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Author Topic: Totally confused by Packet  (Read 11231 times)
WA2ASB
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Posts: 78




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« on: November 03, 2016, 09:06:09 PM »

For background: I'm a tube guy, and a main frame computer guy.  After living overseas for an extended period because of my wife's job assignments in China and India, I'm back home with new equipment and feeling like a dinosaur. 

I bought the ARRL book on "Get on the Ait with HF Digital".  I understand RTTY (it used to feed old KW-26 Crypto equipment), PSK31, JT65, etc.  However, even in the index they don't mention "packet".  One of my rigs is an FT817ND, and I've got it working with HRD, WSJT-X, and made contacts.  However, the radio talks about digital packet in 1200 or 9600.  What is it?  Should I be concerned?  I tried searching, read some threads and got even more confused.  Do blood pressure pills create stupidity or am I in early stages of dementia?

 
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SOFAR
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« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2016, 09:19:32 PM »

Packet radio is a digital mode that was popular in the 90s, 1200, 9600 baud refers to data speed.

I read that there were packet message boards that are independent of the internet.

I need to do some more reading, I do find it interesting.

https://www.tapr.org/pr_intro.html

Edit: to add link
« Last Edit: November 03, 2016, 09:38:16 PM by SOFAR » Logged
W4KYR
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Posts: 1611




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« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2016, 04:09:27 AM »

For background: I'm a tube guy, and a main frame computer guy.  After living overseas for an extended period because of my wife's job assignments in China and India, I'm back home with new equipment and feeling like a dinosaur. 

I bought the ARRL book on "Get on the Ait with HF Digital".  I understand RTTY (it used to feed old KW-26 Crypto equipment), PSK31, JT65, etc.  However, even in the index they don't mention "packet".  One of my rigs is an FT817ND, and I've got it working with HRD, WSJT-X, and made contacts.  However, the radio talks about digital packet in 1200 or 9600.  What is it?  Should I be concerned?  I tried searching, read some threads and got even more confused.  Do blood pressure pills create stupidity or am I in early stages of dementia?

 

First off, packet radio uses three different baud rates.
300 baud (Primarily for the HF frequencies)
1200 baud (For above 30 Mhz. The two meter band used/uses 1200 bauds).
9600 baud (Usually used on 440 Mhz Packet Radio).

Packet radio primarily uses a TNC (Terminal Node Controller).  Packet radio has the ability to send and receive messages (like texting). File transfers (like photos, maps and lists). Some TNC's can be set up to operate remotely where a computer does not have to even be on (or connected). And one it's greatest strengths, 'store and forward' messages in a mailbox (much like email).

One of packet radio's other greatest strengths is that it does not need expensive or sophisticated software to work. Practically nearly ANY computer including a Commodore VIC 20, Linux, Mac or even DOS and Windows 3.1. As long as it has a communication program and can 'talk to the TNC', it can be used. Some hams have taken their old Windows XP offline and dedicated it to packet radio and other ham radio uses.

Even though some consider packet obsolete these days, that is not true. While wildly popular in the early 1990's. It was the rise of the internet that  was said to have 'killed off' packet radio, but that isn't correct. In some areas of the country packet radio is still alive and well with networks all connected up with local BBS'.  Mostly however, packet radio is still being used these days for ecomm purposes. Also packet is still the main mode for Winlink on VHF.
https://www.winlink.org/sites/default/files/wl2k_faq_20150314.pdf

With the growing interest in ecomm or emergency communications and the ham prepper movement, packet radio has had a bit of a rebirth. Several new videos on YouTube have been posted this year on how to use packet radio and how to operate remotely, operate an BBS, send and retrieve mail and set up 'slot times' for use in emergency drills and situations in staging areas.

Today used TNC's from the 80's and 90's are still being sold on eBay and other ham auction site. Several TNC's are still being produced, models from MFJ, Coastal Works, Timewave and Kantronics are still produced and sell briskly. One of the more popular models is the Kantronics KPC 3 Plus. It sells for $200 and it has become pretty much the standard to use today. http://www.kantronics.com/products/kpc3.html

In fact K8BZ in Michigan produced 15 videos over on YouTube this year just around the KPC-3 Plus and the ecomm program "Outpost Packet Message Manager".  If you are curious or interested in finding out how packet radio can work. Please go to YouTube and put "K8BZ Packet Radio Networks" in the search.

Or go to this direct link

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFE00Ijq5WsDh7Y2Ak72CiA

Other good packet radio video sources are from the very popular "Commsprepper Channel" also on YouTube.

