Thursday, August 6, 2009

NOTE: As has been the case in the past, the Educational Radio Net Blog post is lacking the graphics that are in the same post on the Yahoo, WA-DIGITAL group. Sorry but it just isn’t working here - and that is bad because I just looked at the post and it is 1/4 the length and 1% of the usefulness. Please go to the Yahoo WA-DIGITAL source or the original location shown below (although I updated the screen shots to the current version for this post (no more German dialog boxes). Please check back before the Wednesday night net for updated info on local packet resources and frequencies, that part isn’t done as of Thursday, August 6, 2009…
vy 73 de WR5J – Curt
..



Blog-Post -10-Packet Radio
Finding and installing Flex32 Packet Soundcard Modem Software, Term32, a very simple terminal program and Paxon a more fully featured terminal program to make your packet radio experience as pleasant as possible.

All the software listed here is for Windows – there are many other versions of the software for most other operating systems. Just go to the original links provided in the tutorial below. For the windows versions, just go to the WA-DIGITAL yahoo group and check in the files section:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/wa-digital/files/

Originally from: http://uspacket.org/network/index.php/topic,21.msg23/topicseen.html#new

A huge THANKS! To Charles Brabham, N5PVL for the following information:

Flex32 / Soundcard Packet for Windows

by Charles Brabham N5PVL

Many Hams have expressed an interest in Soundcard Packet Radio, and this is understandable! It makes amateur packet radio available to any Ham with a VHF transceiver and a soundcard-equipped computer, at little or no expense. There is soundcard packet software available for DOS, and most modern operating systems including MS Windows, the focus of this article.

Some Amateurs are intrigued by the notion of a bit of free software replacing the function of an expensive bit of hardware, others are more interested in the technical triumph that soundcard packet represents, or the performance edge that digital signal processing (DSP) offers. - The point here being that though soundcard packet is the inexpensive alternative, it is also an advanced, great performing one. The FlexNet setup I will describe here can give you measurably better performance than any new packet TNC can offer, fresh out of the box. You can find more general information about FlexNet, and why it performs so well here.

FlexNet, with its easy set up, advanced design and high performance is the "best of the best" for this mode. Here is a step-by-step account of how to go about setting up Flex32 with your MS Windows computer's soundcard acting as the TNC. Flex32 is designed to work with all versions of Windows from Win95 on up. Though the details of the setup shown here may differ slightly from yours, it is hoped that it will serve as a general guide.

The computer I will be using for the purposes of this article is a 500 MHz Pentium II PC, with a 16-bit Soundblaster sound card and Windows 98 SE. If your sound card is Soundblaster compatible, it should work just as well.

The PTT / Soundcard Interface

If you only wish to monitor Packet, and do not intend to transmit, then all you need is a cable with the proper plugs to connect the speaker output of your radio to the LINE IN jack on your soundcard. If you have no LINE IN jack on your soundcard, the MIC jack will do just as well.

If you wish to go on the air, and are already set up with a soundcard interface for PSK31, SSTV, or other soundcard modes, then all you really need now is the software. In either of these two cases, you should move on to the next section.

This section is for those would like to transmit with the soundcard as a TNC, but have no interface and would like to find out something about them.

Which Interface?

If you only intend to use the soundcard for packet, the following simple interface will give you a Push-To-Talk ( PTT ) signal to key up your radio.
Serial Port PTT schematic.



A Transistor, a Resistor and a Diode...

It cost me just over three dollars to buy the parts, and ten minutes to build the PTT circuit shown above, which allows FlexNet to switch the radio from receive to transmit mode as needed.

In addition to this circuit, I had the soundcard's SPEAKER connection going to the radio's microphone plug, and the soundcard's LINE IN connected to the radio's speaker jack so the computer and radio could swap audio. Flex32 uses the soundcard driver to do the rest, processing audio signals to and from the radio to act as an advanced DSP packet modem and TNC.

Commercial Soundcard Interfaces

The Interface shown above will get you on the air, but for the best performance, the TX and RX audio lines that go between your radio and computer need to be electrically isolated. This prevents a "ground loop" condition that will degrade your audio signal with obnoxious humming noise. The PTT signal should be isolated as well. It is possible (in some cases) to get by with just the Interface above for VHF Packet, but for the HF modes like PSK-31, or for really good performance on VHF Packet, a more serious interface is a must.

