All posts by David Lane

Welcome to the summer

With Memorial Day behind us, it is time to turn our attention to the summer. And we have seen a number of seasons where every other day was a sever storm. We have seen summer seasons where we barely got enough rain to tamp down the dust.

Today is the “second day” of summer and our friends at the National Weather Service predicts:

A FEW THUNDERSTORMS COULD PRODUCE DAMAGING WIND GUSTS AND LARGE HAIL LATE THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING.

So the weather is already heating up.  Which leads me to the next date on the calendar – the start of hurricane season, which is June 1.

Depending on who you listen too, this season is expected to be quiet, sort of. Estimates are for 8-13 named storms, with only a pair of major hurricanes predicted. Compare this too 2013 where we had 14 reported storms and only two hurricanes (Sandy was in 2012, in case your memory is a sketchy as mine is).

So take advantage of the Virginia Tax free week this week (May 25 – May 31) to stock up on your hurricane and other disaster supplies.  You might also want to take a moment to review your antennas and tower supports and check your batteries.

 

PWCARES Digital Exercise AAR

The inital three stations before setup
The inital three stations before setup

On Saturday, May 17, 2014, Prince William ARES took to the field in the green common in front of the McCoart building at the County Government Centre for a small digital exercise. The key goal was to set up one or more FlDigi stations and pass communications between them. A second goal was to set up a broadband hamnet mesh network. And finally, it was a great opportunity for the members of PWCARES to exercise their go-kits, digital gear, and work out in the field without commercial power.

Welcome to Amateur Radio!
Welcome to Amateur Radio!

Three “station” set-ups were provided. At the height of the exercise, as many as nine stations were in operation around the perimeter of the common and two different types of mesh networks were in operation. Most operators had a standard set up of a laptop, radio, and some type of external sound card device, such as SignaLink. A couple of stations tried the “headset to mic” interface method. At the end, four stations were able to successfully pass traffic, both ad hoc messages and more formal ICS-213 messages. These stations were all using SigaLinks.

Clarence provided a traditional broadband-hamnet network, with an access point connecting the field to the Internet.

Clarence, K4CNM's go kit in a box.
Clarence, K4CNM’s go kit in a box.

Derek set up a mesh network that was a custom set up that was not BBHN or HSMM. The equipment he brought for the mesh was three WNDR3700v2 routers [1]. On these devices, I had loaded the OpenWRT firmware. One device ran DHCP and an XMPP server[2], while the other two acted simply as relays. The network was configured so the 5 GHz radio connected ad-hoc while the 2.4 GHz radio provided an AP, different name and channel from each node.

Station 3, operational
Station 3, operational

Significantly different from BBHN, the adhoc 5 GHz connections were connected with the B.A.T.M.A.N. protocol (BBHN uses OLSR). The bat0 interface thus provided was bridged with the 2.4 GHz APs. This has the effect of making the entire network link-local. Thus, wireless clients could pull addresses from the node running DHCP.

One of the generators providing power
One of the generators providing power

At the exercise, David KG4GIY and Keith KM4AA connected their laptops and used Pidgin to connect their XMPP accounts, while Mark Redlinger connected with his iPhone and the ChatSecure app. No downtime was noted, though use was not heavy. The ability to connect Android and iPhone devices through the second AP is a big advantage to having a dual-band radio. The clear weather and flat terrain meant all of the APs were visible from the entire area of the exercise.

Derek welcomes any questions on this topic.

No gas? How about the sun?
No gas? How about the sun?

We learned there were a great number of power options available to everyone. Deep cycle batteries, generators, even solar panels, which meant there was no need for commercial power during the exercise. We also discovered that a physical device between the computer and the radio worked better than other lash-ups for sending and receiving data via fldigi. Several observers were present and learned how to use the system and what value it brings. It was also a good learning experience and we need to have more opportunities. A suggestion was made to have little workshops to review settings and set ups and then have another exercise. The digital list will be used to coordinate. The mesh nodes demonstrated the ability to utilize traditional TCP/IP based technologies successfully. More research and work needs to go into establishing the best way to implement it.