Packet Radio - West Virginia's DAREN Nightly Check In
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e52JOYoKYIo

How files and data can be transferred between vehicles with PCs, handheld radios (FT-60R & Wouxun) with the TNC-X packet radio controller/modem.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=343QkEr8Vys

Retreat Packet Radio Node Online
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiGVwuJRZM4

Commsprepper main channel
https://www.youtube.com/user/Commsprepper/videos

Lastly, if you want to see how packet radio was in the early 1990's at the height of the "Packet Radio Revolution" . Check out these series of ten detailed packet radio training videos from the Denver Radio Club.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfQOFVm7r6UgacH4OuH9bYQ

Why the long reply? I wanted to provide some information and illustrate that packet radio is still being used today.  And also provide information to others that may have an interest in emergency communications.




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The internet and cellphone networks are great until they go down, what then? Find out here. 
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Using Windows 98 For Packet...
SOFAR
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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2016, 05:02:13 AM »

Thanks W4KYR, I'd like to read more when I get time.
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WA2ASB
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« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2016, 09:41:40 AM »

W4KYR, wow you are the man!!!  That was way beyond the "call of duty".  Thanks for the detailed reply.  I'll definitely look into it further based on the links you provided. 
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W4KYR
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« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2016, 10:42:54 AM »

W4KYR, wow you are the man!!!  That was way beyond the "call of duty".  Thanks for the detailed reply.  I'll definitely look into it further based on the links you provided. 

Glad to help.  I see packet radio questions from time to time on here.  I could use this thread to help others get answers too. If I can't answer them,  there are some very knowledgeable people here on eham who can.

Regarding packet on hf. It still exists today. Packet 'Network 105' is probably the most well known. It is located on 14.105.

http://wiki.complete.org/PacketRadioOnHF#Network_105

The majority of of packet seems to be on VHF, and some on UHF.  I have never used 9600 baud for packet. However I have heard that 9600 baud mainly occurs on 440 Mhz and 9600 baud requires a good signal strength. Where as 1200 baud on two meters is more forgiving.

There is still a lot of information out there about packet. Here is a free complete 'book' of 18 chapters by Larry Kenney, WB9LOZ on packet radio written in 1988 and updated in the 1990's.

http://www.choisser.com/packet/

Here is another 'book' , "A Primer For Packet Radio" and "A Handbook For The Advanced Packet Radio System Node Operator" by Buck Rogers.

http://hendricksares.org/docs/misc/packet_handbook.pdf

In addition there are still very old DOS, Win 3.1 and Win 95 packet radio software out there on the 'net. Among them is the classic "PaKet 6" , which I think runs in DOS. (Another case for holding on to old computers.)
http://www.qsl.net/vu2msy/Paket6.htm

Forgot to mention that if you have an XP computer or older, you can use the free built-in communications terminal called 'HyperTerminal' to access your TNC. 

Again, glad to help. I'll refer this link to anyone has similar questions again about Packet Radio. I had some spare time today so figured I might as well make this detailed so I can point others to this thread.

Good Luck

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Using Windows 98 For Packet...
W8JX
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« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2016, 05:46:07 PM »

You do not need a TNC to work packet but you cannot use a Signal link for anything more than just listening because it lacks positive PTT control for quick ack needed by mode. With a Rig Blaster and a sound card you can work Packet. (I have)
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Ham since 1969....  Old School 20wpm REAL Extra Class..
K5TED
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« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2016, 06:37:05 PM »

My favorite packet thing back in the late 90's was the Mir space station. It was truly an "easy-sat". My "Mir Ground Station" consisted of a HTX-202, KPC (1, I think), PC XT or RatShack Model 100, and a Ringo antenna about 25' up. The Mir station had phenomenal uptime. If it was due a pass above 20 degrees, I could usually get PBBS messages, or have a brief QSO over the 'peater.

The ISS supposedly has a working digipeater, but I haven't heard it yet.

There used to be quite a packet community in Central Oklahoma, with nightly roundtables.
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K5TED
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« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2016, 06:52:37 PM »

You do not need a TNC to work packet but you cannot use a Signal link for anything more than just listening because it lacks positive PTT control for quick ack needed by mode. With a Rig Blaster and a sound card you can work Packet. (I have)

I may try it with Signalink. There are several pages out there detailing just how it works with AGWPE.
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W8JX
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« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2016, 03:37:57 AM »

You do not need a TNC to work packet but you cannot use a Signal link for anything more than just listening because it lacks positive PTT control for quick ack needed by mode. With a Rig Blaster and a sound card you can work Packet. (I have)

I may try it with Signalink. There are several pages out there detailing just how it works with AGWPE.

I have no experience with AGWPE but regular Packet requires a "ack" that the VOX based Signal Link cannot proved. It needs positive PTT control which signal link lacks. (its interesting that Signallink did not offer that option with that device)
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Ham since 1969....  Old School 20wpm REAL Extra Class..
W4KYR
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« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2016, 03:45:51 AM »

Personally I would never use a Rig Blaster & sound card or an Signalink or otherwise for packet radio. While packet can certainly be done with a sound card and AGWPE. It takes away some advantages of packet radio with a dedicated TNC.

