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Author Topic: Emcomm and Winlink (or something else?) in Asia  (Read 8439 times)
HS0ZIB
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« on: April 30, 2015, 04:02:07 AM »

The recent earthquake in Nepal reminded me that natural disasters often occur in Asia - I was at my QTH on Phuket Island when the 2004 tsunami struck.

The events in Nepal also reminded me that my own location could be beneficial in providing emergency, regional HF communications, because my QTH is just 2 miles from the eastern side of the Indian Ocean, (but up a hill, so no tsunami risk...).

I already 'host' the data receivers for aircraft traffic (flightradar24.com) and marine traffic (marinetraffic.com).

I was looking today at the Winlink HF email system, especially the location of Winlink servers that use the RMS EXpress 'virtual TNC' email application.

Here is a screen grab of the Winlink RMS servers in my part of the world - I have superimposed arbitary circles around the RMS servers to indicate typical HF coverage, (of course hugely variable according to time of day, band, propagation etc).

bbr.asia/winlink.jpg


In my region, there is a server in Mauritius (coloured green on the map), and in The Philippines (red on my map), but nothing in between - my location is in black at the center of the blue circle.

It looks like my QTH could certainly provide coverage over the Indian Ocean, south-east Asia mainland, Indonesia etc etc.

So.... my questions to this forum are:

- For regional coverage over a couple of thousand miles, day and night, what would be the best band of operation?  (I'm thinking either 40 or 30m)
- Does HF email have a use in Emcomms, especially Emcomms in developing countries where the mobile network/internet might be 'weak'?
- If not HF email, what other comm services that might be useful in a regional disaster could I provide? 

I am thinking of 2 different scenarios ==>
- Local disaster in my area, no internet connectivity, no power etc
- Regional disaster in south-east Asia, but where my locality has not been affected and I have full phone/internet access.

Your advice, suggestions and outright criticisms are welcome Smiley

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N1EN
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« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2015, 11:08:40 AM »

I think answers to some of your questions would best be found by contacting the Winlink Development Team.   I'm sure they'd like to add an RMS to an underserved area, but they do have certain expectations to be satisfied for HF nodes. 

Frequency choice is subject to most of the same factors are regular HF communications (except perhaps for extra congestion on 30m).  The software run by most of the HF nodes is able to scan multiple frequencies.  If a node's transceiver and antenna can handle it, there's no need to be restricted to a single band.

In terms of its utility as an emcomm tool -- I think there is value to email via HF when potential users of that communications path are prepared to use it, and are familiar with its limitations. 

There are some strong opinions on the use of Winlink over amateur spectrum -- ham space being a good place to experiment and learn, but shared use of our spectrum creates problems between different interested parties.  I wouldn't want to rely on amateur Winlink during a RTTY contest, for example...and I can say from personal experience that it sucks having a RTTY or JT contact stepped on by someone trying to connect to an RMS.

However, there are also government and NGO users of the systems on non-amateur frequencies, and it works well when frequency coordination limits potential QRM...provided senders and recipients are familiar with it.
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K7RBW
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« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2015, 11:13:32 PM »

I used Winlink with great success in the field.

See my EHam article: http://www.eham.net/articles/33101 for a description of my experience with it in the field.
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HS0ZIB
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« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2015, 12:14:46 AM »

Quote
I used Winlink with great success in the field.

I downloaded the RMS Express software, (which looks great), and tried to send a test email.

Unfortunately, I am unable to contact any Winlink (Winmor) servers Sad

I have used the forecast application, which suggests servers in Russia, Japan, Australia and Mauritius (for my QTH in south Thailand).  However, I am unable to elicit a signal from any of these servers when I try to connect.  This is strange, because at the same time of day/band, I can easily connect to PSK stations in all those countries.

The forecast application has never been able to recommend a server with adequate path quality estimate (ie green colour), at any time of day or night.

I really want to use this application, but it seems (according to their propagation forecast application), that Phuket Island is too far from their existing servers to support a connection.

Since I can easily communicate with many ham stations in those countries, I don't believe their forecast app! 

Do the Winlink servers remain totally silent unless some 'authority code' is sent to them?  For sure, I am on the correct dial frequency, USB etc etc and don't hear/see a thing on my waterfall.... I click on 'start' in the RMS app and it sends out my callsign and tries to connect to the Winlink server, but never receives any response.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2015, 12:21:54 AM by HS0ZIB » Logged
N1EN
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« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2015, 07:17:13 AM »

RMS Express should "just work".  Special codes are required only to access the nonpublic (non-amateur) lists of servers.  However, if you haven't done so already, you might need to update the list of servers from the internet; it's possible that your information could be out-of-date otherwise.

The folks running RMS nodes generally have them connected to antennas that aren't their best, and Winmor can be a bit finicky; while it doesn't take much to establish a connection, to get optimum performance both sides need to have tweaked the relevant settings for maximum performance given their systems.

Also, because Winmor is an ARQ mode... generally better signals are required for success than with other soundcard modes (where some errors can be tolerated, due to the human brain "fixing" any typos/noise).

Given the limited options in your part of the world, it may be that there are only certain times of day and/or certain conditions under which you can connect to an RMS.  You may need to experiment to figure out what works.

If you're looking to play with the software in the meantime, if you have another interested ham in the area, you could message one another using a peer-to-peer connection.
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HS0ZIB
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« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2015, 06:23:50 PM »

Having checked into reception forecasts, it seems that I will have to use Pactor to establish an HF link with the nearest Winlink servers (a few thousand km away) from me.  Winmor servers are no closer than 5,000 km and I cannot establish a reliable comms link.

I know that Pactor 3/4 modes work well, but the modem is very expensive!

I will first install a better 30mb antenna and try again to establish an HF link with the 5,000km Winlink servers, or also try with PSKMail.
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WS4E
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« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2015, 05:01:35 PM »

Use the free WiNMOR it's a software based packet modem that uses sound card like psk31 and gets speeds almost as good as expensive proprietary Pactor3 modems.  

There are a bunch of WINMOR enabled HF winlink gateways.  

The only people anti-WINMOR are the bigots who wasted all that money buying expensive modems that were only made by a single monopoly company.   
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HS0ZIB
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« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2015, 05:56:23 PM »

Quote
There are a bunch of WINMOR enabled HF winlink gateways.   

I am already testing this software for many weeks.  The nearest Winmore gateway to me is 5,455Km away (Mauritius), with the next nearest (Australia) then being 7,000Km away.

There are many Winmor servers in NA and EU, but they are scattered thinly in Asia.

However, there is a possible solution to all this.

I do not want to use Pactor, because it requires an expensive modem which 'the common man' is unlikely to possess.  My purpose is to provide an easy-to-use HF email system when there is no local internet gateway or the mobile networks are congested.  This is why I prefer Winmor.

My solution is that I can use a satellite internet connection (not satphone).  In my region, IPStar satellite internet has been a very common solution in remote areas where there are no landlines or mobile phone signal.

The disadvantage of IPStar has always been its limited bandwidth versus monthly costs.  But for an email connection, low bandwidth is not a problem.

The monthly rental cost for this up/down link is quite reasonable ($45).  I will check with the IPStar guys this morning to see if they can install a satellite internet link at my QTH (I already have landline internet there).

Then I can set up a Winmor server which is connected to the satlink.  If there is a major disaster, that satlink will carry on working (on back-up/battery power).

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