Bill and Louis with the signal testing gear
Bill and Louis with the signal testing gear

Bill did a signal study during the exercise, the results of which will be provided as soon as he has completed his analysis.

Thanks to everyone for their participation!

NOTES:
1 – http://wiki.openwrt.org/toh/netgear/wndr3700
2 – XMPP is an instant message protocol, perhaps likened to a computerized form of the National Traffic System

The “Food Fight” over MT-63

A number of people have brought me information about MT-63, both pro and con.

Officially, PWCARES will use the mode that works best for us and we are currently evaluating the various modes that are available to us.  MT-63 is just a starting point, because you have to start somewhere.

MT-63 2KL was chosen because it is the NBEMS standard adopted by the ARRL. And it was a good place to start.

Here is only one of the arguments against:

  • nice for file transfer but not so good at keyboard typing (errors creep in).

And for:

  • The Army uses both MT-63 1KL and 2KL as their go to backup mode when MS-110A doesn’t work due to atmospheric conditions.

There are as many opinions and positions as there are amateurs.  If someone has a definitive or quantitative analysis, please feel free to post it in the comments or send it directly and I will add it. At this point, we will all keep an open mind.

 

Digital Exercise, 17 May 2014, FAQ

On Saturday, May 17, 2014, PWCARES will take to the field for a digital exercise during our normal training interval. The slide deck is here: http://www.haikudeck.com/p/ZIDuv4Rd9l

We will set up on the grassy area between the parking lots for McCoart and Owens.  This is a surface only setup – no spikes, stakes, or burrowing animals please.

The plan is this:

  • Set up (8:30 – 9:30)
  • Briefing (9:30 – 10:00)
  • Exercise (10:00 – 11:30)
  • Hotwash and cleanup (11:30 – 12:30)

I will provide 3 pavilions, three tables and three operation position chairs.  If we want more sites/operating locations, someone will need to help with the gear.  We set up, do some digital work with voice sync and see what we can do.  Digital will be on 2m and voice coordination will be on 440.  There is no power, so bring batteries and anything else you think you will need to operate.

We will operate under the assumptions laid out in the digital meeting outbrief.  This is an active deployment and all Amateur operators are encouraged to attend.

Q. Who is setting up a station?

A. We will divide up into three or so teams and each team will set up a station (or two) as a group.

Q. Where will be getting the gear?

A. This is a good chance for everyone to exercise their field kits. If you have a digital station, please bring it and the necessary gear to operate in the field. If you don’t, that’s OK too. Everyone will get a chance to operate. Please bring an HT (if you have one) with 440 as well to coordinate.

Q. What about power?

A. Again, this an opportunity to exercise your equipment, so bring your own power. That being said, David, KG4GIY will bring a couple of batteries and Spenc has indicated he will bring a generator and an extension cord or two.

Q. What sort of digital will we be testing?

A. Primarily we will be testing fldigi, with flmsg. Derek has indicated he would like to do some broadband-hamnet (ex HSSM) as well. If you are interested, bring that gear along as well. BBHN please coordinate over the digital list so you have what you need.

Q. Do stations have to have the required software/hardware?

A. It will be the responsibility of those bringing digital stations to have them preconfigured with the FLdigi software and appropriate hardware to operate on at least 2m.

Q. Who is going to man EOC?

A. No one. We will not use the EOC for this exercise.

Q. Is there a message packet for the stations?

A. The primary goal for this exercise is to at least get the stations to talk to each other (and while that may seem like a trivial goal, I think it will take the bulk of our time to get to that point). If we can send messages after that, so much the better. I have a group of messages that we can use.

Q. I really like the parking lot idea.

A. Before we go long, we need to make sure we can work. It is frustrating enough to get connectivity working, much less when you cannot ask a more knowledgeable person to come look and see what you did wrong.

Q. FLAMP works great on any of the digital modes/bands but with solid signals may not be required. FLAMP works great for file transfer and beacon/ multiple general broadcast of message forms.

