caution one never puts all the eggs in one basket. for every system there is always an alternative and backup. The Hamshack Hotline does just that job; it is a backup form of communications to >>augment<< the radio network. There is always plenty of room for backup and this is just one of those systems that can be repidly deployed if required.

Is this Network Secure?

The network is secure and one can enjoy privacy on personal calls from person to person. Conference rooms are unique to a group and only those who are issued with a pin number may enter. If you give this pin to all and sundry, then the Conference is no longer unique to your group!

Does this system facilitate Voice Mail?

Yes! All Hamshack Hotline numbers have a voicemail box.

Can I set up a Conference (Bridge) for my Group or Club?

Yes! Send a copy of your Club Call, and Hamshack Hotline will provide a private ot public Bridge for your club or group.

Can My Phone be set up in another location?

The phone can be set up in any location with internet. You may have to reconfigure the network on your phone. 

Can this system be Bridged into the Allstar Network?

It is possible to bridge this system to an Allstar Node.

Further Information may be acquired from:

https://hamshackhotline.com/

https://apps.wizworks.net:9090/index.php

http://k0lwc.com/hamshack-hotline-the-ham-radio-bat-phone/

https://apps.wizworks.net:9091/index.php

https://www.facebook.com/groups/hamshack

https://www.k4rc.net/about-waarc/hamshack-hotline/

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The Peanut App for Android and Windows

Peanut is an App for Android or Windows, developed by PA7LIM, that allows VOIP communication on unique Rooms of which some are connected to D-Star, C4FM or DMR and output via Gateways or Repeaters. This is an excellent system for those who do not have VHF/UHF, DMR, C4FM or D-Star equipment. Peanut provides the perfect meeting place for Radio Club members and allowing those on the C4FM Repeaters and gateways to join in.

Firstly, it is necessary to Register your Callsign with D-Star and DMR so that the system will recognise you. It is wise to have a PDF or snapshot of the first page of you licence handy as this will be requested for the DMR registration.

For D-Star registration go to   https://icomuk.co.uk/News_Article/2/1052/

For DMR registration go to     https://radioid.net/#!

To register for the Peanut app go to  https://register.peanut.network/

The process to apply is relatively painless but the Peanut and DMR I/D require a copy of the front page of your licence. It may take 24 Hours to receive confirmation of the I/Ds

The peanut app for Android phone or tablet may be downloaded from the Google Play store – it is called Peanut for Android.

The version of Peanut for windows maybe downloaded from  https://software.pa7lim.nl/peanut/STABLE/

1)     Assuming all of the registrations have been completed, install and run the Peanut App.

2)     Go into set up and fill in the boxes with Call sign, Peanut code from PA7LIM and DMR I/D

3)   The app will require you to establish the PTT key – in some cases you press a bar showing on the screen or alternatively press a key on  a keyboard. If you have an internet radio then press the PTT.

4)     Press submit, and your system is set up and ready to go.

On the android version there is a slider that needs to be pressed to log in. Windows has an On/Off slider located at the top left of the screen.

Assuming all is working, and the app is running:

There are two dropdown menus that will enable selection of the country e.g., IE and the other will allow selection of the Room so in the case of Ireland select IE for country and there are two rooms to choose from IRELAND or YSF-IRE

IRELAND is a chat Room confined to Peanut and does not connect to any Repeater or Gateway. Conversations will not be retransmitted anywhere.

YSF-IRE is connected to YSF-Ireland, DMR TG 2724 and CQ-IRELAND this will retransmit on the Galway Repeater, TG 2724 on DMR and YSF-IRELAND.

This is the perfect App to allow those with no Digital or VHF/UHF handhelds to actually operate through the Galway Repeater on 145.625. It is possible to hold a Digital net on the Galway Repeater and have input from operators using DMR and Peanut in the same net. The Perfect system for getting all club members on the Galway repeater for a net.

 


Of course, there are many countries that can be accessed via Peanut. These may be selected from the drop down menu for rooms

Another option in the countries list is ALL and this will real every single room accessible from Peanut.

Any of the following rooms will come out on RF

YSF – C4FM

TGF, HBL, DMR  – DMR

DCS, XLX, XRF, REF – D-Star

Anything with just a Name e.g., English,English 1, or Ireland are individual Peanut rooms.

What are the advantages?

Programmed into a Mobile phone or tablet with access to internet or internet via cellular, it is possible to communicate back into Galway via the Repeater on C4FM or via TG 2724 via DMR.

It is possible to establish a net on the IRELAND Room which will give an area for a group to chat. Please note that others have access and can monitor.