It is possible to add an optical isolator to the PTT circuit above, and isolation transformers to your audio lines for a home-brew interface, but a simpler solution is to buy a commercial soundcard interface that already has all of these components.

There are a number of interfaces on the market, listed in ads in the Ham magazines and on the Internet. My personal favorite and recommended unit is the "Rascal" Interface made by K4ABT "Buck Rogers". The Rascal is available already assembled and tested, or you can order it as a kit for a substantial savings. I put one of the kits together, and found it to be fairly easy and straightforward. Everybody I know who has tried one of these has had good luck with it, but any of the commercial Interfaces will do the job. Choose your favorite, hook it up and go!

Getting the Software:

The first thing to do is to go the FlexNet web-site:

FlexNet Home Page
http://www.afthd.tu-darmstadt.de/~flexnet/

The Flexnet page has information about the FlexNet E-mail support list, and there is also a link called "Downloading Information". Click this and when it comes up, read the information there and then go on to the "Directory Page" link, at the bottom of the page.

From the Directory page, download the following files. They will be the first two files listed on the page:

flexnet32.zip

# This file contains the Flex32 software, some assorted drivers, and a simple terminal program.

soundmodem-flex.zip

# This is the soundcard driver module, along with a setup utility. The FlexNet page gives you a link to the web site where the latest version of this driver can be found. Be sure to get the proper version for your operating system.

After downloading the two files, create a new directory called C:\FLEX32 , and unzip the files into the new directory. WinZip is a popular shareware program for handling ZIP files.

Put the C:\FLEX32 directory in your computer's PATH statement, in C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT. If your autoexec file does not have a PATH statement, add this line to the file:

PATH C:\FLEX32

This will allow Flex32 compatible programs to bring up the Control center and its drivers automatically on startup. When you run your terminal program, FlexNet comes up "automagically" this way, saving you a few extra mouse-clicks.

Setting Up the Software:

Before you can set up Flex32, you will need to run the setup program for the soundcard driver, soundmodemconfig.exe... It's hard to miss this file, because the name is so long.
________________________________________

Run soundmodemconfig, and from the FILE menu, choose NEW, then CONFIGURATION:


________________________________________

It will ask for a configuration name. I decided to call mine "PVL_CFG"... Any name will do:


________________________________________

Then it looked like this:


________________________________________

When you click the configuration name, it highlights and shows the settings on the right. I used COM1 for the PTT:


________________________________________

Next I clicked the "Channel Access" tab, and set the TXDELAY for 150 ms as shown below. I recommend that you start off with a TXD of 300 ms, then later on try to edge it down as low as you can get it for the best performance. If you start off with your TXD too low, you'll wonder why you can't connect... If you leave it set too high, it will always slow you down.

TXDELAY is a parameter that must be custom-set for your particular radio. Some radios need more TXD than others, but they all should be set up with the shortest delay possible, for "snappy" performance on the air. Your radio needs a certain amount of delay... Anything over and above that just slows you down unnecessarily.

Once you get everything working good on the air with 300 ms TXD, go back and start edging it down until you start detecting trouble getting a connection, then edge it back up "just a hair". By doing this, I discovered that a radio I had been running at 300 ms "default" TXD for years was really capable of getting by with half as much delay. - Only 150 ms!


________________________________________

Now go to the FILE menu, choose NEW, then CHANNEL:


________________________________________

Indicate (highlight) the new channel to see this:


________________________________________

In the MODE menu, choose: afsk. Do this for both the modulator and demodulator tabs.


________________________________________

At this point, you should theoretically be ready to go. Test the setup you have by going into the DIAGNOSTICS menu and choosing the SCOPE:



I tested the PTT function. It worked! Generally though, if the SCOPE comes up and you get a moving, squiggly line, that's a good sign. When you get this to behave properly, the soundmodem driver is set up, and you're ready to go on to the next section.

If the line just won't squiggle, or you get I/O errors upon trying to run the scope, then click here for troubleshooting info.