A. Again, one step at a time. If we can get connectivity, then we will move on to the more complicated stuff.

Q. FLNET it may assist us in running the net.

A. It might. I will see how much work there is in setting it up.

Tax Free Holiday May 25 – 31, now with chainsaws!

Virginia's Tax Free Holiday!
Virginia’s Tax Free Holiday!

It is hurrican season preparation time again, and to help you out, Virginia is picking up the tax on those items that will help you get prepared. What sort of itmes you ask? Let me tell you!

  • Ice packs
  • Bottled water
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Rope
  • Buckets (to carry your rope and water in, right?)
  • Chainsaws (under $350 – sadly the safety gear is not exempt, but I would encourage you to get it anyway if you do not have it)
  • Generators (under $1000)
  • …and so much more

In all seriousness, this is a great opportunity to get ready for hurricane season, which starts June 1st.

Upcoming Emergency Managment Classes

ICS-300: Intermediate ICS for Expanding Incidents – March 17-18

Purpose:

ICS-300 provides training and resources for personnel who require advanced application of the ICS. The course expands upon information covered in the ICS-100 and ICS-200 courses.

Audience

This course is intended for individuals who may assume a supervisory role in expanding incidents or Type3 incidents. Note: During a Type 3 incident, some or all of the command and general staff positions may be activated, as well as division or group supervisor and/or unit leader positions. These incidents may extend into multiple operational periods.

Prerequisites

ICS-100 and ICS-200, IS-/ICS-700, IS-/ICS-800

 

G108 Mass Care – May 12 – 13  &  G393 Mitigation for Emergency Managers May 19 – 21

We are offering a couple FEMA APS courses for our Spring Emergency Management academy. These classes are open to everyone around the region so if you are interested please sign up. Both of these classes help fulfill requirements for your APS certification.

The Woodbridge G-108 Community Mass Care & Emergency Assistance and G-393 Mitigation for Emergency Managers courses are open for enrollment. Please see these links for more details, including enrollment instructions and contact the Help Desk at 804-897-9995 with any questions. The dates for these classes are as follows:

G108 Mass Care – May 12 – 13

G393 Mitigation for Emergency Managers May 19 – 21

G 108 Community Mass Care Management

This 2-day course is intended to equip emergency management staff and voluntary agency personnel with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform as effective mass care coordinators in a broad range of disaster situations. The course covers how to size up mass care needs; how to plan for mass care; recruitment, training, and exercises for mass care personnel; and actions to take in short-term and long-term mass care operations.

Target Audience: State, tribal, and local government emergency management and voluntary agency personnel who are involved with mass care assistance.

G 393 Mitigation for Emergency Managers

This workshop is designed to train emergency managers and other interested individuals who have no specialized technical background, but can support mitigation efforts as advocates. The workshop provides activities and exercises that build the participants’; abilities to: perform the tasks and responsibilities of the emergency manager’s role; create long-term strategies for disaster-resistant communities; identify local mitigation opportunities; select mitigation solutions to hazard risk problems; find resources to carry out mitigation activities in a post-disaster environment.

Target Audience: All personnel at the state or local level involved with any phase of mitigation.

http://www.vaemergency.gov/content/vdem-g108-community-mass-care-management

http://www.vaemergency.gov/em-community/training/G-393

Need help or have questions about course enrollment? Call the LMS Help Desk @ 804-897-9995 or email lmshelp@vdem.virginia.gov. Monday-Friday, 8-4:30.

Training – Saturday, March 15, 2014 – 0900 – EOC

Our regular training will occur this Saturday, March 15, 2014. We will start at 0900 EDT.

Our agenda:

We hope to see you there!

Slide Decks are provided by HaikuDeck

Upcoming Events – Volunteers needed

MCM 17.75 April 12

Route for the 2014 MCM 17.75
Route for the 2014 MCM 17.75

The Marine Corps Marathon office is going to be running their 17.75 run on April 12. The operation begins at 0600 and should be complete no later than 1400.  The race begins at 0800. This years route is a circle (yay). We need at least 16 operators, and more would be helpful because we know that when race day arrives, we tend to have a bit of attrition.