It is possible to operate a D-Star radio into one of the D-Star reflectors utilised by Peanut and come out on the tablet, mobile phone or internet radio. Great for those who don’t have D-Star.

It is possible to operate via peanut to DMR users.

Irrespective of what part of the world, and provided that there is cellular coverage, it is possible to maintain communication with the Galway repeater or any other service via the Peanut App.

Perhaps we may be able to establish a net on the Galway Repeater, TG2724, and CQ-IRELAND and Peanut where ALL members of the locality can join in together with on or other of the modes listed.

To Recap the following systems will be linked together:

1)     DMR via any of the Galway DMR Repeaters on TG2724

2)     CQ-IRELAND via the Galway Repeater on C4FM

3)     C4FM via YSF-IE (usually via a local Gateway of Hotspot)

4)     Peanut Using the YSF-IRE via Android PHone, Tablet or Windows Computer

If you have absolutely no radio gear you can use your Android Phone, Tablet or Windows Computer to access your local network and join in local radio club nets or QSOs. From here it may spark an interest in Digital Radio further down the line.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Friday, October 23, 2020

EI2GCD Multi-mode Digital Gateway Back on Air

The original EI2GCD 2 metre Multimode Digital Gateway was placed on air on the 13th of November 2017 and a year later it was placed on a high site overlooking Galway City alongside the DMR Repeater EI7RHD. The Gateway never really saw a huge amount of activity so it was put up for sale as a fully functional item which really only required a change of frequency and the new owner's parameters to be programmed into it. 

We were delighted when a member of the Limerick Radio Club took an interest in the project. This would bring all three popular modes of Digital Radio to the area which was currently being served by a 70cm Yaesu Fusion Repeater.

The intention was to replace the Gateway with a 2 metre D-Star Gateway but a new Repeater Builder STM32 MMDVM modem board was purchased. This board could be mounted on the Raspberry Pi and would allow DMR and C4FM to be switched in if required.

The previous Gateway project required a Spectrum analyser to set up the DMR but this board was simpler to set up.

A Tait TM 8105 Radio was acquired and programmed with just one channel 144.850 MHz. A lead was made to connect input and output from the Tait radio to the Modem which was mounted on the Raspberry Pi. The alignment procedure was simple.

The RX IN pot, top centre of the board above, was turned anti-clockwise to minimum. the small blue multi-turn pot on the top left of the board was backed down to a minimum setting.  A DMR transmission was made on the appropriate channel and the small multi-turn pot at the top left of the board was increased until the "Clip" LED just flashed on. The level was then backed off until the "Clip" LED no longer lit. This was the level now set for DMR.

The temporary set-up is shown on my twiddling and fiddling bench. The cooling fan is essential as the radio can get quite warm with continuous activity. The Tait TM8105 is in the middle and sittng on the blue tray is the Raspberry Pi and modem placed on top. It is necessary to have a flow of air over the chip-set on the Raspberry Pi as it does get quite hot with continuous activity. If no cooling was present the Raspberry Pi would undoubtedly overheat and expire. 

After the basic settings are entered into the Pi-Star Program it is necessary to set the levels on modem. 

 
Once the DMR level has been set it should result in the received signals being heard clealy. If there is activity showing on the modem but nothing heard on the radio try adjusting the TX invert from 1 to Zero. that should cure the problem. If not, it may be necessary to back off the DMR TX level slightly. Do this in steps of 5 until clear audio is received. 
 
Try C4FM next. This should be perfect but try backing the YSF level off in stepds of 5 until the audio just disappears. Set the level approxinamtely half way between the upper and lower level. If you press the "DX" buttion on the C4FM radio the radio should connect to the node immediately if this level is correct. 
 
D-star is aligned in the same way the sweet spot is between the point at which the the audio is received to the point where it disappears. Set he radio half way between the two points.

That completes the alignment of the audio levels. 
 
The activity should build up on the dashboard very quickly.
 

It is possible to select the modes of operation in the configuration file. If all three mode are selected, bear in mind that if one of the modes is connected to a busy Talk Group or Reflector, then that mode will dominate the use of the Dashboard and prevent the other modes coming through. Obviously a happy balance will have to be reached. The alternative is to just switch on the modes required.

Once all is working perfectly it is time to set up on a high site:

 

Everything fits snugly into the repeater housing and both the Repeater and Gateway are connected into a 3-Mobile Router. 

The Gateway is very reliable and should need very little attention. Our Previous Gateway ran continously for 2 years until it was removed from the site.

As the Galway is very well served by four 70 cm DMR Repeaters and a Yaesu Fusion DRX-1 repeater on 2 metres, it is possible that this Gateway will be permanently set on D-Star. The option is always there to include the other modes if necessary. This can be done remotely.