Using amateur packet for communications

Discussion in 'Communications' started by redcat, Apr 12, 2011.

  1. redcat

    redcat Cat lover, hunter, tech n

    Is anyone here using packet on the ham bands? I'm not doing so yet, but I hope to be doing so fairly soon.

    Listening to the news about political unrest in foreign countries, one of the things we hear about governments doing is shutting down the Internet when the SHTF. I don't know about you, but I get a fair bit of my news through the 'net (e-mail, etc).

    If things finally cross the line here, and the govt either forces US carriers to shut down or gets even worse about Internet censorship and snooping (CALEA, etc), I won't be able to count on that as an info source any more. But if there are enough hams making digital comm available, we might still be able to move news around the world. Sure, the part of it that moves over HF will be slow, but it will still be better than nothing.
  2. tyler_kd0bsa

    tyler_kd0bsa Well-Known Member

    I don't use it at the moment but I have the capability to use it if I wish. The only packet I use right now is for my aprs.

  3. MrSfstk8d

    MrSfstk8d Well-Known Member

    Familiar with it. I believe HAMs invented packetware. Mind your band permissions and license level etc. while the Govt is still in operation. Look into the HAM satelites too. You know we've got a few up there, don't you?
  4. redcat

    redcat Cat lover, hunter, tech n

    Yep. Never used them, but I know they're there. I guess I ought to look into that, too.
  5. BasecampUSA

    BasecampUSA Sr. Homesteader

    We've been using it experimentally in our ham club for text messaging (bulletin board style) instead of the regular internet. Computer + radio, nothing else.
  6. Ephraimlad

    Ephraimlad New Member

    For real-time communications (especially over long distance) other digital modes like PSK-31 are better options. Packet radio use has declined over the years, and if it weren't for APRS it might have died altogther....
  7. jeffreyclay

    jeffreyclay Probie

    PSK-31 is pretty neat but unless you (and recipient) are using NVIS antennas the contacts will generally be a state away minimum. If you're ok with that I think packet can be a real service if during times of crisis if someone transmitted vital news and any non commercial info on a regular basis. Things along the lines of "Richmond has no electricity, roads are closed and travel is strongly discouraged, you can pick up your checks in DC":D
  8. Centraltn

    Centraltn Well-Known Member

    Erm... *digs toe into the ground* Whats a packet re: ham radio
  9. redcat

    redcat Cat lover, hunter, tech n

    Packet is a technology that allows you to do computer-to-computer communications over ham radio. It's often implemented very similar to an old-style BBS. At least that used to be true; I haven't been on packet for over a decade.

    FCC rules limit the amount of bandwidth you can use, therefor the maximum bit rate you can use. Using single Bell-202 style signalling, HF bands are pretty much restricted to 300 bps. If you use more expensive modems (like Pactor) you can run higher bit rates. VHF and above let you use faster, since you can use more bandwidth.

    My interest in packet is in keeping sources of news open in case of a news blackout, internet shutdown, or other sort of event. If we can't get reliable info over public sources, we can always plan to distribute news on our own over the radio. Of course the reliability of such news would be unknown.
  10. spiritofold

    spiritofold New Member

    I used to use packet, years ago. I had a pk12 hooked upto an old kenwood 2mtr radio, and a 286 pc.

    It all worked fine, apart from it was all verrrrrryyyyyy slow if you wanted to transfer big files etc. I remember once i transfered a file off a mate of mine that was around 2mb in size, it took 48 hours to transfer!!!!!!!

    Packet is good for bbs access, small messages or pix, forums etc, Its a means to an end ;-)

    Andy, M0AYV
  11. Fn/Form

    Fn/Form Function over Form

    Automatic Link Establishment (ALE) systems can do a LOT to overcome the HF restrictions. Basically it sounds 24hrs a day "testing" band conditions and moving band to band as needed. It's in heavy use with military and commercial. Hams are active as well with most of them using a software ALE drive vs. the commercial rigs' built-in ALE.

    I was really interested in the promise of HF AirMail. A neat concept, and a natural use of ALE. I have been preoccupied with just getting local comms covered... if I had more money and time I might look into ALE/AirMail again.
  12. Libertarian

    Libertarian Member

    Just imagine if everyone used some form of packet radio that transmitted Internet packets. Each ham station could run a special purpose version of Internet routing software tailored for Radio Amateur use with a rapidly reconfigured "Internet" as each ham station comes on and goes off the air.

    In addition to acting as in Internet Router, the station computer it would have to rapidly reconfigure the topology of the network and distribute it because routes would likely change much faster than with the traditional Internet. It would also be "nice" if the Ham/Internet network could tie into the "real" physical Internet usable by anyone at some point.

    Think we will ever see anything like this?
  13. Fn/Form

    Fn/Form Function over Form

  14. NoSweat88

    NoSweat88 Member

    Ham-Based Mobile Texting System

    I have been prepping for over a year and a half and since the start the subject of communications has been lurking in the back of my mind. While reading a book about Navy SEALs the other day, the story referred to a "digital burst text message" being sent and it got my brain working. Wouldn't it be cool IF....?

    For all you who are already Amateur Radio operators, I am NOT a ham. It is YOUR input that I especially seek. My knowledge is limited to what little bit I have learned through research in the last two weeks. If I am missing something, please don't hesitate to let me know (please be gentle...I take constructive criticism very well) . If I am over-complicating things, or if a simpler solution already exists, let me know.

    I am already aware of the TriSquare TSX300 and the Garmin Rino. The TriSquare is reportedly tough to use with more than two users. The Garmin limits the msg to 13 characters ( I think). I also know about the Hasbro toy that does texting.