Final communications plan and volunteer paperwork will be sent out closer to the event. A mobile with an antenna is usually sufficient. As with all Marine Corps events, it is rain or shine, hot or cold.  If you can participate, please email David Lane, KG4GIY directly, then go out to the MCM site and register.

24 Hour Run 2014 May 2 – 4

Example 2011 setup for the half-way point
Example 2011 setup for the half-way point

Woodbridge ARC will be supporting the 24 hour run in Prince William Forest Park. They will be using 147.240 + as the repeater in the park with 147.525 as the simplex backup.  There will be operations on HF, VHF, and digital as well.

A minimum of two stations are needed to be manned during the entire event.  The weather can vary from very nice to very un-nice. Past history has warm days and cool nights to pouring down rain and snow.

The operation begins at 0630 on Saturday morning and concludes at 1000 Sunday. The actual race is from 0700 Saturday through 0700 Sunday and occurs in the dark of the night as well.  Nothing more exciting than watching runners in headlights at 2AM!

Please contact Rob Williams, KJ4LWN directly to volunteer.

Compiling fldigi on the Raspberry Pi

Why, one might ask, would one want to run fldigi on a raspberry pi? Perhaps you want to get familiar with Linux before sacrificing a larger system to it.  Maybe you feel like you need practice compiling software. And maybe, you are like me, and when asked I said, “Because I can?”

Whatever your reason, the raspberry pi is not the ideal platform to run fldigi on, but it is not a bad platform for demonstrations, and testing.  But getting from here to there is not straight forward.

Now, you don’t have to compile the code.  You can pull a version from the repos with:

sudo apt-get install fldigi

But the version you are grabbing may not be the most recent one, and there are occasionally some issues with backwards compatability.  I did try downloading the precompiled binary but at least for version 3.21.78, the binary did not run on the pi, even though it ran without issues on Ubuntu on my netbook.

Which leaves the tried and true method. Compile the code from scratch.  And I thank the developers for providing the source code that allows me to do this.

But, like most software, when you start down the path of compilation, you occasionally have to make a detour (or three) to get it working right. So I will help here by taking you down the road I went, but I don’t guarentee you will get there from here.  This is just what I did, and what I wrestled with getting there.

One thing I will point out is that this is a long process, partly because of the number of packages that need to be fetched and installed and partly because of the capabilities of the pi.  Can you do it all in one sitting? Yes. But you might want to plan to take a couple of breaks along the way.

Ready?  Here we go…

In the beginning

Before you begin, you need a running Pi. I am going to assume you have already installed the software, and performed the inital configuartion, but not much more. If it has been a bit since you lastupdated your Pi, you might want to do that first. By the way, I will assume throughout that you are connected to a live Internet connection and have already figured out how to log in. Most of the following commands are excuted at the command line.

  • Update the repository on your Pi:
sudo apt-get update
  • Actually upgrade the Pi:
sudo apt-get upgrade

It might take a couple of minutes for this to grind through all the packages it needs to get, and then update.

Although you do not have to reboot the pi, if you got a new kernel during your update, it will benefit you to reboot and make sure the new kernel is working properly before you dive into the next part.

To reboot, you can issue this command:

sudo init 6

You can also issue this:

sudo shutdown now -r

Now that the software is up to date, and the kernel is good, we can get serious!

Prerequisits

Before you can begin, you should grab all the files you will need. I find it easiest to put all my downloads into a single place, called source, so I can find them when I am looking for them later.

mkdir source

Depending on how you download your code, you can open a browser and download it (suggested because how often fldigi changes) or you can use wget.  Grab the files you want from the fldigi download site. You will also need some other files.