________________________________________

FlexNet Control center

Look in your Flex32 directory for a file called "Flexctl.exe" ... It will have a "rainbow" icon. This is the FlexNet Control center:


________________________________________

Go to the TOOLS menu, and choose PARAMETERS:


________________________________________

The empty PARAMETER screen looks like this:


________________________________________

Right-click CHANNEL 0, and choose NEW DRIVER:


________________________________________

From the pop-up menu, choose SOUNDMODEM:


________________________________________

Another pop-up box will ask for the soundmodem configuration. From the drop-down menu, choose your configuration name. ( PVL_CFG in my case. )


________________________________________

If you get the following screen, then you have the soundmodem configured for channel 0 in the FlexNet Control center, and are ready to test the installation with a terminal program, on the air!


________________________________________

TNC32

From your desktop, create a shortcut to the file Tnc32.exe, located in your Flex32 directory. This simple term program will get you on the air, and is useful for testing and troubleshooting your installation.

Tnc32 is a command-line program. That means a set of parameters must be given along with the program name, in order for it to work. To do this, right-click the icon for Tnc32.exe on your desktop, and choose PROPERTIES from the pop-up menu.

Here is how I set mine up.
In the TARGET section, I put in:

C:\Flex32\TNC32.EXE n5pvl-9 4 4

n5pvl-9 - My call with SSID. ( SSID is optional )
4 - Number of streams
4 - Buffer in kb.


________________________________________

Now use the shortcut icon you made on your desktop to bring up TNC32.


________________________________________

To enter a command in TNC32, press the ESCAPE key and a command prompt will appear. Here, I have brought up the command prompt and entered H for Help:


________________________________________

Here, I connected to the local TheNet node, sent the "I" for "Information" command, so the node would send some text back.


________________________________________

To quit TNC32, hit the ESCAPE key for the command prompt and enter Q to Quit.



________________________________________

If I could get it working, so can you! Now you will be wanting a better term program. Only a few term programs work with Flex32. Of those, PAXON is my personal favorite. - A really great Windows Packet Terminal.

Final Setup:

Once you are set up, running a Flex32 compatible terminal program or application such as TNC32 or PAXON will automatically bring up the FlexNet Control center and its drivers. - Just click the term program and off you go!

When you shut down the FlexNet Control center, FlexNet and the soundmodem driver go away completely, leaving the system ready for other soundcard applications. If you want to have FlexNet always there, you can put your term program in your computer's STARTUP folder so that it loads itself and FlexNet automatically at boot-up.

Support!

The Forum secton here at USPacket.Org is the best place to go for resolving sticky technical problems.

Good luck! Charles Brabham, N5PVL



On to PAXON
http://uspacket.org/network/index.php/topic,20.0.html



Paxon Packet Radio Terminal and Flex32

by Charles Brabham N5PVL

If you have recently set up Flex32, you really owe it to yourself to try out Paxon, a great terminal program that is very efficient with Flex32, directly accessing the FlexNet kernal rather than having to use a driver.

The web-site, help files and installation program for Paxon are all in German, but the program comes up ready for English speaking users. This tutorial will guide you through the web-site and installation of this excellent software. - You will find that it is well worth the effort!

Getting the Software

The first thing to do is to go the download page at the Paxon web-site:

Paxon Download Page
http://www.paxon.de/download.php

The Paxon web-site is all in German, but when you get the software installed, it comes up in English so don't worry about that. In the center of the download page is a link for the file: SetupPaxon1114.exe

( 1114 was the version when this tutorial was written. This number will change as new versions are released.)

Download this file, and save it somewhere on your hard-drive as a backup installer. You can also install from that location, if you prefer.

Setting Up the Software:

Run the installation program SetupPaxon1114.exe. ( Or a later version, if available )
Choose English as your language unless you prefer some other (German is nice)…________________________________________

Here's the opening screen for this installer:



Click "Next" to continue...
________________________________________



This screen wants to be sure that you have read and understood all of the legal mumbo-jumbo. After carefully reading the mumbo-jumbo, choose the I Accept…”, and then click "Next" to continue:
________________________________________



Now it wants to establish where the program will be installed. It's probably best to go with the default location shown above. Continue as usual, with the "Next" button.
________________________________________



This is where it sets up a Paxon folder in your START menu:
________________________________________



Here it puts an Icon on your Desktop: Hit INSTALL to continue
________________________________________

Click the Run Paxon box and then click “Finish”








This is the Paxon logo flashscreen that comes up when the program starts.
________________________________________



The first time you run Paxon, you get this little "First Steps" help screen in English. If you want to look at it later, it is in the program's "Help" menu. The actual Windows help files for Paxon are all written in German. If you follow the basic steps outlined here though, all should go well for you.
________________________________________



Here I have clicked "Tools", then "Settings" to obtain this setup box. It should come up with the "General" tab selected, as shown here.