    And this system will NOT be least $6000. But the civilian cool factor is priceless. That being said...

    I am looking for a means to send text communications from user to user. I am especially interested in means for communicating while on the move. I have been poking around and have heard of packet radio, PSK31, RTTY and similar digital communication forms and they seem to fit my a degree.

    From what I have gathered, I would need a PC, a radio, a Terminal Network Controller (TNC) to act as an interface between the computer and the radio,and the appropriate software. My idea would be to send relatively short messages between users who are mobile. My plan is to mount parts of the system in MOLLE pouches on a tactical vest. As of now, none of the components are ruggedized. I am aware of that. That being said, here's my idea.

    For the computer, an Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) that is fanless would be ideal. They are small, relatively light, and can run the various programs used for communications. An example would be the STEALTH brand LPC-125LPFM Ultra Small Computer . It has the necessary USB ports and video out. It is small (4.6""W x 6.1"D x 2.0" H) and weights 1.2 lbs . The computer would run any of the various packet radio types of software that are available such as FLDigi, Digipan, MultiPSK, etc. Additionally, if secure messaging is needed, the computer can be loaded with any of the versions of PGP encryption software that is publicly available to encrypt messages prior to transmission and decrypt on receipt.



    The TNC (Terminal Network Controller) that interfaces between the computer and the radio would be the SignalLink USB. It is 1.6" x 3.2" x 3.6" (don't know the weight). It is USB powered from the LPC-125 Computer.


    For a mobile video display, I would choose the Vuzix TAC-EYE LT sunglass mounted display. This offers a virtual screen that appears in front of the viwers eyes and still allows the ability to see whats going on around you. The TAC-EYE would be mounted on Oakley clear lens glasses or similar. There are other commercially available units out there. This is where the $$$ is :( I'm sure there are less expensive models out there, but this looks like the best.


    Input for the system would be a wrist mounted keyboard/ trackpad unit like the iKey AK-39 or a small handheld unit like the Favi Wireless Keyboard.


    Here's the link to the FAVI

    The radio of choice would be any handheld tranceiver. With the proper adapters, you could even use a CB walkie-talkie or FRS/ GMRS radio. To me, a multi-band HT would be the best choice due to the huge number of frequencies available to communicate on. Although most of my research talks about PSK31 or other packet communications taking place on certain frequencies, I don't see why, short of FCC Regs, these types of comms couldn't occur on any frequency. If I'm wrong about this, let me know.

    I am aware that the frequency used will limit the transmission rate. From what I gather, transmitting the equivalent of 3 pages of text would take about 10 seconds or less. The vast majority of the messages would be one-liners or so and take a couple of seconds. It shouldn't be too hard to find a frequency with no voice traffic to send the messages. You could also rotate frequencies for security and to avoid other ham traffic.

    The PC is attached to the TNC and kept in pouches on the tac vest. They, in turn, are attached to the radio. The user wears the video display glasses. All traffic is viewed thru the display and is seen thru the packet software the pc is running. Return messages are typed out and transmitted using the wrist mounted or portable keyboard.

    Before it's brought up...I KNOW most of this would be against FCC regs. But I am talking about SHTF comms. Plus, I'm just brainstorming.

    A reasonable power supply for the computer and headset would be a big issue. I haven't figured that out yet, although the pc is DC powered and the video display has an available battery pack. The batteries seem to ALWAYS be an issue with this type of stuff.

    So there you have it....your turn.

  15. k0xxx

    k0xxx Supporting Member

    FWIW, PSK-31 is no different than any other form of communication. Propagation depends on the frequency used. A few years back, some friends and I used PSK-31 for local communications on VHF. It worked fine. Using QRP power and directional antennas proved very effective locally, and out to 150 miles (with our larger beams).
  16. TommyJefferson

    TommyJefferson Living the American Dream

    Here are two developments in this area I've been watching for the last couple of years:

    1. Long-range WiFi

    2. User generated cell phone networks

    1. People are developing their own WiFi networks that almost completely bypass Internet Service Providers. Basically, a bunch of nerds in town set up their own network services all webbed together WiFi. Some people in Australia are doing WiFi connections across 80 miles.

    2. I can't find the links, but there are a group of developers using the open-source Android cell phone operating system to set up cell networks that don't need big towers. Encrypted data is transmitted across each individual users cell phone in a distributed network similar to the BitTorrent peer-to-peer system. No big carrier needed. Everybody has free cell phone service.
  17. Laura

    Laura Active Member

    Never tried packet or any radio via computer. Anyone know of where to read up on this so I can put such a unit together? I would like a site that is straight forward to learn "how to". My Icom 746 Pro or Orion II will do nicely with an old lab top. If portability is an issue I may need a mobil radio that fits with all the rest in a suitcase........ I saw something like this at a ARES / RACES drill.
  18. k0xxx

    k0xxx Supporting Member

    Look for the books "RTTY/PSK31 for Radio Amateurs" and "Nifty E-Z Guide to PSK31 Operation". They're good guides to getting started in those modes (I believe that the ARRL carries them also). There are some videos on YouTube that talk about these devices, one of the better ones on the basics is "[ame=""]Soundcard Interfacing[/ame]" by K7AGE.

    A RigBlaster or similar rig/computer interface and the proper cables are all that you need to connect your PC to the radio. Then it's just a matter of downloading the software for the mode that you want to try. My RigBlaster even included a disk containing a good deal of the most popular programs.

    I mostly use an older IC-746 for digital and have operated PSK31, RTTY, SSTV, EchoLink, FSK441 (meteor scatter) and JT65 (Moonbounce). It can even be used as a voice keyer during contests, or for automated repeater announcements.

    If you have any questions, I would be happy to try to answer them.