  • Install the X11 development libraries (we will do that in a minute)
  • Install the libpng development libraries
  • fltk. I used version 1.3.2 (http://www.fltk.org/software.php)
  • Python Setup Tools (incl Easy Install)
  • Secret Rabbit Code. I used version 0.1.8. You need this for the samplerate python code (http://www.mega-nerd.com/SRC/download.html)
  • scikits.samplerate. I used version 0.3.3. (https://pypi.python.org/pypi/scikits.samplerate)

Install the development libraries from the repositories:

sudo apt-get install libx11-dev libpng12-dev python-setuptools python-dev python-numpy python-scipy libblas-dev liblapack-dev

It will ask to install some additional dependancies. Say yes and let it go.

Compile the fltk toolkit

  1. Chage into the source directory.
    cd source
  2. Untar the source file (I will only document this once – I will assume you can follow along after this).
    tar zxvf fltk-1.3.2.tar.gz
  3. Change into the fltk directory.
     cd fltk-1.3.2
  4. Configure the source tree and makefile (note the dot before the slash – you have to do that or it will error out at you).
    ./configure
  5. Compile! (and grab a snack…took about 15 minutes).
    make
  6. Install the software.
    sudo make install
  7. With luck, there are no errors and the software is installed.  I did get a few errors about depricated code in the X11 libraries that the fltk program warned about, but did not error out at compile time. You can safely ignore those sorts of errors.
  8. You are done with this step.

Compile the samplerate toolkit

  1. Chage into the source directory, untar the file and move into the directory.
  2. Configure the source tree
    ./configure
  3. Take note of the compiling information
    Compiling some other packages against libsamplerate may require the addition of "/usr/local/lib/pkgconfig" to the PKG_CONFIG_PATH environment variable.
  4. Compile! (It takes a bit to compile this code, be patient)
    make
  5. Install
    sudo make install
  6. Update the package configuation path (PKG_CONFIG_PATH) – command is all on one line.
    export PKG_CONFIG_PATH=/usr/local/lib/pkgconfig
  7. Move into the scikits.samplerate directory
  8. Python programs are or can be a bit tricky.  When in doubt, alway review the README to make sure nothing has changed.  You may need to do this first:
    sudo easy_install -U distribute
  9. Move into the scikits.samplerate directory and run setup.py
  10. python setup.py
  11. You will get a menu like this:
    pi@jake:~/source/scikits.samplerate-0.3.3$ python setup.py
    ========================================================================
    Starting interactive session
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    
    Tasks:
      i       - Show python/platform/machine information
      ie      - Show environment information
      c       - Show C compilers information
      c - Set C compiler (current:None)
      f       - Show Fortran compilers information
      f - Set Fortran compiler (current:None)
      e       - Edit proposed sys.argv[1:].
    
    Task aliases:
      0         - Configure
      1         - Build
      2         - Install
      2 - Install with prefix.
      3         - Inplace build
      4         - Source distribution
      5         - Binary distribution
    
    Proposed sys.argv = ['setup.py']
    
    Choose a task (^D to quit, Enter to continue with setup):
  12. Choose 0 to configure, then press Enter. It will dump you at a “press Enter to close.” Go ahead and press enter.
  13. Start it again, select 1. Press Enter and it will start building (you might get a few warnings). Press enter to be returned to the command line.
  14. To install the packge, start it again, with sudo:
    sudo python setup.py
  15. Press enter to return to the command prompt. You are done with this step.

Comple fldigi

  1. Change directory to the source directory and untar fldigi, then move into the fldigi directory.
    cd ~/source
    tar zxvf fldigi-<version>.tgz
    cd fldigi-<version>
  2. Configure the software source tree and makefile.
    ./configure
  3. Compile! And grab a snack…it takes a bit and maxes out the CPU.
    make
  4. Install
    sudo make install
  5. And that is that. You can now fire it up by opening up and testing it. The most straigtforward way is to click on the bird-like icon on the far bottom left corner, which brings up a pick list. Slide up to “Internet” and Fldigi is on the list. Click on it and it will start. (Fldigi does not like running through vnc).
  6. Now on to the other software! (What you thought you were done?)

Next, we will compile and install flmsg.