1. Cannot set up to run remotely. (Some TNC's can be set up remotely so all that is connected is just the radio to the TNC. One can access the TNC with a series of codes over the air. Similar the way one might access repeater functions.)

2. Can the mailbox be used with a sound card? (I don't know. I have never tried it).

3. It will cost less to obtain an used packet TNC than to to buy a Rigblaster or a Signalink. Even if you have a working $15 sound card. An average used TNC on eBay seems to sell around $35. For $20 more than a $15 sound card. You gain more flexibility, you can have a dedicated packet radio station in the corner of your shack using old obsolete for the internet computers. And free up your sound card and computer for other digital modes and uses.

4. The ability to use really old computers just for packet radio work. You might have an old Mac, an old Windows 98 or maybe even an Commodore VIC-20 computer lying around that you can put to good use. As long as it has a communications program of some type you could connect it to your TNC and use it for packet radio. I have long believed in saving obsolete for the internet computers for reuse in ham radio uses offline. Many XP and older computers have the serial port that most TNC's use and thus eliminates the need for an serial to usb adapter.

There are places on the 'net that still sell connecting cables between the computer and the TNC.  One of them is Buxcomm and there are several on eBay. Again the beauty of it all is that you can have a packet station in the corner of your shack going 24/7 with older offline computers and 20 to 30 year old TNC's.

If you have a sound card and a Rig Blaster or a Signalink and can work with AGWPE, then give packet radio a try. Otherwise do it "old school". Take that old obsolete computer and get a TNC and set up a dedicated packet station or even Packet BBS in the corner of your shack.

Have fun and experiment, that is what ham radio is about anyway. Fun
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Using Windows 98 For Packet...
W8JX
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« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2016, 09:19:07 AM »

Personally I would never use a Rig Blaster & sound card or an Signalink or otherwise for packet radio. While packet can certainly be done with a sound card and AGWPE. It takes away some advantages of packet radio with a dedicated TNC.

I agree that a TNC is a good choice for a dedicated HF packet rig but point I was trying to make is that a Rig Blaster P n P will let you try packet out and see if you want to do more with it while a Signal link will not. Same with Pactor as while a TNC is best for it, a Rig Blaster will let you try it too while a Signal link will not.
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Ham since 1969....  Old School 20wpm REAL Extra Class..
K5TED
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Posts: 103




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« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2016, 10:28:31 AM »

Personally I would never use a Rig Blaster & sound card or an Signalink or otherwise for packet radio. While packet can certainly be done with a sound card and AGWPE. It takes away some advantages of packet radio with a dedicated TNC.

I agree that a TNC is a good choice for a dedicated HF packet rig but point I was trying to make is that a Rig Blaster P n P will let you try packet out and see if you want to do more with it while a Signal link will not. Same with Pactor as while a TNC is best for it, a Rig Blaster will let you try it too while a Signal link will not.

http://www.soundcardpacket.org/7signalinkusb.aspx

Seems to work fine. I tried it out this morning with the FT-857D on APRS. I set AGWPE up first with my normal digi setup, which is the audio/CAT cabling, a stereo isolation transformer, and Audigy USB, then with just a Signalink. No difference in performance. VOX keying works fine. Not a comprehensive test, but I did find out that there apparently are no functional regular digipeaters in the San Antonio area. Lots of APRS on 144.39. So much for that idea. I guess I'll wait around and see if any of the hamsats or ISS can be contacted.

There may be some esoteric functionality that just simply requires hardware TNC, but for casual use, software TNC seems easy. The AGWPE suite with the addition of UISS modules is pretty comprehensive, offereing everything for mailbox to digipeater functionality, TCP/IP gateway, etc.

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N4AOF
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« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2017, 11:03:58 PM »

Packet radio is a digital mode that was popular in the 90s

I read that there were packet message boards that are independent of the internet.

Yes, Packet was an interesting mode -- until the Packet Bulletin Boards and Mailboxes killed it.  I can remember making keyboard-to-keyboard QSOs in real time from Kentucky up into central Pennsylvania on 2M, back when live stations could still actually get through.

About all that is really left of Packet is APRS which uses the same protocols in a pretty specific niche with almost no one using it to actually try to communicate anything besides their location (although it has a message capability, and even an email interface, only a very few people use them).  Of course, we're already seeing APRS start to kill itself in the densely populated areas, especially with the proliferation of unattended Tx-only "trackers"
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WD4AOG
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« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2017, 05:50:03 PM »

W8JX...

Not sure how you came to the conclusion that Signalinks don't work for transmitting packet.  I've been using the Signalink and soundcard TNC software for packet for more than a year.  Works great if you configure it properly.  I have 4 Signalinks, 3 just for packet on Winlink.  They work well on every digital mode I've tried.

Michael
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