Now I am going to click the "Add" button, in order to enter my callsign and the SSID's I want to use.
________________________________________



In this little pop-up box, I have entered my callsign, and indicated which SSID's I wanted to use. If you are unsure about what SSID's to use, click the "All" button, before clicking "OK" to move on to the next step.
________________________________________



Now it displays your callsign and SSID's in the "originating callsigns" box.

Finished with this, it is time to click the "Devices" tab, and move on to the next step.
________________________________________



Right now there are no device drivers listed in the box, so click the "Add" button.
________________________________________



Choose "PC FlexNet" and click "Add"...
________________________________________



Now it shows PC FlexNet as your driver. Note that FlexNet is not active yet.
________________________________________



Assuming you have Flex32 installed and ready to run, clicking "Apply" should cause FlexNet to come up "Ready" as shown here. You may have to manually start Flex32 the first time, but it should come up automatically for Paxon thereafter.

If you have trouble getting this to work automatically, create a PATH statement in AUTOEXEC.BAT that shows the path to your FlexNet directory.

Once you get FlexNet listed here as "Ready", then click "OK", and on the main (terminal) screen, click the "Connect" button for the next step.
________________________________________



Now enter the callsign for the Station you want to connect to, then put your own call in the "Callsign" box, and choose which port in your Flex32 installation you want to use for the connect. Here I am connecting to the local FlexNet node, N5PVL-3, with the Soundmodem.
________________________________________



Hey, it worked! - I hope it works for you too!

Try browsing around in Paxon's "Settings" and you will be amazed at all of the nice things this program can do. I find it to be the very best I have ever used for file transfers, remote SYSOP'ing, and as a personal terminal. I hope that you enjoy it too, and that this tutorial has been helpful in getting you started with Paxon!

Good luck! Charles Brabham, N5PVL


OK, you ask, "Now that I can get some packet racket into my computer and decode it, what's next?"

Check out some local Bulletin Boards (BBS’s)

Do some DX Cluster monitoring for distant stations to work:

Connect to the EOC and drop off an emergency message:
W7acs-3 w7acs-10 or any of the WINLINK stations below (for our region, roughly north to south):
Edmonds, WA7AUX-10, 145.050 1200baud
Woodinville, KD6GKD-4, 145.670, 1200baud
Duval, K7DV-10, freq?
Bellevue, W7EFR-4, 144.950, 1200baud
Sammamish, W7SRG-5, 144.950, 1200baud
Seattle ACS, not currently on map...?
Vashon, W7VMI-11, 445.075, 9600baud
Federal Way, WA7FW-10, 144.930 1200baud
Maple Valley, NS7C-10, 145.030, 1200baud
Maple BValley, KC7KEY-10, 145.030, 1200baud
Tacoma, W7DK-4, 144.910, 1200baud
Puyallup, AA7ZV-10, 145.630, 1200baud

This system is subject to relentless improvement, please check out
http://www.winlink.org/RMSPacketPositions
for current resource availability


Check out all the things you can do with the Automatic Position Reporting System - "APE-Errs" or A.P.R.S...
http://aprs.fi/?call=wr5j&mt=m&z=11&timerange=3600
http://www.nwaprs.info/
http://www.aprs.net/


Setup your own bulletin board, gateway or node


Try out HF Packet

Connect to the International Space Station or the Shuttle:
Check out http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/reference/radio/
and
http://www.issfanclub.com/taxonomy/term/43
and maybe some tracking sofware like Jtrack or Satscape
http://science.nasa.gov/RealTime/jtrack/
http://www.satscape.co.uk/main/satscape.php


Try sending TCP/IP data encapsulated in AX.25 packets:
http://www.wetnet.net/node/759
http://www.microhams.com/binfile/talks/200011.ppt
add: Bob at Boeing 9.6 and Vashon group link...

Next week - more of the same with APRS and Airmail

vy 73 de WR5J - Curt
black@nwfirst.com
206 755-4541cell/field